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Brexit chaos could lead to increasing Islamophobia

Brexit chaos could lead to increasing Islamophobia

Categories: Latest News

Thursday July 26 2018

A new YouGov Poll shows that Britons are slowly tilting towards the far ends of the political spectrum amid discontent with Theresa May’s handling of the Brexit deal.


With chaos ensuing just forty-eight hours after the Chequers summit – which saw May’s cabinet lose David Davies, Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, and Boris Johnson, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs –the Prime Minister’s belated attempt at a softer Brexit has arguably precipitated an already precarious situation: around ten Conservative ministers and officials have resigned, and around 40 (numbers are still debated) have sent letters of no confidence calling for a new Conservative leadership. Meanwhile, EU officials reportedly still would not accept May’s Brexit plan, because Brussels refuses to allow British negotiators to cherry-pick on the “four freedoms of the single market” – meaning that to retain free movement of goods, capital and services, Britain would need to accept free movement of labour as well.


May’s plan following the Chequers summit is also producing significant reshuffles in the orientation of British voters, with many opting for a shift towards reactionary, Islamophobic parties. The poll, which surveyed 1668 individuals, found that 14% of respondents would not vote for Labour or Conservative, and 7% would vote for UKIP, a party that under the new leadership of Gerard Batten, has embraced a worryingly Islamophobic stance. The result is noteworthy, especially considering the humiliating political defeats and internal reshuffles the party suffered after the referendum.


It is even more telling that the majority of those surveyed (42%) do not feel represented by any of the current parties. This disenfranchisement, which could in fact be explained as a result of the Government’s confusing handling of the Brexit negotiations, is highly significant when looking at the follow-up questions in the survey. When asked whether they would vote for a new political party “on the political right, committed to leaving the EU”, 38% of respondents said yes. In a similar vein, when asked whether they would vote for a party “committed to opposing Islamism and immigration and supporting Brexit”, 24% responded positively.


However, the survey did not differentiate between “Islam”, a peaceful religion, and the vague concept of “Islamism”, which some have equated to extremism. With many respondents arguably unable to distinguish between the two, the opposition to Islamism could consequently be interpreted as a broader opposition to Muslim agency and Islamic identities.


It is not surprising that today’s political chaos has led to increased prevalence of Islamophobic rhetoric across broader society, which could result in the formation of parties willing to capitalise on Islamophobic sentiments.


To learn more about how Islamophobia is used for political gains, read MEND’s report on approaching a definition of Islamophobia, “More Than Words”.



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