Muslim antisemitism – It’s time to face reality

Muslim worshippers during prayer. (Photo by Levi Clancy on Unsplash via Jewish News)
Muslim worshippers during prayer. (Photo by Levi Clancy on Unsplash via Jewish News)

The think-tank the Henry Jackson Society has just published a report titled ‘Muslim Anti-Semitism In Contemporary Great Britain’. The author, Dr Rakib Ehsan a Muslim himself, describes this report and more importantly, the polling that makes up the body of the report as: “one of the most systematic and comprehensive surveys into the socio-political attitudes – both domestic and international – of British Muslims”. The findings of this report will add to the body of literature that thus far, appear to be scant and will therefore assist in understanding the manifestation of antisemitism in religious minority communities in Great Britain.

The executive summary of the report asserts a number of claims. First, when it comes to perception of other faith groups, British Muslims view Jews the least favourably. Only atheists, as a social group, are viewed less favourably. In addition to this, over a third (34%) of British Muslims polled for ComRes, thought that Jews had too much control over the global banking system. As far as antisemitic tropes go, this one appears to still maintain strength.

Looking at domestic politics, a third (33%) of British Muslims polled thought Jews again had too much control of political leadership, in comparison to 15% of the general population. This marks a significant increase that more than doubles that of the general population.

Furthermore, and in regards to dual loyalty, British Muslims came up at a staggering 44%, believing Jews were more loyal to Israel than they were to Britain. In comparison to the general population which polled at 24%, British Muslims are nearly twice the number. In addition to this, if you are a British Muslim and university educated, then you are more likely to believe in this and the broader belief in Jews having too much global control.

There also appears to be a link between attending mosque at least 3-4 times a week, which could impact on British Muslim attitudes on Jews. For example, the ComRes poll found that 55% of British Muslims that attended mosque frequently, compared to 34% that didn’t, were more likely to maintain this view.

This report has shed light on how antisemitism and the types of antisemitism manifests itself in religious minority communities in Great Britain. The report raises a number of questions that need answering. Firstly, why are Jews looked at in this way by British Muslims and what can be done to reduce this animosity towards an ethnic and religious minority that finds itself continuously blamed for all the ills in the world?

Social integration is a key theme Dr Ehsan recommends in the report. For example, British Muslims expanding their friendship groups outside of their own religious identity can foster a more favourable view of the outgroup. In addition to this, if the friendship group is predominantly non-Muslim, this could lead to more positive orientations towards countries such as the United States and Israel, which for many Muslims are seen as the aggressor due to their foreign and domestic policy towards Muslim populations and countries. Without the plurality of views about such countries and their policies, British Muslims could find themselves in an echo chamber with others just to confirm and legitimise their epistemic needs, rather than to critically analyse political situations.

Mosques also have a role to play in this. Whilst the report suggests that mosques can be socially beneficial – through their outreach and interfaith programs – to regular attendees, this is not always the case. As the report finds, British Muslims who frequently attend mosque are more likely to find themselves seeing Jews are controlling major financial and media outlets. There is therefore a need to examine the role mosques play in this and what can be done to reduce this perception of Jews amongst frequent attendees.

Dr Ehsan also finds that whilst the findings may appear to be somewhat contradictory in nature, there is still a need to make a distinction between anti-Jewish sentiment compared with anti-Israeli sentiment. The former being more favourable than the latter, meaning that British Muslims have more of an issue with Israel than Jews themselves. Moreover, the report also finds that British Muslims are more likely to believe the Holocaust is a myth and that Jews believe themselves to be superior to non-Jews.

What is clear is this, antisemitism in the Muslim community exists. Compared to the general population, it is much higher and this should be very concerning. For Jews, through no fault of their own, other than their identity, antisemitism from British Muslims is now coming to light. With more reports like this, and organisations like Muslims Against Antisemitism (MAAS) I work for, we are already seeking to tackle this scourge. But we cannot be complacent and we must not, through fear of being accused of Islamophobia or racism, ignore important research such as this. The Muslim community deserves and are entitled to be helped in this regards and Jewish communities even more so. This should be seen as a joint effort to tackle antisemitism, not an isolated campaign to blame all Muslims for the actions of a few.




About the Author
Wasiq is an academic and trustee for the organisation Muslims Against Antisemitism (MAAS). He specialises in the areas of academia, law and terrorism.
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