Most Britons ‘support solidarity over separation’

(Photo: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images).

By Rosie Carter
Senior policy officer
HOPE not hate
charitable trust

THIS year will be remembered for one thing – the Covid-19 pandemic and what it revealed about Britain.

We saw the sacrifice of our frontline health and care staff; a new-found appreciation of the people whose work we too often take for granted, from delivery drivers to supermarket staff; and communities and neighbours coming together to help people through this tough time.

But the crisis has also exposed some of the faultlines buried deep in our society. We saw people from ethnic mi­nority groups suffer dis­proportionately during the pandemic (both from Covid-19 itself and the lockdown), country­wide anti-racism pro­tests and a racist back­lash, and the scapegoat­ing of religious and eth­nic minorities by the far-right, and occasion­al mainstream voices.

While commentators and pundits debated these issues on the air­waves and in print, we at HOPE not hate chari­table trust wanted to find out what Britain’s diverse minority com­munities thought them­selves. We commis­sioned one of our regu­lar BAME polls – an ap­proach that is still rela­tively rare. We surveyed just over 1,000 people from across the BAME population (a much larger sample than would be found within a nationally representa­tive poll), that while not without limitations, still gave us a worthwhile snapshot of opinion.

What we found was that despite their differ­ences, there is a still a strong solidarity be­tween Britain’s ethnic minority communities. At the same time, there are areas of tension that communities can’t be complacent about and which we must all work hard to quell.

When it came to the recent Black Lives Mat­ter protests, a majority of those who identified as Bangladeshi, Chi­nese, Indian, Pakistani, mixed, or from another minority ethnic group voiced support for the protests, even if they did not necessarily feel the protests reflected all their own concerns.

Overall interfaith re­lationships were good, with more people feel­ing positive towards other faiths than nega­tive. About 33 per cent of Hindus had a positive view of Muslims and 41 per cent of Muslims had a positive view of Hin­dus – all larger than the negative views.

However, 31 per cent of Buddhists and 29 per cent of Hindus did have negative views of Mus­lims, and 20 per cent of Muslims shared nega­tive views of Hindus. There was also concern over religious funda­mentalism, with under half of all respondents concerned about Mus­lim fundamentalism, roughly a quarter con­cerned about Hindu fundamentalism and just over a fifth about Sikh fundamentalism.

The larger positive sentiment in all com­munities showed that interfaith initiatives have a solid foundation upon which to create bridges across divides and push back against fundamental and intol­erance That is especial­ly important when we consider that our data shows younger people from BAME communi­ties are more likely to see themselves as reli­gious than those over 45 years old.

But our research laid bare the real concerns about racial inequalities and discrimination that ethnic minorities faced; from verbal and physi­cal abuse, unfairness in the justice system, and the health and econom­ic effects of the pan­demic, which we fully detail in our report. It also revealed less dis­cussed questions about intra-community ten­sions. We found that twice as many people agreed (40 per cent) than disagreed (21 per cent) that there is more tension between Britain’s different minority com­munities than there is between white and non-white communities, while 39 per cent were neutral on the question.

While not the biggest issue facing Britain’s ethnic and religious communities by any means, the research re­vealed that we need bridge builders in every community in this country, people who are able to create hope, trust and solidarity across ethnic and reli­gious divides.

It also showed that we all, as the overwhelming majority who support solidarity over separa­tion and friendship over friction, must speak to­gether to drown out the voices who would di­vide us, and speak up for a shared future.

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