Today, both the Western world and the Middle East are pointing fingers claiming that prejudice and racism is a great issue outside of their civilization’s borders. However, in order to reveal the magnitude and effects of ethnic discrimination and prejudice in each country, there is a need for an extensive research of the culture, customs, as well as statistical data. The below research is designed to measure the level of prejudice in the Middle East and Europe, finally comparing the two sets of data in order to reveal the truth: which culture is more tolerant towards minorities: the Middle East or Europe?
According to Valentine and McDonald, (2004, p. 7.) there are different profiles of prejudice based on geographical location. Their study concluded in England confirms that the most prejudiced group of people in Britain are travelers/gypsies, the second most prejudiced minority is asylum seekers, while 7.2 percent of people feel prejudice towards ethnic minorities. Ethnic minorities, however, are treated differently, based on their home country. The British people’s prejudice is based on the assumption that Asian people are not prepared to integrate in the society. Black people, however, were considered more similar and ones having similar cultural and social values. (p. 12) Gypsies and travelers were prejudiced based on the assumption that they did not pay taxes, did not want to belong to the community, and they were “unhygienic”. (p. 12.) Studies from the Netherlands show similar perceptions about Muslims, however, they are partly based on political views. (Gonzalez et al. 2008, p. 678, Strabac and Listhaug, 2008, p. 270.)
A similar study was concluded in Iran, where more than 70 million people are “diverse”. (Hassan, 2008, p. 1.) The main difference between the two approaches towards prejudice in Europe (Western civilization) and the Middle East found in the study is while prejudice is based on individual beliefs and not supported by the government, in countries like Iran, and Kuwait, the main source of discrimination and prejudice are based on and supported by the government’s regulatory bodies. The authors mention that in Iran “Government officials closed evangelical churches and arrested converts. Members of evangelical congregations are required to carry membership cards, photocopies of which must be provided to the authorities.” (Hassan, 2008, p. 10.) In Kuwait, similarly, sectarianism is present. al-Mughni (2010, p. 4.) and Kareem (2013) conclude that during the Iraqi-Iranian war, Shia population in Kuwait was targeted by the state. Further, the Rubin (2013) confirms that Shi’ites in Kuwait are fully integrated in the society, just like most foreign nationals living in the United Kingdom. The designation of Hesbollah as a terrorist group with connections in the Shi’ite community led to calls to deport expatriate Shi’ites. (Rubin, 2013)
The below study is designed to prove the thesis that the source and methods of discrimination in the Western world and Middle East are fundamentally different. While North European governments fight for the rights of minority groups and support international human rights organizations, prejudice is still present in people’s perception on different sub-groups of the society. In the Middle East, the opposite is true: people do not have perceptions against minority groups initially, but the governments’ propaganda influences the actions of the people and military. While open discrimination is not present in the West, we have seen from the literature, in the Middle East the government does get involved in the suppression of minority groups.
The research would be based on survey questionnaires of British Muslim minority respondents focusing on the level of prejudice they feel against their race. The qualitative research survey would determine the level of prejudice each minority group faces in the given country. The data gained from the research would be compared with questionnaires filled out by Kuwaiti minority citizens. The results will also be compared to current legislation in the countries regarding human rights of minority groups in order to prove the thesis that while ethnic and religious prejudice and discrimination is present in both the West and the Islam world, it is more influenced by the government in the Middle East than in Europe.
Fifty minority respondents would be selected from both countries: Great Britain and Kuwait. The respondents would need to answer a questionnaire based on their perceptions of prejudice against ethnic and religious groups. Asian Muslim respondents from Great Britain would be asked about their experience with discrimination against Muslim and Asian minorities, while Kuwaiti Shia respondents will be asked about their experiences regarding prejudice.
The data regarding minority prejudices would be analyzed and compared. The anti-discrimination and human right provisions of each country would be analyzed in order to compare the level of prejudice with the adequate legislation within the country. Based on the comparison, country profiles would be created and the involvement of government in the level of discrimination and prejudice would be measured adequately.
While the research would be able to provide an indication whether the state has influence on the population’s perceptions on minorities’ treatment in the country, it is evident that negative individual representation of minorities can not be fully diminished through legislation, as the examples of literature in Great Britain show. Still, it will be an effective evidence to argue that while misconceptions and prejudices can exist in any country on an individual level, the effects of exclusion and discrimination are more visible in countries where the state is involved in targeting minorities on a religious or ethnic basis.
al-Mughni, H. (2010) Kuwait. Freedom House. Web. Retrieved from http://www.freedomhouse.org/sites/default/files/inline_images/Kuwait.pdf
Gonzalez, K. V., Verkuyten, M., Weesie, J., & Poppe, E. (2008). Prejudice towards Muslims in The Netherlands: Testing integrated threat theory. British Journal of Social Psychology, (47), 667-685.
Hassan, H. (2008) Iran: Ethnic and religious ninorities. CRS Report for Congress.
Johnson, R. (2011) A Theoretical framework for anti-muslim prejudice: Framing tolerance via moral malleability and entitativity perceptions. Yale Review Of Undergraduate Research In Psychology. 50-59.
Kareem, M. (2013) Identity Politics in Kuwait’s Power Struggle. Alakhbar English. Mon, 2013. 06. 10
Rubin, M. (2013) Has Kuwait reached the sectarian tipping point? American Enterprise Institute.
Strabac, Z., & Listhaug, O. (2008). Anti-Muslim prejudice in Europe: A multilevel analysis of survey data from 30 countries. Social Science Research , 37(1), 268-286.
Valentine, G., McDonald, I. (2004) Understanding prejudice. Attitudes towards minorities. Stonewall.