Jews lead the way in fight against hate

The Jewish community is prepared to put itself at the forefront of the campaign against religious and racial extremism, according to a detailed new analysis of identity in England.

Research carried out by pollsters Populus for the anti-fascist Searchlight Education Trust showed that the community is more tolerant of immigrants than the rest of society, more likely to support community-based solutions to extremism and no more hostile to Muslims than other English people.

A massive 88 per cent of Jewish respondents would "definitely support" or "consider supporting" a new group to campaign against religious and racial extremism, compared to 68 per cent of the general population.

When Jewish participants were asked what measures would help defeat extremism, 73 per cent cited "community organisations that work to bring people of different backgrounds together so they can get to know each other"; "campaigns supported by prominent people from different backgrounds to show people that those from different backgrounds aren't actually different to them" and "children going to schools where there is a mixture of children from different backgrounds". This compared to 60 per cent of the wider population who supported these solutions.

New research shows the Jewish community is more likely to oppose extremists of all kinds

On immigration, the difference between the Jewish respondents and the wider population was equally stark. Only 15 per cent of Jews saw "controlling and limiting immigration" as a solution to extremism compared to 31 per cent of the general public.

Perhaps most surprising was the attitude towards radical Islam. The vast majority of Jews polled (64 per cent) said anti-Muslim extremists were as bad as Muslim extremists. There was no difference in the attitude of Jewish people when they "hear or see that Muslims are increasingly associated with violence and terrorism" to those of the population at large.

Eighty-eight per cent of Jewish people said that violence from either side (in a dispute over building a new mosque, for example) would be unacceptable. This compared to 81 per cent generally.

The research was contained in Fear and Hope: the New Politics of Identity, a publication to mark the launch of an anti-extremism project to be known as Together. It is designed to challenge the English Defence League and Islamic extremists using research, policy initiatives and community activism.

The research has raised significant concerns about a large section (almost 30 per cent) of the British public, which the authors call "Identity Ambivalents", who are increasingly susceptible to the anti-immigrant message of the extreme right. However, it would appear that the Jewish community as a whole has not been swayed by the anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant message of the EDL, despite its well-publicised "Jewish division".

Robert Halfon, Conservative MP for Harlow, described the attitude of the Jewish community as "muscular enlightenment".

He added: "This will hopefully stop some of the stereotypes about the Jewish community. It shows what a contribution it makes to social cohesion. Given the antisemitism it has faced at the hands of extremists, it is all the more remarkable that the Jewish community remains so enlightened about the Muslim religion itself."

    Last updated: 2:20pm, March 3 2011