Jason Groves, Daily (London), January 27, 2008
AN “overwhelming majority” of Europeans believe immigration from Islamic countries is a threat to their traditional way of life, a survey revealed last night.
The poll, carried out across 21 countries, found “widespread anti-immigration sentiment”, but warned Europe’s Muslim population will treble in the next 17 years.
It reported “a severe deficit of trust is found between the Western and Muslim communities”, with most people wanting less interaction with the Muslim world.
Last night an MP warned it showed that political leaders in Britain who preach the benefits of unlimited immigration were dangerously out of touch with the public.
The study, whose authors include the former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey, was commissioned for leaders at the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Switzerland.
It reports “a growing fear among Europeans of a perceived Islamic threat to their cultural identities, driven in part by immigration from predominantly Muslim nations”.
And it concludes: “An overwhelming majority of the surveyed populations in Europe believe greater interaction between Islam and the West is a threat.” Backbench Tory MP David Davies told the Sunday Express: “I am not surprised by these findings. People are fed up with multiculturalism and being told they have to give up their way of life.
“Most people in Britain expect anyone who comes here to be willing to learn our language and fit in with us.”
Mr Davies, who serves on the Commons Home Affairs Committee, added: “People do get annoyed when they see millions spent on translating documents and legal aid being given to people fighting for the right to wear a head-to-toe covering at school.
“A lot of people are very uncomfortable with the changes being caused by immigration and politicians have been too slow to wake up to that.”
The report says people have little enthusiasm for greater understanding with Islam and attempts to improve relations have been “disappointing”.
And with the EU Muslim population expected to reach 15 per cent by 2025 it predicts: “Any deterioration on the international front will be felt most severely in Europe.”
But leading Muslim academic Haleh Afshar, of York University, blamed media “hysteria” for the findings. She said: “There is an absence of trust towards Muslims, but to my mind that is very much driven by an uninformed media.
“To blame immigration is much harder because the current influx of immigrants from eastern Europe are by-and-large not Muslim.
The danger is that when people are fearful of people born and bred in this country it is likely that discrimination may follow.”