Anti-Muslim bias in UK underpins wariness about immigration

52% of those asked said that public services were under strain due to immigrants.
Sunday 23/09/2018
A 2017 file picture shows people attending a vigil outside Finsbury Park Mosque in north London following a van attack on pedestrians nearby. (AFP)
Room for hope. A 2017 file picture shows people attending a vigil outside Finsbury Park Mosque in north London following a van attack on pedestrians nearby. (AFP)

LONDON - Two major reports highlighted the divisive nature of the immigration debate in Britain while the country is dealing with the fallout of the Brexit referendum, outlining the oversized fear among Britons towards migrants and the actual effect immigration has on the country.

A study published September 17 by the British Future think-tank and the anti-racism group Hope Not Hate stated that four-in-ten Britons asked said multiculturalism had undermined British culture and that migrants were failing to properly integrate into British society.

“Immigration is a national issue but people see it through a local lens. Where people live, and their living conditions, makes a real difference — that includes the perceived impact of migration on their community, broader grievances about economic insecurity and levels of contact with migrants and ethnic minorities too,” said Rosie Carter, a co-author of the report and a researcher for Hope Not Hate.

The study, which was based on polling 3,667 nationally representative adults as part of an overall consultation that involved nearly 20,000 people across the United Kingdom, indicated that 40% of respondents said they did not agree that diversity benefits British culture and that 52% of those asked said that public services were under strain due to immigrants.

The report outlined “widespread” anti-Muslim sentiment across the country.

“Anti-Muslim prejudice took different forms, with a tendency to stereotype Muslims as a homogeneous community whose values and lifestyle are incompatible with the British way of life.

“They believed that British culture was under threat because people were ‘forced,’ usually by schools and councils, to pander to ‘political correctness’ and the sensitivities of Muslims. Anti-Muslim prejudice underpinned broader views about immigration.”

A report commissioned by the British government ahead of Brexit stated that migrants, specifically those from within the European Union, had an overall positive effect on the British economy and public services.

The report by the Migration Advisory Committee, released September 18, said EU citizens living and working in the United Kingdom had little effect on local wages, paid more in taxes, had no adverse effect on Britons’ education system, were not linked to increasing crime and contributed “much more” to the National Health Service (NHS) than they consumed.

Despite this, dissatisfaction with high levels of immigration was one of the main reasons cited by Britons who voted to leave the European Union, with many saying the scapegoating of immigrants that was seen during the Brexit campaign has become part of wider political discourse.

“The Brexit campaign was never really about the EU or even immigration. It was about foreigners. Foreigners became a scapegoat for all the things that are not working properly — including in the NHS and in schools,” wrote Rodney Barker, a professor of government at the London School of Economics.

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