Internet platform for studying Xenophobia, Radicalism and Problems of Intercultural communication.

Treatment of Minorities

Treatment of Minorities

British society is generally tolerant towards minorities. Three largest ethnic minority groups in the country – Indian, Pakistani and African-Caribbean – were formed after the Second World War, when Britain required labour force to rebuild the country and the economy. In this period, tolerance was promoted as a key part of the British society. However, in the last 15 years, the attitudes changed; mostly towards immigrants. Terrorist attacks and government actions in this period brewed discrimination towards Muslims, which caused increased cases of hate crime against this minority group.

Despite the numerous education programmes, intolerance remains a problem in Great Britain. The British Social Attitudes poll, which was published in late May, showed that racial prejudice is very common in the UK. 29% of respondents in the survey said that they share certain racist prejudices. Show Racism the Red Card held a survey amongst 3000 Wales students, almost half of whom said that the term “coloured” is appropriate. 20% believed that calling the Chinese “chinks” is appropriate.

According to a report by the Institute for Jewish Policy Research published on July 18, 2015, 40% of surveyed orthodox Jews said that they have experienced anti-Semitic persecution or discrimination in the last 12 months. At the same time, the number of non-orthodox Jews who suffered from anti-Semitism is 17%.

Survey conducted in late December 2014 showed that 45% of respondents hold anti-Semitic beliefs. 25% thought that Jews love money more than other people, 20% believe that Jews are loyal to Israel more than Britain, 17% thought that Jews think they are better than everyone else, 13% believed that Jews talk too much about the Holocaust. Anti-Semitism is more common among UKIP supporters. British Jews themselves are pessimistic about their future in the UK – 45% think they have no future in Britain. 58% believe that they have no future in Europe. 45% believe themselves to be in danger from Islamic extremism. 63% thought that authorities are too lenient towards anti-Semites.

On May 2, 2014, Pink Floyd's front man Roger Waters urged musicians to boycott Israel, where, in his opinion, racist regime was set.

On July 20, it was reported that more than 50 cultural activists signed an open letter, protesting the inclusion of an Israeli show in Edinburgh’s annual Fringe Festival. According to them, Israel exploits artistic actions to “divert attention from the atrocities of its illegal occupation”. The show was cancelled.

On August 4, 2014, National Student Union voted to boycott Israel, explaining it with seeking to fight all forms of racism. On August 11, student dance group from Ben-Gurion University refused to participate in the largest international festival of culture in Edinburgh because of threats from Palestinian activists. Festival organisers could not guarantee the safety of the dancers. On August 4, National Student Union voted to boycott Israel, explaining it with seeking to fight all forms of racism . On August 21, a popular film director Ken Loach called for an “absolute boycott of all cultural events supported by the Israeli state”. Loach stated that Israel must become a “pariah state”.

On December 31, 2014, it was reported that a large publisher Harper Collins removed Israel from the atlases to be sold in the Middle East, to avoid possible dissatisfaction of its Arab customers.

On June 10th, 2015, it became known that one of the leading Islamic UK organizations London Islamic Education and Research Academy (IERA) was in the center of a scandal because of anti-Semitic statements of its leader Abdur Raheem Green, who in the course of his preaching in Hyde Park said: "Why not remove the Jews as far as possible so that their stench would not bother us?"

According to a survey conducted by Populus, published on October 31, 2015, one of every seven young people in Britain sympathises with the Islamic State (IS) – a terrorist organisation in Syria and Iraq. Majority of these respondents were Islamists. However, experts warn that among the respondents supporting IS there is a small but significant portion of non-Muslims who are unhappy with the British government and its foreign policy.

Data collected in 2014-2015 shows that anti-immigration sentiments are the most common manifestation of xenophobia in Britain. According to pewglobal.org, 65% of British people in 2014 and more than 50% in 2015 have negative attitude towards immigrants, including EU citizens. 70% were against the EU policy towards refugees. 45% were negative towards Roma in 2015, which is 8% higher than in 2014.

Only 7% of British people expressed anti-Semitic views. 28% were anti-Muslim (compared to 19% in 2014). 15% of respondents in 2015 expressed anti-LGBT views.

In February 2017 a poll run by the BBC and ComRes “revealed that the majority of British people would welcome refugees from places like Syria into their local communities (56%), and nearly half would like to see the UK accept more refugees (47%).” The poll also demonstrated that the British public feels strong support for welcoming refugees, “with 55% of people asked saying that accepting refugees is a sign of ‘Britain at its best’”, while also demonstrating that efforts to demonise immigrants and asylum seekers by the right-wing media have been unsuccessful as 65% of respondents stated that the terrorist attacks in Cologne “were carried out by a small number of people and should not affect our willingness to accept migrants into the UK.”

The Traveller Movement conducted a survey into discrimination of Roma, Gypsies and the Traveller culture. They found that 72% of the respondents to poll “hide their ethnicity in their everyday lives in order to avoid racism and discrimination.” The Traveller Movement stated that the “results were clear; hate speech/crime and education are the areas GTR communities feel they need most help in order to have the same opportunities and chances in life when compared to other communities.”

The Pew Research Centre conducted their annual Spring Global Attitudes Survey again in 2016, which revealed public perception on minority communities. The first question asked respondents in Europe to state how they viewed minority communities as either favourable or unfavourable, with a higher number indicating a higher percentage of people have an unfavourable view. The results showed that, somewhat encouragingly, a majority of people viewed every minority group listed - Roma, Muslims and Jews - in a favourable light. Roma were seen least positively, with 45% of people asked stating that they perceived them as negatively, then Muslims (28%) and Jews (7%). Unfortunately, answers for people from the UK indicate an increase in people viewing the Roma and Muslim communities as unfavourable, up from 37% and 19% respectively. Jews were viewed as the same with 7% viewing them as unfavourable. This shift in attitudes towards the Muslim and Roma communities is all but certainly in large part caused by the European Migrant crises and the Brexit campaign - both issues which generated increases in xenophobic sentiment. The Jewish community, however, is not as linked to these issues in the public’s mind’s eye. Indeed, it seems there have been similar shifts in public views towards Roma and Muslims in Spain, Germany and Greece.

The next table in the Pew Global Attitude Survey examined how these changed across the political spectrum. Here, the more attitudes shift from Left to Right the greater the statistical probability that a respondent holds negative views towards Muslims. This will come as little surprise to any political observers, given the Left’s historically solid commitment to anti-racism and anti-fascism and the far-right’s association with nationalism and patriotism.

The third dataset explored respondents’ views on their nation’s Muslim community’s willingness to integrate with the host culture, or their desire to retain their own distinctiveness. Here the UK respondents mainly felt that Muslims would rather be distinct from the larger society than adopt the country’s customs and way of life. However, the percentage of people answering this that they felt this - 54% - was still 4% less than the median for all countries polled, which was 58%.

Further, when asked their opinion on how many members of the UK Muslim population support Islamic extremist groups such as Isis, on the whole people thought this to be a small percentage. Indeed, only 5% answered that “Most” were members, 12% answered “Many”, 29% answered “Just Some”, and 48% answered “Very Few”. Whilst all the European countries polled were skeptical about the support their nation’s Muslim community gave to Isis, Britain still had comparably more positive views in this matter than all countries but Germany and the Netherlands. Further, Pew reveal that in “countries such as France and the UK where fewer people believe that most or many Muslims in their nation support extremists groups, the political divisions are stark ... About four-in-ten UKIP partisans (41%) express the same concern about Muslims versus just 10% of Labour supporters.”

However, it was also the case that higher numbers of both those who saw Muslims favourably and those how saw them unfavorably had proportionally higher percentages of people who considered large numbers of refugees leaving countries like Iraq and Syria as a major threat than those in all other countries other than Poland, Greece and Hungary.

Further, more people from the UK consider refugees to be a burden because they “take our jobs and social benefits” (46%) then consider that refugees “make our country stronger because of their work and talents” (42%). Similarly, marginally more UK respondents considered that the presence of refugees was likely to increase the risk of terrorism (52%) then consider the reverse to be true (41%), although the difference between the two positions in both these questions is extremely narrow.

In June 2017, a study by Dr Rose Meleady, Charles R. Seger, and Marieke Vermue found that xenophobia was the greatest predictor of voting leave (0.51) when compared with political conservatism (0.43), negative contact with migrants (0.43) and age (0.15). Moreover, their study of just over 400 individuals before the 2016 EU referendum vote found that those with more positive contact with EU migrants tended to have a stronger intention to vote Remain, while the intermediary variable that helped explain such voting behaviour was reduced prejudice, which arose from greater multicultural contact. Additional, a November 2017 study led by a group of academics at Goldsmiths, University of London, again found supporting evidence that xenophobia was a strong predictive factor in June 2016’s successful Leave vote. In particular, their polls of 300 people after the Referendum tested three individual predictors of prejudice: a belief in national greatness, right wing authoritarianism, and social dominance orientation. They found that what they termed ‘collective narcissism’ (0.39), right wing authoritarianism (0.35), and social dominance orientation (0.38) all had a statistically significant effect upon the perceived threat of immigration among Brexit voters.

Looking more broadly at xenophobic attitudes, however, reported figures by the EU’s annual Eurobarometer survey found that negative perceptions of immigration and its importance as an issue had actually decreased in the wake of the Brexit vote. In fact, positive feelings toward migrants from other EU states rose more markedly in the UK than the cross-EU average – an increase from 49% to 58% positivity – whilst concerns over immigration almost halved, with only 6% citing it as the most important issue facing them personally. This may be unsurprising in light the June 2016 result (with 51.9% of voters choosing to leave the European Union) however, reported attitudes towards the EU itself were more in line with recent voting patterns, with a majority (51%) taking a pessimistic view of the EU’s future and 48% of respondents claiming optimism about the UK’s future outside of the EU. Another longitudinal study carried out by the polling and market research company, Ipsos MORI, also confirmed these upward social trends regarding immigration. Polling 4,000 voters across seven waves, the company found that people in the UK had become more positive towards immigration (from 35% to 46%) but also wished for immigration to be reduced – with over 60% feeling that it should either be reduced a little or a lot.

Turning to the theme of anti-Muslim prejudice in British society more broadly, several opinion polls conducted in the period under review have fleshed out trends regarding anti-Muslim prejudice. In September 2017, a poll of over 2000 people conducted by YouGov on behalf of Arab News found that 72% of British subjects believed that anti-Muslim hatred had gotten worse in recent years – with a similar proportion (70%) agreeing that Islamophobic comments made by politicians risked fuelling hate crime. This recognition did not however result in a diminution in prejudice against Arab and Muslim populations – with nearly two thirds of respondents (63%) saying that Arabs who came to the UK had failed to integrate into Western society, and more than half (55%) agreeing that racial profiling of Muslims and Arabs for security reasons was justifiable. Moreover, in a separate study conducted by the international affairs think tank, Chatham House, 47% of UK respondents supported the cessation of migration from Muslim majority countries and noted that public estimates of the UK Muslim population were three times higher than actual figures. In addition, the anti-fascist campaigning organisation, Hope not Hate’s, 2017 ‘Fear and Hope’ poll found that 42% of English people were more suspicious of Muslims as a result of the London and Manchester terror attacks – with a further 52% seeing Islam as a serious threat to Western civilization.

Turning to anti-Semitic prejudice in the UK, one of the largest (n=5,466) investigations into attitudes towards Jews and Israel was published in the period under study. In September 2017, the Institute for Jewish Policy Research (in partnership with the Community Security Trust, Britain’s chief monitoring agency for anti-Semitism) found that more than a quarter (30%) of people in British society hold at least some anti-Semitic attitudes – although only 2.4% of British adults were strongly anti-Semitic. Moreover, whilst 56% of the UK population held at least some anti-Israel views, only 12% nursed ‘hard-core negativity’ towards the Jewish state. In conclusion, the report identified an ‘elastic’ view of anti-Semitism, distinguishing between those who are clearly committed to anti-Semitic ideas and those who have more casual anti-Semitic views. Rather controversially, the report also found that Muslims were two to four times more likely to hold anti-Semitic and anti-Israel attitudes than the general population.

Finally, 2017 marked a milestone for the LGBT community in the UK: the reporting period marked the 50th anniversary of the Sexual Offences Act 1967, which decriminalised homosexuality in the UK. Articles published at the time suggested that favourability towards same-sex couples has quadrupled (from 17% to 64%) and that young people were five times more likely to identify as gay, lesbian or bisexual than their older counterparts. The main issue to re-emerge onto the public policy agenda during the time of writing was the legalisation of same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland. Opinion polls during the period of study showed majority support for such an initiative – with a September 2017 LucidTalk Survey finding that 61.04% of people were in favour of same-sex unions, while 32.47% of people were against. Meanwhile, looking at the legislative level where the decision on legalisation will ultimately be made, historic votes in the Northern Ireland Assembly have shown politicians to be more finely split on the issue, with an April 2015 motion being defeated by a majority of two and a November 2015 plenary debate ending in a small majority (50.48%) in favour.

Looking at xenophobic sentiment in the UK in 2018-20, data published in the EU's annual Eurobarometer survey showed that negative perceptions of immigration actually decreased over the reporting period. Positive attitudes towards migrants from other EU countries and outside the EU have increased markedly - from 58% in 2017 to 64% in 2018 and from 54% to 62% regarding migration from the EU and outside the EU - at that time only 13% cited it as the most important issue they have personally encountered (down 4%, below the EU average of 28%). This may not be surprising in light of Brexit, the more authoritarian and right-wing populist line taken on immigration first by Theresa May and later by Boris Johnson after the June 2016 EU referendum, and the promise to “take back control” of the UK border.

Stated attitudes towards the EU itself in 2018 were more in line with recent voting patterns, with a majority (43%) having a negative view of the EU and 44% of respondents being optimistic about the UK's future outside the EU. Such trends have remained broadly stable over time - concerns about the importance of immigration remain low (14% in 2019 and 9% in 2020), a slight decrease in negative views of the EU itself (20% in 2019 and 31% in 2020 year). ) and at least the majority are pessimistic about the future of the EU (47% in 2019 and 50% in 2020).

Turning to the topic of anti-Muslim prejudice in British society in a broader sense, several public opinion polls conducted during the period under review also revealed certain trends. In October 2018, a survey of over 43,000 people by British anti-fascist NGO Hope not Hate found that while general attitudes towards multiculturalism are softening, the opposite is happening with Islam.

For example, 32% of those surveyed believed that there were Muslim "no-go zones" in the UK governed by Sharia law, a view supported by 49% of those who voted in the Brexit referendum, demonstrating (in the authors' eyes) that EU opposition and prejudice against Islam "for many, apparently interconnected questions." Moreover, in a separate study by the American sociological company Pew Research, 36% of respondents from the UK said they would not be ready to accept a Muslim in their family, and 46% believe that the national cultures of the UK are superior to others. In addition, another 2019 'Hope Not Hate' poll (n=<5000) found that 35% of the population believed that Islam was a threat to the British way of life, and 30% would support a campaign to stop building mosques. On top of this, anti-Muslim sentiment within the UK Conservative Party was investigated in 2020, with more than half of them seeing Islam as a threat to the British way of life.

With regard to anti-Semitic prejudice in the UK, one of the largest (n = <1,000,000) studies on attitudes towards Jews and Israel was published during the study period. In 2019, the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism in the UK (in partnership with King's College London) found that more than a third (37%) of people in British society believed at least one anti-Semitic claim to be true (for example, about Jewish control of business), although only a small proportion (ie less than 20%) of British adults strongly agree with these statements. Moreover, only 14% suggested that the connection with Israel made the Jewish people less loyal to Britain.

Perhaps the most revealing finding was the prevalence of anti-Semitism among far-left British politicians - 58% of those who consider themselves to be "very left" adhere to two or more anti-Semitic viewpoints proposed by the researchers. The report concludes by pointing out how left-wing anti-Semitism - especially in the UK Labor Party - has equaled those who consider themselves most right-wing.

Finally, a British Social Attitude (BSA) study found that the proportion of people who say they are completely comfortable in same-sex relationships has declined for the first time in more than three decades. Of the nearly 3,000 people polled, two-thirds (66 percent) said same-sex relationships were "not wrong at all," down from 68 percent the previous year, the first drop since 1987.

Back to list

© 2017 Civic Nation
Created by – NBS-Media