Survey points to rising Islamophobia, anti-immigrant sentiment in Britain

Updated 25 September 2017

Survey points to rising Islamophobia, anti-immigrant sentiment in Britain

LONDON: Seven in 10 Brits think the rise in Islamophobic comments by politicians and others risks fueling hate crime, yet most also have hostile attitudes toward Muslims settling in the country, an Arab News / YouGov poll has found.
The survey, which was commissioned by this newspaper in conjunction with the Council for Arab-British Understanding (CAABU) and polled over 2,000 Brits, brought the country’s conflicted views into sharp focus.
The “UK attitudes toward the Arab world” survey found that while 70 percent of respondents believe “anti-refugee statements by politicians and others” increase the risk of hate crime in the UK, 55 percent also support “racial profiling against Muslims/Arabs for security reasons.”
The survey also revealed that 41 percent of Brits think migrants and refugees coming from the Arab world to Europe are not beneficial to society.
The results found a clear split according to how Brits voted in the referendum to leave the EU. Just 22 percent of “Brexit” voters believe Arabs who have migrated to the UK have “made an effort” to adapt and integrate into Western society, compared to 55 percent who voted for the UK to remain part of the EU.
Scott Lucas, professor of international politics at the University of Birmingham, pointed to the disparity in Brits’ views exposed by the poll, with many raising concern over rising Islamophobia, yet simultaneously holding what could be viewed as Islamophobic views.
Lucas told Arab News: “The fact they recognize Islamophobia yet they, themselves, have the same suspicions doesn’t surprise me.
“Our society is not immune to government rhetoric; everyone is being influenced by it, even if they are not aware of it.”

London’s Metropolitan Police Service said the volume of hate crime it records as “Islamophobic attacks” has increased sharply over the last four years. The force recorded 343 incidents in the 12 months to March 2013, and 1,260 in the 12 months to March 2017.
Miqdaad Versi, assistant secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), told Arab News: “Islamophobia is now socially acceptable within society. The government needs to take real action.
“Certain sections of the (British) media are some of the biggest drivers of Islamophobia in the UK. The government should provide guidance to newspapers and work with press regulators and send experts to give advice to shake things up. The government has a long list of things it has said it would do and hasn’t.”
Versi offered the example of the aftermath of the terror attack at Finsbury Park Mosque in June this year. He said, “Both the UK Prime Minster (Theresa May) and the UK Foreign Secretary (Boris Johnson) identified the need to quash Islamophobia at the time, however it is still unclear what actions were taken after making this statement.”
Commenting on the Arab News/YouGov survey, Versi said the idea that many Brits are supporters of Arab racial profiling and dismiss the value of refugees is a subject of concern.
“This is a broader issue than just Arabs, it’s a lack of understanding of the value of immigrants in general,” he said.
Versi urged the UK government to create policies that “tackle these discriminatory views.”
He expressed concern that the language used by politicians needs to be “very carefully thought through to understand the ramifications they have on how certain communities are viewed.”
He added: “A direct link between government rhetoric and Islamophobia is difficult to prove but the atmosphere of hostility that has been created by certain politicians is clear and dangerous. The government needs to take these results very seriously and act on it.”
Shaista Aziz, a British journalist and columnist said “divisive rhetoric can only create hate and not solve hate.”
Aziz, who is the founder of the anti-Islamophobia website “Everyday Bigotry Project,” said when politicians describe immigrants in hateful terms, “it legitimizes and normalizes the demonization of groups of people who are ‘other’.”
She continued: “While many people say they reject racism, they actually believe in things that could be construed as racism.
“For example, refugees don’t have ‘contribute’ anything to society – they don’t have to be scientists and doctors – they should just be respected as human beings.”
She added: “That fact that people say they agree with Arab profiling says it all, doesn’t it? With the current government narrative around Muslims, this doesn’t surprise me.
“Just look at the dominant media headlines and nature of the stories day in, day out. ‘Muslim,’ ‘terrorist,’ ‘refugees’ are not interchangeable terms,” Aziz said.
On the matter of screening Arabs for security reasons, she said: “Obviously everyone needs to be kept safe and people need to be screened for security reasons but if it’s just one group being screened, that’s problematic. Everyone should be subject to checks, not just Muslims.”
Lucas said that racism in the UK is often cloaked in “rational terms, such as those who say ‘the UK can’t take the strain of more immigrants’.”
He said that problems can arise in UK communities where there is limited contact with multicultural groups.
“If the communities don’t have day-to-day contact, they are only subject to images that come from the media, news or shows,” he said. “Yet most of the images shown in the press or media of Muslims are unnatural and they are not depicted doing day-to-day things.”
Aziz urged the British government to take a reality check of the level of bigotry that has been mainstreamed into our politics because “it’s alienating large numbers of British people and causing long-term problems.”
“If Muslims are continually seen as a problem, it’s difficult for some Muslims to feel like they belong – it creates separated groups and foments an ‘us and them’ narrative. This can never be a good thing for society,” she said.

• For full report and related articles please visit: How Brits view Arab world

Arab coalition commander renews support to Yemen

Updated 53 min 28 sec ago

Arab coalition commander renews support to Yemen

  • Assurance comes as the governor of Aden thanked it for helping local security authorities intercept a major cargo of drugs at Aden seaport
  • Yemen’s defense minister said on Wednesday that at least 800 Houthi fighters, including senior field commanders, had been killed since the beginning of this month

AL-MUKALLA: The coalition will continue backing Yemeni military forces fighting the Houthis until the country returns to normal, the commander of Arab coalition forces in the southern city of Aden has said.

During a meeting with Aden’s new governor, Ahmed Lamlis, Brig. Gen. Nayef Al-Otaibi said that the coalition would continue its support till Yemen recovered from the war and its state bodies functioned normally, Yemeni state media said on Wednesday.

The coalition’s assurance comes as the governor of Aden thanked it for helping local security authorities intercept a major cargo of drugs at Aden seaport. The governor told the Arab coalition commander that local authorities in Aden were looking forward to receiving more support from the coalition, enabling them to bring back peace and stability to Aden and fix vital services there.

The Arab coalition and local security authorities at Aden seaport recently announced a 500kg cocaine and heroin bust worth millions of dollars. The drugs were hidden inside sugar bags in a large sugar shipment originating from Brazil. There was no information about arrests in connection with the drugs bust but local security officials said that investigations were underway.

Meanwhile, Yemen’s defense minister said on Wednesday that at least 800 Houthi fighters, including senior field commanders, had been killed since the beginning of this month in fighting with government troops or in Arab coalition airstrikes.

Based on Houthi burial statements carried on their media, the rebels have buried more than 600 fighters, including 154 field leaders, since Oct. 1, in different provinces under their control. In the capital, Sanaa, the rebels have arranged funeral processions for 178 dead fighters, including 67 field commanders with different military rankings, the ministry said in a statement on its news site.

Most of the Houthi deaths occurred in the provinces of Marib and Jouf, where rebel forces are engaging in heavy fighting with government forces and allied tribesmen, backed by Arab coalition warplanes.

State media also quoted the governor of Jouf, Ameen Al-Oukaimi, as saying that government forces had inflicted a huge defeat on the Houthis during the latest intense fighting in the province. Yemeni Army commanders said that they foiled Houthis attempts to recapture the liberated Al-Khanjer military base and surrounding areas in Jouf.

In the western province of Hodeidah, the Joint Forces, an umbrella term for three major military units in the country’s western coast, said that a Houthi field military leader, Mohammed Yahya Al-Hameli, was killed during a foiled rebel assault in the province on Wednesday.

Fighting has continued across Yemen despite repeated calls by the UN and western diplomats for Yemeni factions to halt hostilities and focus on approving the UN-brokered peace initiative known as the Joint Declaration. On Thursday, British Ambassador to Yemen Michael Aron called on the internationally recognized President of Yemen Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi and the Houthis to engage in serious talks to end the war.

“President Hadi and the Houthi leadership must work seriously and urgently with the UN Yemen envoy to end the war in Yemen by concluding the Joint Declaration in order to avert a humanitarian catastrophe,” the ambassador said on Twitter.

The declaration proposes a nationwide truce ahead of the implementation of economic and humanitarian measures. When the fighting stops, the Yemeni parties will be asked to engage in direct talks to discuss postwar political arrangements.