An insidious claim that is circulating with increasing frequency is that “Islamophobia is the new antisemitism” – meant to convey the idea, presumably, that Islamophobia has taken over from antisemitism as Western civilisation’s most pernicious and intractable form of bigotry.
Not only is the claim demonstrably false, it has done nothing to counter either anti-Muslim or anti-Jewish prejudice. On the contrary, it obfuscates both forms of bigotry, and does justice to neither.
Anti-Muslim bigotry is bad enough in its own right. In order to deserve condemnation it does not need to be artificially magnified by minimising or dismissing antisemitism.
The claim that “Islamophobia is the new antisemitism” implies falsely that antisemitism is largely a relic of the past.
Yet an abundance of empirical evidence demonstrates that antisemitism did not disappear in the rubble of Nazi Germany. The continuing existence of antisemitism, its virulence and protean nature, is an ongoing blight on civilisation. Antisemitism in both its traditional and contemporary manifestations remains as malevolent and deadly as it has ever been.
Attacks against Jews continue to occur significantly more frequently than attacks against Muslims. The evidence produced through police reports on hate crimes and studies by anti-hate organizations show that in North America, Europe and Australia the most frequent targets of abuse and violence on account of religious affiliation continue to be Jews.
The four countries with the highest numbers of Jews, outside of Israel, are the United States, France, Canada and Britain.
In the United States, the FBI collects and analyses hate crime statistics across the nation. For the eleven years from 2004 to 2014, anti-Jewish hate crimes constituted between 58% and 70% of all hate crimes in the U.S. in the “Religion” category. By comparison, in the same period, anti-Muslim hate crimes in the U.S. constituted between 7-16% of the total in that category. It follows that in the United States, a Jew is six times more likely to be attacked than a Muslim, despite the fact that American Jews outnumber Muslims by only two to one.
In France, 50% of racist attacks are against Jews. The remaining 50% of racist attacks are spread over other groups including Africans, Arabs, Asians, Muslims, Roma and others. In France, where Muslims currently outnumber Jews by about ten to one, the number of attacks against Jews is nevertheless much higher than against Muslims.
In Canada, the Ontario Human Rights Commission reported that in 2009, of all religion-based hate crimes in the country, 70% were committed against Jews. In 2010, more than 50% were against Jews, and 26% were against Muslims. Muslims outnumber Jews in Canada by about three to one.
In Britain, the Metropolitan Police Service database on hate crimes in London showed a rise in both anti-Jewish and anti-Muslim incidents for the twelve month period from July 2014 to July 2015. Anti-Jewish incidents increased by 93% and anti-Muslim incidents by 70%. During this period, the number of offences against Muslims rose from 478 to 816, and against Jews from 258 attacks to 499. There was one anti-Jewish attack for every 601 Jews, and one anti-Muslim attack for every 3,676 Muslims. There are approximately 300,000 Jews and 3 million Muslims in the UK. Yet a Jew is four times more likely to be attacked than a Muslim. Of concern, was the British media’s skewed coverage of these statistics – headlining the rise in anti-Muslim incidents, but minimising the far greater rise in anti-Jewish incidents.
In Australia, over the twelve month period from September 2014 to September 2015, the Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ) reported 190 anti-Jewish incidents, and the Islamophobia Register Australia (IRA) reported 280 anti-Muslim incidents. However, over half (55%) of the incidents in the IRA report are online content, including posted comments on social media. The ECAJ report, based on Australian Human Rights Commission criteria, records general expressions of hatred against the group (in the traditional media or online) separately, and not as “incidents.” Only clear cases of person-on-person hate communications are included as incidents.
To compare like with like, it is instructive to extract from the ECAJ and IRA statistics the number of incidents affecting each community which involve physical abuse (including assaults, apprehended violence and damage to property) and person-on-person verbal abuse. For the twelve month period from September 2014 to September 2015, there were 128 anti-Muslim incidents and 180 anti-Jewish incidents in these categories
The Jewish community is the only community within Australia whose places of worship, schools, communal organisations and community centres need, for security reasons, to operate under the protection of high fences, armed guards, metal detectors, CCTV cameras and the like. The necessity is recognised by Australia’s law enforcement agencies and arises from the high incidence of physical attacks against Jews and Jewish communal buildings over the last three decades, and continuing threats.
All the evidence, from the police services of European countries to the American FBI, and others who monitor hate incidents, shows that antisemitism remains the most enduring and deep-seated form of group hatred. In the last 25 years, antisemitic incidents have become increasingly frequent, violent and murderous, especially in the traditional heartland of antisemitism – Europe.
Yet in the face of clear evidence to the contrary, the inane proposition that “Islamophobia is the new antisemitism” continues to enjoy currency in some circles – including among people who should know better.