University of Leicester eBulletin

Discrimination and Racism, Post September 11

August 2002

JPEG IMAGE OF LORRAINE SHERIDAN AVAILABLE ON REQUEST - CONTACT PRESSOFFICE@LE.AC.UK

Please find following a brief overview of a report entitled: Effects of the Events of September 11th 2002 on Discrimination and Implicit Racism in Five Religious and Seven Ethnic Groups 
Produced by the University of Leicester.

Please note the following KEY FINDINGS:

· Muslims were found to have not only the greatest risk of being victims of both implicit racism and general discrimination before September 11th, but also the highest increase in experiences of racism and discrimination since the events of that day, and, consequently, the greatest risk of being victims of both implicit racism and general discrimination after September 11th.· Sikhs and Hindus also reported increases in experiences of implicit racism post-September 11th, but these increases were not as great as those reported by Muslims. By comparison, Christians and Jews reported a decrease in implicit racism experiences.

· Overall, results would suggest that significant world events do impact on racial and religious prejudice and on discriminatory actions, and that religion is more important than ethnicity in indicating which groups are most likely to experience racism and discrimination post-September 11th.

· Importantly, the current work has identified that ‘implicit racism experiences’ exist on religious, not just racial, grounds. This indicates the existence of ‘implicit religious discrimination’.

· Given the stronger relations found in the current work between religion and respondents’ experiences of racism and discrimination, it appears that religion may sometimes be a stronger motivator for discriminatory sentiment and behaviour than race or ethnicity.

FOR MORE INFORMATION: Dr Lorraine Sheridan, School of Psychology, University of Leicester, University Road, Leicester LE1 7RH, England. Tel: +44 (0)116 223 1012, Fax: +44 (0)116 252 2067 (email: LPH1@leicester.ac.uk, mailto:LPH1@leicester.ac.uk)


The overview follows:
Effects of the Events of September 11th 2001 on Discrimination and Implicit Racism in Five Religious and Seven Ethnic Groups: A Brief Overview

Introduction
On September 11th 2001, a series of terrorist attacks were launched against the United States of America. Four airplanes were hijacked, two of which were flown into the New York World Trade Centre, one into the Pentagon in Washington DC, and the final plane crashed in rural Pennsylvania. The suspected hijackers were believed to have links with al-Qaeda (“the base”), a radical Islamic organisation. Following the September 11th attacks, the USA and the United Kingdom declared “war on terrorism” and invaded Afghanistan where a prominent al-Qaeda member, Osama Bin Laden, was believed to be located. Over two million Muslims live in the UK, and although the mainstream Muslim community publicly attacked a “tiny lunatic fringe” who supported the attacks on the US, the media have reported instances of hate mail, verbal abuse and physical assaults on Muslims, as well as the vandalism of mosques. For instance, on September 16th an Afghan taxi driver in London was left paralysed by what police believe to be a racist attack. There have also been reports of attacks on members of other religious groups. For example, the BBC reported that Sikh men in Birmingham and Glasgow had been targeted due to their supposed superficial resemblance to Osama Bin Laden.In 1997, The Runnymede Trust (the UK-based independent think tank on ethnicity and cultural diversity) coined the term ‘Islamophobia’. Islamophobia is thought to constitute a two-stranded form of racism - rooted in both the ‘different’ physical appearance of Muslims and also in an intolerance of their religious and cultural beliefs. Islamophobia is considered as no more than a modern epidemic of an age-old prejudice towards and fear of Islam. Malik (2001) notes that such attitudes are still manifested in modern western society which in itself is not considered ‘religion friendly’. Islam is still erroneously regarded as backward and chauvinistic compared to ‘enlightened’ modern western values (Runnymede Trust, 1997). More direct evidence for the existence of Islamophobia as an everyday entity is provided by the British Crime Survey 2000. This estimated that in 1999, the number of racially motivated offences in England and Wales was 280,000, and that the annual risk of being a victim of a racially motivated crime was 4.2% for Pakistanis and Bangladeshis (who are primarily Muslim), compared to 0.3% for whites. In short, following the September 11th attacks, conditions were ripe for discriminatory behaviour to be directed towards Muslims living in the western world. The current study assessed whether members of religious and racial minority groups experienced an increase in racism and discrimination following the events of September 11th. Given that racist attitudes tend to be disguised by social sensitivities, this study focuses on both general discriminatory experiences and the incidence of more subtle types of racist activity where people exhibit racist sentiments whilst denying overt prejudice.Details of participants
A total of 451 questionnaires were returned by the conclusion of the study: 82 via the internet and 369 by mail or personal delivery.
The highest proportion of participants were Muslims (50%). The next most frequently occurring religious grouping were Sikhs (17.3%), followed by Hindus (14.3%), Jews (11.8%) and Christians (6.5%). Almost a third of participants (32.4%) described themselves as Pakistani in ethnic origin. The next most frequently occurring ethnic origin was Indian (21.1%), followed by Sikh (17.3%), Jewish (12.3%), UK white (9.3%), Bangladeshi (4.8%) and ‘other Asian’ (2.8%).The majority of participants (85.7%) resided in two English cities, Leicester and Stoke-on-Trent. According to the 1991 population census, 71.5% of Leicester people were white, and 22% of the population of the city were of Indian origin. This figure is believed to have risen markedly since 1991, and it is predicted that by 2011, Leicester will become the first UK city where 50% of the population will hail from a non-white background. Stoke-on-Trent, on the other hand, was reported by the 1991 census to have a total ethnic minority population of just 3.1%.

Just over half the sample (50.8%) were female. The participants were aged between 13 and 76 years (mean age = 25.24 years). The socio-economic status of participants, as defined by their occupational title, was as follows: a large proportion were students (47.8%), 11.9% were professionals, 9.4% were at school, 5% were retired, 4.2% were administrative and clerical workers, and 3.6% were housewives. The remainder were in unskilled or semi-skilled work, employed in retail or customer services, were technicians, self-employed or unemployed (18.1% in all). The majority of participants were single (67.6%), a further 28.6% were married, 2.4% lived with their partner, and 1.5% were widowed, divorced or separated.

Results
Overall
This study measured levels of both (i) general racial/religious discrimination and (ii) ‘implicit racism’ pre and post September 11th 2001. Implicit racism is where people deny having overt prejudices, but still react to members of racial, ethnic and religious minorities differently than to members of their own group. Of the five religious groups assessed, Muslims were found to have not only the greatest risk of being victims of both implicit racism and general discrimination before September 11th, but also the highest increase in experiences of racism and discrimination since the events of that day, and, consequently, the greatest risk of being victims of both implicit racism and general discrimination after September 11th. Sikhs and Hindus also reported increases in experiences of implicit racism post-September 11th, but these increases were not as great as those reported by Muslims. By comparison, Christians and Jews reported a decrease in implicit racism experiences. In terms of ethnic origin, the most at risk groups of the seven examined appear to be Pakistanis and Bangladeshis, supporting findings from 2000 British Crime Survey. Overall, results would suggest that significant world events do impact on racial and religious prejudice and on discriminatory actions, and that religion is more important than ethnicity in indicating which groups are most likely to experience racism and discrimination post-September 11th.

More on implicit racism
Participants reported high levels of negative daily life experiences on the ‘implicit racism experiences’ scale that they believed were directly related to cultural, racial and religious differences. In addition, the degrees to which the participants were subjected to such experiences were clearly associated with their race or religion. For instance, on the basis of religion Muslims reported experiencing more implicit racism both pre and post-September 11th than did other religious groups, whilst Pakistanis and Bangladeshis reported the highest levels on the basis of ethnicity. Importantly, the current work has identified that ‘implicit racism experiences’ exist on religious, not just racial, grounds. This indicates the existence of ‘implicit religious discrimination’. Moreover, given the stronger relations found in the current work between religion and respondents’ experiences of racism and discrimination, it appears that religion may sometimes be a stronger motivator for discriminatory sentiment and behaviour than race or ethnicity.

More on general discrimination
In terms of experiencing or witnessing general discriminatory practices post-September 11th, the biggest rise was recorded in ethnic Pakistanis. Prior to September 11th, Bangladeshis had reported the highest levels of general discrimination, followed by Pakistanis. After September 11th, these positions were reversed. Interestingly, 100% of respondents of Pakistani ethnic origin were Muslim, as were all except two of the Bangladeshi respondents. It is not clear why Pakistanis reported such a great increase in general discrimination. One possible reason is that following September 11th, Pakistan saw a number of protests against military action in Afghanistan, perhaps leading some westerners to believe that all Pakistanis were supportive of the Taleban or the attacks on America. This explanation would, however, assume that those who behaved in a discriminatory manner were aware of the target’s precise ethnic origin. UK whites also recorded a rise in post-September 11th discrimination - equivalent to that reported by ethnic Indians. Analysis of the religious orientation of the ethnic UK whites provides a possible reason for this reported increase in that almost half (15 of 37) were Muslims. These findings add further support to the conclusion that Islamophobia is the primary factor in post-September 11th discrimination in the UK.

Some conclusions
In conclusion, the current results have demonstrated that a major event that occurred in one country impacted on rates of racist and discriminatory behaviour experienced by ethnic and religious minority groups in another country. Religion appeared to trigger both implicit racism and general discrimination to a greater extent than did race or ethnicity. Research on religious discrimination is severely limited, clearly calling for an expansion of interest in this area. Investigation of whether the effects identified here are temporary and whether Islamophobia is becoming more prevalent in western countries requires our immediate attention.

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