By S Neeraj Krishna
AN ANALYSIS of socio-political beliefs held by British Muslims and white non-Muslims (WNMs) has revealed that “Islamist and far-right ideas are resonating with young people in the UK”.
The report by Tony Blair Institute for Global Change also highlighted that 13 per cent of both groups believed using violent ways to bring about the change they desired could be justified to some extent.
About 15 per cent of Muslims and 9 per cent of WNMs said “people should be prepared to go out to fight to defend their religion or culture with force”.
The study, based on a survey by Savanta ComRes, found one in five young people from both groups believed there was an “unresolvable conflict between Islam and the west” — with one feeling “victimised” and the other “threatened”.
Nearly one in five young WNMs believed British culture was “under threat from invasion”, flagging concerns over the “spread of extremist conspiracy theories”.
About 14 per cent of WNMs aged between 18 and 30 held a false notion that there were “no-go areas where Sharia law operates” in the UK, and almost the same proportion believed that “Islam promotes violence”.
Even as the population England and Wales was 86 per cent white, more than one in 10 WNMs said white people were “a minority in Britain”.
The report said two-fifths of WNMs held antagonistic views towards Islam, and a “small minority stray into clear white supremacist views such as that all Brits should strive to ensure our country is white [7 per cent] and that you are not truly British unless you are white [6 per cent]”.
Meanwhile, one-third of British Muslim believed the community was “systematically targeted in the UK and globally”, with 18 per cent opining that British society was “intrinsically anti-Muslim”.
The report underscored that extremist groups could “exploit” the prevalent discrimination against Muslims in the UK “to promote their worldviews”.
Notably, the findings, reported by the Independent, came amid global racial tensions, and spread of extreme, polarising views.
The survey, carried out in 2019, found one-fifth of both categories adhering to “extreme positions across themes depicting Islam and the west in conflict”.
Analysts cautioned that such groups had the “potential to develop more radcialised views”. They also pointed to “shifts” in ideologies amid issues such as the pandemic, mass anti-racism protests, and migrant channel crossings.
“We have new groups emerging and mobilising as a response to BLM but it takes time for those views to permeate through the public,” report author Cristina Ariza told the Independent.
“The anti-Muslim branch of the far right has been banging the drum on this for a decade.”
Analysts said the survey indicated that both groups were “more likely to agree with extremist statements if they do not mix socially with people from different religions and races, feel discriminated against or perceive a lack of agency in their lives”.
One-fourth of both groups believed the democratic system was “broken”, and rejected governmental authority.
While one in 10 Muslims surveyed viewed non-Islamic establishments such as politics as something that “undermines the Muslim community”, about 9 per cent of the group said those who involved in such activity were “traitors to Islam”.
However, WNMs seemed more averse to politics, with about 25 per cent saying there was “little value in engaging with the political system”, when compared with 17 per cent among Muslims respondents.
The UK, analysts urged, should “acknowledge the scale of the problem” and take effective measures, such as educating “young people how to talk about difficult issues”, to tackle violent and non-violent extremism.
“The problem is not just the violence, it’s the ideas underpinning it,” stressed Ariza.
“This will be critical with Covid-19 and it can’t slip off the agenda. Some of the conditions emerging in the pandemic provide an environment when extremists thrive – a lack of trust in government, unemployment, trauma where people have lost loved ones.
“We have a lot of push factors of radicalisation, and Islamists and far-right extremists have seen this, looking at Covid as an opportunity to promote their ideas.”
A government statement said it was “committed to confronting extremism in all its forms, including strengthening communities so they can resist extremist narratives and protecting vulnerable people from being drawn into terrorism”.
It also highlighted the Educate Against Hate website that aims “to provide teachers, school leaders and parents with guidance and support they need to protect children from radicalisation and extremism”.