SHAFAQNA – Reflecting a worrying level of anti-Muslim rhetoric in the UK, a new study has found that almost a third of school pupils believe ‘Muslims are taking over our country’, amid unprecedented level of negative attitudes towards Muslims and immigrants.
“This survey shows that this is fuelled by a totally distorted view of the number of immigrants and Muslims living in the UK,” Ged Grabby, chief executive of charity Show Racism the Red Card (SRTRC), told The Guardian.
The SRTRC surveyed almost 6,000 children aged 10 to 16 across England to find that negative attitudes towards migrants and Muslims were widespread among school pupils.
Based on questionnaires sent to more than 60 schools across the UK between 2012 and 2014, the data revealed that 60 percent of children questioned believed “asylum seekers and immigrants are stealing our jobs”.
Moreover, 49 percent of the surveyed children agreed with the statement that migration was out of control or not being managed properly.
The results were revealed shortly after Labour MP Tristam Hunt’s embarrassing encounter with a schoolchild, who told the shadow education minister that he would vote far-right Independence Party (UKIP) because he would “like to get all the foreigners out of the country”.
In Britain, far-right groups like Ukip, English Defence League (EDL) and British National Party (BNP) have been playing the card of immigration to stoke sentiment against Muslims and immigrants.
UKIP sparked criticism last December after the party chairman Steve Crowther sent a private survey titled ‘rate an immigrant’ to its members asking them to help the party draw up its policies.
The survey asked party members to say ‘how close they feel’ to a number of groups.
They include ‘Blacks, Asians, Muslims, English, Eastern Europeans and Whites’ as well as the four main political parties.
The party has also come under criticism after its national executive member Gerard Batten called on Muslims to sign a ‘charter of understanding’ in which they rejected violence and parts of the Qur’an that promote ‘violent physical Jihad.’
In another incident, parliamentary candidate in Grimsby Victoria Ayling was recorded saying ‘let’s keep the blacks out’, whereas Council candidate Andre Lampitt said Africans should ‘kill themselves’.
Though sparking anxiety, some experts said that results were not evident on spread of racism across the UK.
University of Manchester professor Hilary Pilkington cautioned that the results were “not evidence of widespread racism among young people” but instead an indication of “anxiety – often based on inaccurate information”.
Part of the survey results showed that 41 percent of children did not think that “Muslims are taking over England” and just under half (47 percent) thought that relations between Muslims and non-Muslims were poor.
On the other hand, Dr Paul Jackson from the University of Northampton was pessimistic.
Yet, he acknowledged that some young peoples’ “gap between the reality and perception on issues”.
“The subsequent levels of hostility towards these groups is very worrying and is something that we, as a society, need to take seriously,” he added.
British Muslims, estimated at nearly 2.7 million, have been in the eye of storm since the 7/7 2005 attacks.
In November 2010, British police warned that the anti-Muslim demonstration by the EDL fuel extremism and harm social cohesion in Britain.
A Financial Times opinion poll showed that Britain is the most suspicious nation about Muslims.
A poll of the Evening Standard found that a sizable section of London residents harbor negative opinions about Muslims.
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