From time to time it may seem that we are enduring clash of civilizations. Some time back there was a survey widely reported that one in four high school students in Norway believe the «West» is at war with «Islam». Disturbing as it may, this can also be brushed off as the result of over exposure to terror-striking headlinges and massive talk about terrorist groups in Syria and elsewhere. However, a recent survey from the Holocaust-center in Oslo indicates there is much negativity here. The report concludes that on average 34 % or more of Norwegians have hostile attitudes toward muslims.
The research was conducted through 2017 and focused on both attitudes toward muslims and jews respectively. The research continues identical research carried out in 2011. The researchers found that negative attitudes toward jews have dropped significantly in these 6 years. A whole 69 % of the interviewees do not hold any negative stereotypes towards jews, up from 55 % in 2011. This is part of a larger European trend wherein antisemitism is decreasing. The researchers speculate that the improvement in public opinion is not caused by external factors like the Palestine-Israel conflict: Rather, they ascribe it to a «different public climate» where antisemitism has receieved more focus as a problem by the media and in politics.
On the other hand the folkish attitudes toward muslims are more disturbing. The research found that the hostility toward Islam in Norwegian public opinion is quite stable compared to 2011. However, it is wide spread. A full 49 % state the muslims themselves are to blame for any negative focus on them. 19 % wish to retain a general distance to muslims and 27 % feel antipathy toward them. Norwegian men are more likely than women to have these attitudes. The researchers highlight as possible causes scepticism toward immigration and attitudes toward conflicts in the Middle East.
Here one stumbles upon a difference. When focusing on jews the researchers were ruling out politics as an explanation, giving credit to the «public climate». But when it comes to muslims, all of a sudden internal and external politics (immigration/Middle East) is suddenly crucial. And in that case it is strange that the hostility toward Muslims are stable between 2011 and 2017. For both conflicts in the Middle East as well as immigration to Norway were very different in nature in 2011 compared to 2017.
And here there is also little focus on the «public climate» for muslims. If jews have enjoyed an improvement in public opinion due to positive information work by the media and politicians, then one may possible surmise that there is little such conscious raising information work on behalf of muslims.
As such this study provides an important barometer showing emotional trends regarding ethnic groups in Norway. But there seems to prevail a little to passive approach to understanding and explaing the wide spread hostility from ethnic Norwegians toward muslim as a generalized group. However, one conclusion in the report is quite bold; namely that anti-semitism and anti-Islam sentiment is not disparate but related phenomena amongst thos with a xenophobic attitude.
- Sheila Parrera