Can Islamophobes Use Chatham House’s Survey of European Views on Muslim Immigrants?

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Chatham House produced a survey on European views concerning immigration from Muslim-mainly countries. Does this poll really tell us what Europeans think about Muslim immigration?

The poll in itself does not offer us a comparison of the European respondents’ views on Non-Muslim immigrants and Muslim immigrants. The poll statement carried significant overlaps into anti-immigration in general (regardless of faith) thus to use this poll as a blanket statement supporting anti-Muslim sentiment within Europe would be simplistic and somewhat misleading. The poll statement was: ‘All further migration from mainly Muslim countries should be stopped’

Attitudes toward immigration in general need to be factored

There is already a anti-immigration feeling within many of the countries polled by Chatham House. Italy, France, Germany, Spain and the UK feature amongst the top five anti-immigration countries in general where respondents felt there were so many foreigners in their countries that it did not feel like home.

Thus with the nature of the poll statement we are unable to ascertain whether the respondents were generally against immigration or specifically against Muslim immigration.

Interestingly enough, Britain, which ranked 5th in the anti-immigration survey with 37% of respondents feeling the UK does not feel like home anymore due to the numbers of foreigners, had 47% of respondents in the Chatham House poll strongly agreeing with stopping further Muslim migrants. 37% and 47% are in the same ball park. Could we argue a bulk of the respondents in Chatham House’s poll would have said the same about non-Muslim immigrants from say Africa or Asia? We cannot discount this possibility. I’d argue the same applies for Germany where 53% agreed with stopping further Muslim migration whilst having 44% of respondents feeling there are so many foreigners in Germany that it does not feel like home for them.

Racism: anti non-white immigration

The same could be contended for Poland in that the Chatham House Polish respondents weren’t necessarily illustrating specifically an anti-Muslim immigration sentiment. There could be a number of factors at play such as a lack of jobs in Poland (many Poles migrate to Western Europe for work) thus having an influx of immigrants to increase the competition for jobs in Poland would be an issue. One of the other factors could be a betrayal of racism.  In a 2013 survey we note two thirds of Poles were against non-white immigration. For the average Pole a stereotypical image of a Muslim would feature a non-white skin colour thus further muddying the conclusions we can draw from the 71% of Polish respondents who wanted to ban Muslim migration into Poland:

According to a study in 2013 by the Centre for Research on Prejudice – a professional academic centre at the University of Warsaw – as many as 69% of Poles do not want non-white people living in their country. [Source]

Jobs and Muslim friends reduce Islamophobia

A Pew Survey showed large percentages of people in Greece (65%), Spain (50%), Hungary (72%), Poland (665) and Italy (72%) had unfavourable views of Muslims.

Contrast this with Britain, France and Germany; all of which polled with less than 30% of respondents with unfavourable views of Muslims.

Could this be due to Britain, France and Germany having greater Muslim populations, meaning the non-Muslim populations of these three countries have interaction with Muslims on a day-to-day basis thus form their views based on real life experiences rather than the respondents in the other countries who are less likely to be forming their views on interaction with Muslims due to the lower numbers of Muslims in their respective countries?

This theory ties in with Chatham House’s observation on demographics of those polled. Older people were more likely to be in favour of banning Muslim immigration than younger people:

Our findings also reveal how, across Europe, opposition to Muslim immigration is especially intense among retired, older age cohorts while those aged below 30 are notably less opposed 

A possible explanation for this could be younger people having more contact with Muslims than older people thus older people are forming their views heavily on media coverage which can be quite sensationalist and/or Islamophobic.

We do need to think about the way the media can influence somebody about a group of people who he/she has had little contact with.

Again, economics comes into play again. Germany, France and the UK are richer countries and have more jobs and resources to go around so Muslims are not seen as competition for jobs or usurpers of resources (housing and welfare) in comparison with the countries with higher numbers of respondents holding negative views of Muslims.

Do brain cells and education alleviate Islamophobic views?

Education is a factor here. Those who are university educated were found to less likely to oppose Muslim immigration. Chatham House states:

There is also a clear education divide. Of those with secondary level qualifications, 59% opposed further Muslim immigration. By contrast, less than half of all degree holders supported further migration curbs. 

This may not necessarily be a pointer to somebody having better cognitive and education levels as being less Islamophobic. It may just mean that somebody who is university educated has a broader experience in interacting with people who are different to them – that includes interacting with Muslims.

Conclusion

Critics of Muslims and Islam who are looking to use the Chatham House survey in their work against Muslims should ask themselves what the data is actually saying and whether it can be used with clarity in point-making. I don’t believe anything firm can be drawn from the data due to the statement used in the poll.

At the same time we must not bury our head in the sand by denying Europe has an Islamophobia issue. Terrorist attacks carried out on European soil by Muslims have inevitably led to a heightened air of Islamophobia across Europe.

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