âThe fear and hostility displayed towards Muslims is deeply worrying, despite most people claiming that they stand firm against extremistsâ attempt to conflate their heinous actions with that of an entire religion,â Hope not Hate (HnH) chief executive Nick Lowles said of the findingâs of the charityâs Fear And Hope 2017 report which was released on Wednesday.
âClearly there is a lot of work to be done here, both by those tackling hate crimes and misinformation, and potentially by Muslim communities themselves.â
The report, billed as âone of the most comprehensive studies of English attitudes towards contemporary issuesâ, found that despite views on immigration âsofteningâ, attitudes towards Muslims and Islam have âsimultaneously worsened among the more hostile sections of societyâ.
The report, based on a Populus survey of 4,000 people in âsix identity tribesâ across England, found that 52% of respondents believe Islam âposes a threat to the Westâ. As a result of recent terror attacks 42% of those surveyed were now âmore suspiciousâ of Muslims and a quarter of Brits believe Islam is a âdangerous religion that incites violenceâ.
The study found older people were more prone to Islamophobia, âpainting a worrying set of viewsâ which HnH said would require âsignificant effortâ to address.
Anti-hate charity Tell Mama told HuffPost UK that it was not surprised by the surveyâs findings and called on mosques and Islamic institutions to do more to âbreak down barriersâ.
âWe know, given the levels of aggression towards victims, that there is a foothold taking place within small sections of the UK, around anti-Muslim hatred,â Tell Mama director Iman Atta said.
âFor the survey to show that 25% of Brits believe that Islam is a dangerous religion, is concerning and we need more mosques and Islamic institutions to engage with their neighbours and break down barriers that there may be. Also, for 52% of respondents to believe that Islam poses a threat risk to the West shows that a lot more work needs to be done by Muslims and NGOâs to counter such growing divisions.â
Atta added: âWe are the vanguard of trying to tackle anti-Muslim hatred and we call upon others to join us in standing against all forms of hatred, including anti-Muslim hatred. There is much work to be done and clearly, there is a long road ahead. If we do not challenge this, it will strengthen Islamist extremism as well as alienating large numbers of Muslims.â
Views about Muslims and Islam Religious discrimination and islamophobia had reduced between 2011 and 2016, but much of this progress has been set back following the spate of recent terror attacks in the UK.
While overall attitudes towards different groups in society have improved since 2011, Muslims continue to be regarded as uniquely different from the majority British public.
39% of people overemphasise the prevalence of Islam in British society, while just 13% estimate the correct 5%. Only 4% of Muslims accurately estimated the number of Muslims there were in Britain.
Brits are deeply divided over the association of Muslim communities in the UK with extremism. 84% of confident multiculturals reject this while 83% of active enmity agree that Muslims should be associated with terrorism and violence.
52% agree that Islam poses a serious threat to Western civilisation, although this has decreased since 2011.
The recent attacks on Westminster, Manchester, Borough market and Finsbury Park have had a profound impact on the public. 42% say that these attacks have increased their suspicion of Muslims in Britain.
HnH found that there is a âreal spaceâ for Nigel Farage to launch a populist political party with 15% of people identifying with him as the leader closest to their own views.
Speaking to HuffPost UK at the State of the International Far Right conference in July Lowles speculated on how Ukipâs failure at the last General Election may yet play into Farage and Ukip backer, Arron Banksâ hands.
âTheyâve allowed Ukip to die. The General Election was actually quite useful for them because they didnât have to kill off the party and be seen as traitors in their world. The party died itself.
âItâs clear from our polling that, while Ukip has died as a party, the ideas and the people who voted for it are still there.â
Despite the support for Farage, the study showed that overall sympathy for English nationalism had fallen since 2011 with 74% rejecting both Islamist extremists and English nationalists.
The study found that the vast majority of Britons, 77%, stand firmly against the âconflation of extremistsâ actions with an entire religionâ, however, HnH added there is a âsignificant minorityâ whose views are hardening since the recent spate of terror attacks.
Despite attitudes towards Muslims and Islam souring, England, the report found, is an âincreasingly more tolerant and open societyâ with 39% of people occupying the most liberal identify tribes in society, whereas 23% of the population remain âbitterly opposedâ.
Lowles said: âDespite the turbulent events of recent months, it is heartening to see that England remains, overall, a liberal and tolerant place.â
He added: âHowever, significant challenges remain, with Brexit likely to dominate politics in years to come and set to trigger feelings of betrayal amid a tough period of economic downturn.â
Most people see immigration as a benefit to Britain with 88% of those polled believing it is essential, and that economic need should determine future levels.
Londoners, the report found, are significantly more liberal towards immigration and were 17% more likely than those living elsewhere in England to believe âthere is a place for everyoneâ in Britain. They were also 15% more likely to see immigration as a good thing for the UK.
In the wake of recent terror attacks, 86% of Londoners said they were impressed with the unity shown and 62% said they had noticed Muslim community leaders speaking out in the aftermath. This compared to 52% of non-Londoners.
The report found that despite Britain becoming more âopen and tolerant as a whole, responses to Brexit have left Britain more dividedâ.
HnH said that attitudes towards race, faith and belonging had âincreasingly polarisedâ since 2011 and on both the liberal and hostile sides of the spectrum, âviews have hardenedâ.
Brexit, the report concluded, continues to divide opinion and leaves little room for common ground between different âidentity tribesâ.
Lowles previously told HuffPost UK that when the outcomes people had expected from Brexit fail to come to fruition âpeople are going to feel angry, theyâre going to feel let downâ.
He said in July: âThey feel that isnât what they voted for. Theyâre going to feel very open to people saying âyouâre being betrayed by the establishmentâ.â
The study found that Britainâs decision to leave the EU had split society into two âvery distinct groupsâ and that there was little prospect of an exit deal being secured without âangering and further alienating one or bothâ groups.
Generational splits are clear on Brexit, the study found: over-65s are optimistic about it, with 77% believing we can thrive outside the single market, while only 28% of under-25s agree. There is also very little appetite for reversing the Referendum result, HnH said, despite only 6% believing Theresa May will secure a good deal for Britain.
There is also âcautious optimismâ about the economy, but expectations for future economic well-being are âclearly splitâ along Brexit divisions. Remain voters are fearful, whereas Leave voters are more optimistic.
When asked about what politician best represent them, 54% of 18-24 year olds chose Jeremy Corbyn, compared to 18% of over 65s who HnH said are most likely to identify with May.
The study found attitudes towards the Grenfell Tower fire had âdeeply dividedâ the country. Londoners, Labour voters and BAME communities, HnH found, âdraw a wider lesson about Britainâs unequal society while the poor lose outâ. Those living outside the capital, Conservatives and Farage supporters, however, viewed it as an âisolated unfortunate accidentâ.
Overall, the public were divided in âdiscerning the role of economic inequality as a causal factor in the disasterâ.
The report found 57% of people felt that the fire was not something to make a âbig political statement fromâ, while 43% felt that it was an indictment of Britainâs unequal society where the poor continually lose out.
The report also found fewer people identify with being English than they did it 2011, with âvery fewâ BAME identify themselves as English.
The study divided respondents into six âidentity tribes - two very positive towards immigration, two strongly opposed, and two in the middle - one which is economically secure, but culturally concerned, and a second group which is more driven by economic insecurity.
The two most liberal groups, the report found, have âleapt in size since 2011â (22%) now forming 39% of all respondents.
HnH found that the group of those âmost hostileâ to immigration has remained constant, leaving a smaller âmiddle groundâ and widening the gap on identity politics.
Respondents were asked 140 questions in the survey which was first carried out in 2011.