25 January 2022

# Islam

Islamophobia in Britain - a middle class prejudice?

Disclaimer: The following text does not necessarily reflect my own opinion. It is published for informative purposes only, as received via the University of Birmingham. Relevant sources are linked in the text.

A recent survey, led by the University of Birmingham, in conjunction with YouGov, shows that people from the middle and upper class (social group ABC1) are more likely to have prejudices about Islam and Muslims than those from working class backgrounds (social group C2DE). 

The survey was presented in a report titled 'The Dinner Table Prejudice: Islamophobia in Contemporary Britain', a research study conducted by Dr Stephen H. Jones and Amy Unsworth, published by the University of Birmingham - full report available HERE

There were six main findings in the survey:

  1. Of people identified as the ABC1 social group, 23.2% have prejudiced views about Islam, compared to 18.4% of those from the C2DE group. However, asked about views about Muslims and other religious and ethnic minorities, it emerged that generally it's older people, men, working class people, and Conservative and Leave voters, who are consistently more likely to be prejudiced.
  2. Muslims are the UK's second 'least liked' group, after Gypsy and Irish Travellers. Over a quarter of the British public (25.9%) feel negative about Muslims, with 9.9% saying 'very negative'. That's significantly more than 8.5% for Jewish people and 6.4% for black people.
  3. More than one in four people, and almost half of Conservative and Leave voters, believe in so-called Sharia 'no-go areas'. 26.5% of the British public think that there are places in Britain where non-Muslims are not able to enter, as they are ruled by Sharia law. This belief was expressed by 43.4% of Conservative and Leave voters. In addition, over a third of British people, agree that 'Islam threatens the British way of life'.
  4. Support for prohibiting all Muslim migration to the UK is 4-6% higher than for other religious and ethnic groups - 18.1% of people said they support a ban on all Muslim migration, with 9.5% declaring a  'strong support'.
  5. The British public is almost three times more likely to have a prejudiced view of Islam than other religions. 21.1% of the British public believe (wrongly), that the followers of Islam are taught to read the Quran 'totally literally', compared to 7.5% for Judaism and the Hebrew Bible.
  6. British people are more confident making assumptions about Islam than other non-Christian religions, but these assumptions are much more likely to be incorrect. The respondents of the survey acknowledged that they have a certain level of ignorance about non-Christian religions, with 62.7% stating they are 'not sure' how Sikh scriptures are taught, and 50.8% admitting the same about Judaism. However, in the case of Islam, people seem more confident that they have a good knowledge of it, with only 40.7% being unsure. That's despite the above point, that 21.1% of people wrongly assume that the Quran is to be taken 'totally literally'.

Dr Stephen Jones from the University of Birmingham, lead author of the survey, says:

“Prejudice towards Islam and Muslims stands out in the UK, not only because it is much more widespread than most forms of racism, but also because prejudice toward Islam is more common among those who are wealthier and well-educated.”

He recommends that there should be more acknowledgment from the Government and public figures of how Islamophobia stands out compared to other forms of prejudice. Furthermore, the civil society organisations and bodies concerned with discrimination and prejudice should acknowledge the systemic misinformation about Islam being common in British society. Educators should provide guidelines clarifying when acceptable criticism can become harmful, and religious literacy should be made part of any large-scale equality and diversity campaigns. Dr Jones says, however, that he doesn't call for any law regulating the criticism of religion, rather calls for recognition of the fact that "the British public has been systematically miseducated about Islamic tradition" and steps should be taken to remedy this.

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