Saturday, June 25 2016

EHRC report on Religious Discrimination in Britain

 The Equality and Human Rights Commission today published a report on "Religious Discrimination in Britain: A review of research evidence, 2000- 2010". The report is in the papers today following Trevor Phillips’ interview with the Sunday Telegraph on its findings.

Excerpted paragraphs from the report, which includes a section on Islamophobia, are reproduced below. From the executive summary:

“Social psychological research evidence suggests there is nothing that in principle prevents the possibility, given certain circumstances, of any group becoming  perpetrators of unfair treatment on the basis of religion. As well as having identifiable generic characteristics and dynamics, the evidence also indicates that ‘religious discrimination’ can take specific forms, such as those associated with the concept of Islamophobia.

“A fairly consistent body of research evidence shows that, relative to other religious groups in Britain, Muslims report and experience discrimination of a greater frequency and seriousness than other religious groups. In the second half of the decade 2000-10, this was compounded by the impact on wider public perceptions of Muslims of terror bombings undertaken in the name of Islam and in connection with the security policies and measures that have responded to that and focused primarily upon Muslims.

“At the same time, the research evidence continues to identify aspects of ‘visible religious difference’ being a particularly salient part of ‘religious discrimination’, especially in relation to Muslim women and clothing and following 9/11 in relation to  physical attacks on Muslims and others perceived to be Muslims by virtue of aspects of their clothing."

On the Religious Discrimination in England and Wales research project:

“The postal survey in the Religious Discrimination in England and Wales research project included a question to individual respondents from the organisations surveyed about their perception of whether, in the past five years, problems of ignorance, indifference, hostility, verbal abuse, physical abuse, damage to property, policies of organisations, practices of organisations and general coverage in the media had become ‘more or less frequent’, being presented with the options of ‘more frequent’, ‘less frequent’, ‘stayed the same’ or ‘don’t know’. In general, there was a fairly clear differentiation of response from among the religious traditions surveyed, running from those who thought things were generally getting worse to those who detected improvements in every area.

“Muslim respondents were the most likely to think that problems had grown worse. In this connection it is perhaps important to note that the research was conducted before 11 September 2001. Even so, the majority of Muslim respondents thought hostility, verbal abuse and unfair media coverage had all become more frequent. Views on indifference, and organisational policy and practice were fairly evenly divided. For other problems, those who thought unfair treatment was becoming more frequent consistently outnumbered those thinking it was becoming less so.

“A consistently higher level of unfair treatment was reported by Muslim organizations than by most other religious groups, both in terms of the proportion of respondents indicating that some unfair treatment was experienced, and by the proportion indicating that these experiences were frequent rather than occasional. The majority of Muslim organisations reported that their members experienced unfair treatment in every aspect of education, employment, housing, law and order, and in all the local government services covered in the questionnaire.

“Questionnaire respondents were asked for their personal view of how serious were various aspects of discrimination and unfair treatment, including ignorance, indifference, hostility, verbal abuse, physical abuse, damage to property, policies of organisations,  practices of organisations, and media coverage. Only a minority of Muslim respondents said each issue was ‘not at all serious’. Muslim respondents were more likely than those from other religions to identify ‘very serious’ problems in nearly every area. A large majority of Muslim respondents regarded ignorance as a ‘very serious’ or ‘quite serious’ problem

“In relation to the increasing frequency of problems reported by Muslim respondents, it should be noted that these responses pre-dated both 9/11 and the preceding summer 2001 disturbances in the northern mill towns. The events in the mill towns were a warning that when a group of citizens feels that their basic self-understandings are not being adequately addressed by public policy, then social exclusion, marginalisation and disaffection emerge. The involvement of young Muslims in these urban uprisings underlined the urgency of addressing the social position of many Muslims, while the later reports on these disturbances by two inquiry groups brought about a new conceptual and policy repertoire for the political framing of such issues, and engagement with them, in terms of ‘social cohesion’ (Cantle et al., 2001; Denham et al., 2001).

“Other more recent evidence indicates that Muslims are more likely than those of other religions to experience religious or racial harassment. For example, the Citizenship Survey showed that in 2009-10, Muslims in England were more than twice as likely as the average to consider that racial or religious harassment was a very or fairly big problem in their local area.

On Islamophobia:

"Evidence across a wide range of research (some of which has already been noted in this report when discussing religious discrimination more generally) suggests that Muslims appear to experience religious discrimination with a frequency and seriousness that is proportionately greater than that experienced by those of other religions. This was certainly reflected in the findings of the Religious Discriminatio in England and Wales research project. In relation to a wide range of social areas, Muslim organisations reported a consistently higher level of unfair treatment than most other religious groups, both in terms of the proportion of respondents indicating that some unfair treatment was experienced, and in terms of the proportion indicating that these experiences were frequent.

“Media coverage of Islam can often reflect, reproduce, recycle and amplify aspects of these images. Kim Knott’s research on Islam and the media in the Religion and Society programme (see Appendix 7) has found that mass media coverage of Islam in the UK has doubled compared with 20 years ago. Moreover, the majority of the coverage is negative, presenting Islam as a problem. The practical use and effects of such images, especially via their reproduction in the mass media after 9/11, led Allen and Nielsen (2002) to identify what emerged during this period as ‘the deep-seated nature of Islamophobia and xenophobia’.

“Post-9/11, and especially with reference to the UK, such images have been recycled in crude ways in the propaganda of organisations such as the British National Party (BNP) and the English Defence League. In recent years, the BNP particularly targeted Muslims by separating out Muslims as a specific category of ‘undesirable other’ from among other religious and ethnic minority groups, such as Hindus and the Chinese, who are portrayed as being more acceptable. Moreover, as noted above, (p. 45), local anti-Muslim alliances have been formed between right-wing groups and immigrant and ethnic minority groups.”

You can read the full report here.

Last Updated on Monday, 20 June 2011 17:02

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