New study compares sensitivity of “everyday” Muslim and Jewish People in the UK towards Islamophobia and Antisemitism

A recent study has compared the attitudes of “everyday” Muslim and Jewish people in the United Kingdom, on their understanding and sensitivity to Islamophobia and Antisemitism. It is the first know study to compare the two using statistics.

Nearly 1,500 Jewish people were shown statements designed to reflect anti-Semitic attitudes, while 1,000 Muslim respondents were shown statements designed to be Islamophobic.

These included:

Attitudes towards Jews:

  • Israelis behave ‘like Nazis’ towards the Palestinians
  • Does not consider Jews living in the UK to be British
  • Jews are not capable of integrating into British society
  • The interests of Jews in the UK are very different from the interests of the rest of the population
  • Jews have too much power in British economy, politics, media
  • The Holocaust is a myth or has been exaggerated

Attitudes towards Muslims:

  • Most Muslims sympathise with terrorists
  • British Muslims do not share western values
  • British Muslims have no interest in integrating into British society
  • The interests of Muslims in Britain are very different from the interests of the rest of the population
  • Muslims have too much influence in Britain
  • Muslims often overreact to criticism of their religion.

A comparison

  • Certainty: Jewish respondents were more certain about whether the statements were anti-Semitic or not (only 1-3% said they didn’t know), compared to 13% to 22% of Muslim participants who responded that they didn’t know whether a statement was Islamophobic.
  • Sensitivity: With those who did ‘diagnose’ the statements, there was also a difference in what was considered offensive between the two groups. Most of the statements were perceived as anti-semitic by large majorities by Jewish respondents. The statement which makes reference to the Holocaust most offensive of them, with 96% of the Jewish Respondents considering it so, with the rest being considered anti-Semitic by at least 70% of respondents. In contrast, none of the statements that referenced Muslims were considered Islamophobia by the majority of Muslim respondents.

Differences within the group:

Age, Education, employment, and whether the respondents were born in the UK also affect answers within each group, but in different ways. For example, while Jewish Respondents aged over 40 were between 80% and 90% more likely to be sensitive than those aged between 18 and 39, age was not a factor for Muslim respondents. Education played a role in the sensitivity for both groups but in contrasting ways; while holding a degree made Jewish respondents 35% less sensitive towards the linking of Israelis and Nazis, Muslim respondents with degrees were  63% more likely to find all statements offensive, and 70% more likely to be sensitive about the statement which suggests Muslims did not share western values.

Similarly, being born in the UK also made a difference in opposing directions. Those Jewish respondents who were born in the UK were less likely to be sensitive towards the linking of Israelis and Nazis, while Muslim respondents born in the UK were twice as likely to be sensitive to all statements.

Possible explanations to the findings have been suggested, including the role of memory around the Holocaust and the Arab-Israeli Wars being more likely to affect more strongly the sensitivity of older Jewish Respondents, while those events which have shaped Islamophobia such as 9/11 and 7/7 are more recent. The increased sensitivity of British Muslims who have a higher level of education is said to suggest that this is because discussions around Islamophobia are often at an elite level, for example the All Party Parliamentary Group on British Muslim’s definition of Islamophobia, that is not accessible to a wider audience and an everyday understanding, whereas the understanding of antisemitism has a longer history and a wider reach.

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