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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 26 March 2019

One in three in UK believe Islam threatens British way of life, report finds

A report by anti-fascist group Hope not Hate found 2017 terror attacks have had a negative impact on perceptions of Islam

The East London Mosque in London's Whitechapel draws 5,000 worshippers to Friday prayers during Ramadan.
The East London Mosque in London's Whitechapel draws 5,000 worshippers to Friday prayers during Ramadan.

More than a third of people in Britain believe that Islam poses a threat to the British way of life, according to a report published by the anti-fascist group Hope not Hate that warns of a growing anti-Muslim prejudice.

Forty-nine per cent of Conservative voters interviewed in 2017 thought Islam to be incompatible with the British way of life. Forty-seven percent believed in the existence of no-go areas in Britain where sharia law dominates and non-Muslims cannot enter.

The group warned that anti-Muslim prejudice has replaced immigration as the key driver of the growth of the far-right. While polling showed that attitudes towards Muslims in Britain had improved between 2011 and 2016, the terror attacks in the UK in 2017 had had a negative impact on perceptions.

The far-right is successfully tapping into the political rage and discontent that is prevalent in society, increasingly attracting a young audience and becoming more extreme. The threat of far-right terrorism comes from both organised groups and lone actors who get radicalised via the internet.

The group found a continued rising trend in traffic to far-right websites and followers of far-right social media accounts, although increasing moderation by social media companies seems to have slowed down last year’s hike.

The report points to an increase in antisemitic Google searches in the UK and found that 5 per cent of British adults did not believe the Holocaust happened and 8 per cent said the scale of the Holocaust had been exaggerated.

According to Nick Lowles, the chief executive of Hope not Hate, “to understand the attraction of today’s far right, one has to appreciate the growing sense of disconnect between large swathes of people in society and the structures of power.”

A governmental poll conducted in December found that 68 per cent of British citizens felt there wasn’t a political party that spoke for them. A census conducted by Hope not Hate in February found 55 per cent of people thought the British political system to be broken.

Mr Lowes warned against the lax use of the term “extremism.” “People simply ‘construct their enemies as such’. We need to be extra careful we don’t create a definition which actually defines what we don’t like about a particular identified enemy rather than defining ‘extremism’ as an abstract thing,” he said.

“Having a clear definition of what extremism is, and how we measure it, will have the added benefit of allowing us to define what we actually are and stand for.”

Updated: February 18, 2019 05:23 PM

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