Financial Times misleads on Muslim antisemitism

Though we haven't read Weiss's book and don't know the specifics of her argument, if she was broadly asserting that Muslims in Europe are, on average, significantly more antisemitic than non-Muslims in the continent, she's certainly on solid empirical ground.

A Sept. 27th Financial Times book review written by David Feldman, director of the UK based Pears Institute for the Study of Antisemitism, gave a mostly positive account of “How to Fight Anti-Semitismby NY Times editor Barri Weiss.

However, on the topic of Muslim antisemitism, Feldman is critical.

Weiss is strong on how rightwing anti-Semitism functions, and she scores some hits in her attacks on the left and radical Islam. But sometimes she misses the target. Her writing about anti-Semitism among Muslims is a case in point. It is because of the growing Muslim presence, Weiss claims, that “it is dangerous to be a Jew in Europe.” In fact, so far as we can tell, most anti-Semitism in Britain stems from white men who are nominally Christian.

This is extremely misleading.

Whilst it’s narrowly true that most antisemitic incidents in the UK are committed by “white men”, this is not a terribly significant fact given the overwhelming majority of British citizens are white.  When taking into account antisemitic incidents by perpetrator, based on the size of racial and religious groups, CST’s 2018 report demonstrates that Muslims commit acts of antisemitism at a rate disproportionate to their numbers. (page 8 of the report)

Further, according to a major 2017 study of antisemitic attitudes in the UK, by the Institute for Jewish Policy Research and CST, levels of antisemitism in the UK are “2 to 4 times higher among Muslims compared to the general population“. 

Feldman’s continues:

Undeniably, there is a problem of anti-Semitism among Muslim minorities — but Weiss takes a pick’n’mix approach to evidence, leaving to one side whatever does not suit her taste. Attitudes among Europe’s Muslims are more complex than her picture allows.

It isn’t actually very “complex”.

A major 2018 study of European Jews by the EU reported that 30% of Jews who were victims of antisemitism identified the perpetrator as someone with Muslim extremist views – the highest percentage of any group.

Here’s the relevant paragraph from the report:

With respect to the most serious incident of antisemitic harassment, on average, across the 12 Member States surveyed, the most frequently mentioned categories for perpetrators were: ‘someone else I cannot describe’ (31 %); ‘someone with an extremist Muslim view’ (30 %); ‘someone with a left-wing political view’ (21 %); ‘work or school/college colleague’ (16 %); ‘teen-ager or group of teenagers’ (15 %); ‘an acquaintance or friend’ (15 %); ‘someone with a right-wing political view’ (13 %); ‘someone else I can describe’ (13 %).

A comprehensive 2015 report by the Institute for the Study of Global Antisemitism and Policy, “Antisemitic Attitudes among Muslims in Europe”, concluded that all the available surveys “show a clear tendency: antisemitic attitudes are significantly more widespread among Muslims than among other segments of European societies.” (The table below, created from data by Pew Global, demonstrates the scale of the difference between Muslims and non-Muslims on attitudes towards Jews.)

table 1

Though we haven’t read Weiss’s book and don’t know the specifics of her argument, if she was broadly asserting that Muslims in Europe are, on average, significantly more antisemitic than non-Muslims in the continent, she’s certainly on solid empirical ground.

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