Religious Bigotry: Anti-Semitism and Anti-Muslim Prejudice on the Rise

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Bigotry againt Muslims is on the rise. Image by Adam Jones, PhD-Global Photo Archive

The accusations are as old as the middle ages, but the voices espousing hatred of  Jews and  Muslims are contemporary.  A report by the U.S. Department of State found that bigotry against both Jews and Muslims is on the rise in Europe and Asia.

Religious Bigotry In The News

The rise of a political party called Golden Dawn concerns the US State Department.  According to Euronews, the Greek political party Golden Dawn is described as “openly espousing anti-Semitism and racism and linked to violent attacks against individuals perceived to be immigrants.”

In the United Kingdom, the Institute for Race Relations worries that the country is becoming “Europe’s Pariah State” as justice minister Grayling has called for the dismantling of the Human Rights Act and curtailing the role of the European Court of Human Rights Act in Great Britain.

BBC notes the International Religious Freedom Report issued by the US Department of State cited Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi’s anti-Semitism – they report that Morsi, “saidamen’ to a religious leader’s call upon Allah  to ‘destroy the Jews and their supporters’.”

Prejudice, Unconscious Attitudes, and the Contact Hypothesis

Why are humans so prone to prejudice? Understanding Prejudice, a website designed to accompany a McGraw-Hill anthology on  prejudice and stereotypes, traces the study of stereotypes to 1933 when Daniel Katz and Kenneth Braly conducted research into beliefs about minority groups.  The 100 university students questioned exhibited stereotyped beliefs about Jews and Blacks.  The students, presumably white, believed that Jews were “shifty,” and blacks were superstitious.

Since the original research in 1933, researchers have done much work on the topic.  Understanding Prejudice reports that key findings indicate that nearly all people hold unconscious prejudices against others.  Yet, the “contact hypothesis” has demonstrated that  contact with the stereotyped group almost always lessens the strength of the prejudice, “94% of studies supported the contact hypothesis (that is, 94% of the time, prejudice diminished as intergroup contact increased). ”

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