It’s time to call out the antisemitism within Britain’s Muslim communities

New survey into British Muslim attitudes towards Jews

August 06, 2020 11:16

Politicians often talk tough on tackling antisemitism — but there seems to be a reluctance to call out this deep-rooted prejudice within one section of British society: British Muslim communities.

The evidence has shown for some time that such problematic beliefs are more concentrated within the British Muslim population. A 2017 report by the Institute for Jewish Policy Research (JPR) showed that, across a range of indicators, the degree of antisemitic beliefs within British Muslim communities was a serious cause for concern. When compared with the general population, British Muslims in the study were more likely to believe that the Holocaust is a myth (2 per cent and 8 per cent respectively) and think that Jews possess feelings of ‘group superiority’ over non-Jews (13 per cent and 28 per cent respectively).

Building on previous research, my new report for the Henry Jackson Society explores which sections of the British Muslim population are the most — and, importantly, least — likely to hold anti-Jewish attitudes and believe in antisemitic conspiracy theories.

One of the more startling findings is that formal educational advancement is not a remedy for antisemitic prejudices within British Muslim communities. Indeed, anti-Jewish conspiratorial beliefs are more prevalent among the degree-educated.

Compared with British Muslims who do not have a university degree, the university-educated are more likely to believe that British Jews are more loyal to Israel than to the UK (40 per cent and 47 per cent respectively). On a 0-10 scaled index, which measures perceptions of disproportionate Jewish control in the global spheres of politics, banking, media, entertainment and arms production, university educated Muslims score higher than co-religionists without a degree (2.81 and 2.08 respectively).

These findings call into question the ideological culture and political narratives which have taken root on Britain’s university campuses and within its higher education institutions.

Rather, it is social integration that appears to hold the key to reducing antisemitic prejudice within British Muslim communities. British Muslims who are part of friendship groups which largely include people from the same faith background score higher on the aforementioned index when compared to those who are part of predominantly non-Muslim friendship groups (2.89 and 2.12 respectively), along with having a more favourable view of countries such as Iran (5.78 and 5.50 respectively) and Saudi Arabia (6.51 and 5.92 respectively).

This suggests that tight-knit, predominantly Muslim social circles in Britain potentially act as ideological echo chambers where both antisemitic beliefs and support for autocratic majority-Muslim countries are constantly reinforced without being challenged.

There needs to be a political culture shift when it come to tackling the oldest hatred. All forms of antisemitism need to be robustly challenged. Antisemitism is the ‘One Ring of Racism’, bringing together far-left, far-right, and Islamist ideologies under their shared goal of spreading antisemitic hatred. The unfortunate reality is that antisemitic beliefs are more prevalent among British Muslim communities.

It is clear that social integration is associated with a lower reporting of antisemitic beliefs. Branching out and developing social ties with others outside of one’s own faith group has a positive impact on the perception of ‘outgroupers’, subsequently strengthening intergroup relations. There is great social value in innovative community projects which bring together Britain’s Muslim and Jewish communities, along with educational initiatives which are designed to spread awareness of historical instances of persecution experienced by Jewish people. Interfaith not-for-profit organisations such as Muslims Against Antisemitism (MAAS) can play a critically important role on this front, enabling the fostering of closer Muslim-Jewish relations in Britain.

There should also be a government review into the legitimisation of anti-Jewish prejudices and antisemitic conspiracy theories on university campuses. It is a sorry indictment that university-educated British Muslims are more likely to hold a range of antisemitic views when compared to their supposedly lesser-educated co-religionists. Robust academic inquiry is increasingly being sidelined in favour of unfounded conspiracy theories – including those which seek to hold Jews responsible for a range of perceived social, economic, and political ills.

There is no room for political correctness and social tiptoeing when it comes to tackling the scourge of Muslim antisemitism in Britain.

Dr Rakib Ehsan is a research fellow at the Henry Jackson Society. His PhD investigated the effects of social integration on British ethnic minorities

August 06, 2020 11:16

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