'Muslims continue to be less accepted than other minorities in Britain'
Categories: Latest News
Monday April 20 2015
Ingrid Storm, a researcher at Manchester University’s Centre on Dynamics of Ethnicity, contributes a comment piece to Democratic Audit on why, when racial prejudice is generally in decline, is prejudice against Muslims bucking the trend?
Storm looks at data from the British Social Attitudes Survey 2013 which reveals that attitudes among White respondents who ‘mind’ if a close relative marries someone of Asian or West Indian background has declined from over 50 per cent in 1989 to 25 per cent in 2013, but those who ‘mind’ if a close relative marries a person of Muslim background is almost double this, at near 50 per cent.
Storm explores whether negative attitudes towards Muslims can be explained by a shift from biological racism to cultural racism by looking at differences among younger and older generations. Storm concludes that the prejudice shown toward Muslims by older generations suggests that the theory of cultural racism replacing biological racism doesn’t entirely explain the nature of prejudice.
Strom also argues the generational differences in attitudes towards minorities is much greater for Muslims than for any other minority group. Storm explains that anti-Muslim prejudice takes two forms; “those who have a general ethnic prejudice disliking Muslims because they are viewed as racially as well as culturally different from whites” and “those who have a specific anti-Muslim prejudice, even if they are otherwise tolerant of ethnic minorities”.
Using BSA survey data, Storm shows that “Those who object to Muslim and Black in-laws are mostly over 50” and “Those who mind Muslims, and not Blacks, however are more likely to be middle aged.”
Identifying the causal factors that may explain the reasons for a specific anti-Muslim prejudice at a personal level, where survey responses from white respondents to the question of a close relative marrying a Muslim is used to distinguish between general perceptions about Muslims and personal dislike, Storm states that a major factor is the media. She states, “a public debate which focuses on cultural incompatibility, religious extremism and violence could potentially affect a person’s views not only of world events, but of their neighbours, friends, colleagues and potential in-laws.”
She adds that religious conviction among British Muslims is a further factor, contrasting to the more secular or non-religious outlooks of those born in the 40s and 50s and who came of age in the 60s and 70s.
“In summary, the disproportionate unpopularity of Muslims as marriage prospects for close relatives is probably not the result of a general objection to cultural difference which is taking over from a general hostility to physical difference. Rather, a particular negative perception of a specific religious group has been reinforced by news reports, and created new justifications for prejudice,” she concludes.