Some 84 percent of UK school-students, aged 10 to 16, believe “racism against whites” is ignored, 60 percent say asylum seekers and immigrants are stealing jobs, and 35% agreed or partly agreed that “Muslims are taking over our country”, according to an extensive new academic survey. 49% agreed that migration to the UK is out of control or not being managed properly.
Asked to guess the percentage of the UK’s population that was born abroad, the pupils estimated 47 percent, whereas the last census in 2011 said 13 percent.
Classifying relations between Muslims and other social groups as poor amounted to 46 percent, while 41 percent said that forced marriages are common in Islamic communities, and 26 percent said the religion encourages terrorism.
“There is clearly a gap between the reality and perception on issues like the number of immigrants or the size of the UK’s Muslim community among some young people. The subsequent levels of hostility towards these groups is very worrying and is something that we, as a society, need to take seriously,” Paul Jackson from the University of Northampton, who helped to devise the survey, told the Guardian.
Not all answers were negative - 72 percent saying stereotypes are dangerous, and three-quarters claiming that newspapers may contribute to racism.
49 percent said they believed Islam itself was a religion of peace, with only 14 percent disagreeing (others were undecided). Some 35 percent said that Muslims, who actually constitute about 5 percent of the UK population, are making a positive contribution to society, with only 19 refusing to accept that statement.
This is not evidence of widespread racism among young people but it is clear there is a large degree of anxiety – often based on inaccurate information – about what is happening in their communities and about their own futures,” said Hilary Pilkington from the University of Manchester.
More than a third – 35% – believing they would not achieve their potential at school, 40% stating they will not earn enough in the future, and 43% saying there is a lack of job opportunities.
Pilkington, who has written extensively on young people and the far right, said young people had been hit particularly hard in the downturn and it was very easy for valid economic concerns, over issues such as housing and jobs, to spill over into antipathy towards immigrant communities and foreigners.
“The political and educational challenge we now face is to find a way of constructively talking about culture, faith and immigration so that those who are most dispossessed can see the similarities of their precarious positions with those of marginalised ethnic or immigrant communities,” Pilkington said.
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