Hostility to Jews and Muslims ‘on rise’ in EU

By Leon Symons, September 26, 2008
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Negative views and opinions of Jews and Muslims in several European countries have risen significantly, according to a new report published last week by an independent American think-tank.

The survey, carried out in 24 countries, found that unfavourable views of Jews in Spain had more than doubled in percentage terms in two years, had increased by a third in Russia and Poland, and by a quarter in Germany and France.

The only countries where antisemitic views remained virtually unchanged were Britain and America.

The 70-page survey also indicated that support for suicide-bombing in some Muslim countries was waning. In Lebanon in 2002, three out of four Muslims surveyed said such attacks could often be justified, but in the latest report, this was down to 32 per cent.

The survey was carried out by the Washington-based Pew Research Centre as part of its ongoing Global Attitudes Project. It found that attitudes to Muslims had also worsened.

The survey revealed that age and education also had an effect on people's views. People over 50 expressed more negative views than those younger, while those who had not attended college were also more negative.

Questions were asked of respondents in Arab Muslim countries about attitudes towards Osama bin Laden, Hamas and Hizbollah. The data showed that support for Bin Laden had fallen since the last survey - in some cases, down to single figures - together with support for Hamas and Hizbollah. The survey showed that in only one country - Jordan - respondents held a favourable view of Hamas with 55 per cent.

Pew associate director Richard Wike said some of the findings had surprised the researchers.

"We were struck by the consistency of the pattern in terms of negative views towards Jews in Europe and that they were rising. There is a pattern that is pretty clear across those countries," said Mr Wike.

"This was a little bit surprising to us that negative views were rising so much.

"The change in views in some Arab countries we believe has come about after they have experienced terrorism themselves."

He said that Pew was simply presenting its findings without examining the reasons why this was happening, but this was something that the organisation might tackle in the future.
The Pew centre is privately funded by foundations. One of its co-chairs is former US secretary of state Madeleine Albright.

    Last updated: 1:51pm, September 24 2008