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LONDON: Muslims are the second “least-liked” group in the UK, according to a new study that reveals the shocking extent of Islamophobia in the country.
The study, by researchers at the University of Birmingham, found that roughly one in four Britons hold negative views of Muslims and Islam — the highest of any group apart from gypsies and Irish travelers.
Over a quarter of people — 25.9 percent — feel negatively toward Muslims, and just under 10 percent feel “very negative.”
Significantly more Britons hold negative views of Islam in the survey of 1,667 people than they do of other religions.
That translates into much higher support for a hypothetical policy that bars all Muslim migration to Britain.
Nearly one in five people — 18.1 percent — support banning all Muslim migration to the UK, and 9.5 percent “strongly support” that idea.
The study found that Britons are very willing to pass judgment on Islam, but are extremely unlikely to have any real knowledge of the religion.
“British people acknowledge their ignorance of most non-Christian religions, with a majority stating they are ‘not sure’ how Jewish (50.8 percent) and Sikh (62.7 percent) scriptures are taught,” said the study.
“In the case of Islam, however, people feel more confident making a judgment, with only 40.7 percent being unsure. This is despite the fact that people are much more likely to make the incorrect assumption that Islam is ‘totally’ literalistic.”
This finding — that Britons know less about Islam but are more willing to pass judgment on the faith — “says something about how prejudice works,” Dr. Stephen Jones, author of the study and a researcher focusing on British Muslims, told Arab News.
“We tend to associate prejudice with ignorance, but that’s too simple. Instead, prejudice is a kind of miseducation: Many people in this country think they know what Islam is about, and what Muslims believe, in a way that they admit they don’t for other non-Christian religions.”
Islamophobia is so widespread in Britain, Jones said, that it has become socially acceptable. That is why the report dubs it “the dinner table prejudice” — because people will openly and freely admit to their anti-Muslim prejudice, in a way that they are unlikely to with other religious or ethnic groups.
Jones said: “What I think surveys like this into public attitudes tell us is that not only do Muslims suffer discrimination, but that public hostility toward Muslims is on some level publicly accepted. It’s not just that Muslims suffer from Islamophobia, but that this discrimination isn’t publicly recognized.”
The research makes a series of policy recommendations to address the prevalence of Islamophobia in the UK, including acknowledging that “systemic miseducation about Islam is common in British society and forms an important element of Islamophobia.”
It added: “Government and other public figures should publicly acknowledge and address the lack of public criticism that Islamophobic discourses and practices trigger.”
The report lands at a sensitive time for the ruling Conservative Party, with former Cabinet Minister Nusrat Ghani announcing that she was removed from her position because her “Muslimness” made her colleagues uncomfortable.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has ordered an inquiry into her removal, but he has himself previously faced accusations of Islamophobia, including by comparing women who wear the niqab to “letterboxes.” 
Shaista Aziz, an anti-racism and equalities campaigner, told Arab News: “Islamophobia is anti-Muslim racism and it has deep-seated and historic roots in the UK. Yet Islamophobia continues to be denied as a form of racism by many across all spheres of society, including in politics, the media and academia.”
She added: “This report provides further nuanced evidence of how pernicious and mainstream Islamophobia is, and how those in power are refusing to recognize this racism.
“Islamophobia remains one of the most acceptable forms of racism, and one that overwhelmingly remains overlooked, denied and unchallenged.”
Kyiv, Ukraine: Ukrainian troops suffered setbacks after retaking parts of flashpoint eastern city Severodonetsk from Russian forces, local officials said on Monday, as the see-saw battle raged on for the strategically important city.
With Russia bringing the weight of its artillery to bear around Severodonetsk — the largest city in the Lugansk region not under Russian control — more help was promised from abroad.
The United Kingdom said it would follow the United States and send long-range missile systems to Ukraine, defying warnings from Russian President Vladimir Putin against supplying Kyiv with the advanced weapons.
Thousands of civilians have been killed and millions forced to flee their homes since Putin ordered Russian troops into Ukraine on February 24.
Fighting since April has been concentrated in the east of the country, where Russian forces have made slow but steady advances after being beaten back from other parts of Ukraine, including the capital Kyiv.
“Fighting is very fierce in Severodonetsk,” regional governor Sergiy Gaiday told Ukraine’s 1+1 television.
“Our defenders managed to counter-attack and liberate half of the city, but the situation has worsened for us.”
Russian forces “are destroying everything with their usual scorched earth tactics” so that “there’s nothing left to defend,” he said.
Gaiday said on Sunday that Kyiv’s troops had “cleared half of Severodonetsk and are moving forward,” after Ukrainian forces earlier appeared on the verge of being driven out of the city.
Artillery strikes have intensified on Severodonetsk and neighboring city Lysychansk, where pensioner Oleksandr Lyakhovets said he had just enough time to save his cat before the flames engulfed his flat after it was hit by a Russian missile.
“They shoot here endlessly… It’s a horror show,” the 67-year-old told AFP.
Lysychansk was among areas visited on Sunday by President Volodymyr Zelensky, who “got himself acquainted with the operational situation on the front line of defense,” the presidency said.
In Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Monday blasted European countries for blocking his plane from traveling to Serbia, saying: “The unthinkable has happened.”
“This was a deprivation of a sovereign state of the right to carry out foreign policy,” Lavrov told an online press conference in Moscow after several of Serbia’s neighbors prevented his plane from passing through their airspace.
Lavrov had been due to hold talks with top officials in Belgrade, one of Moscow’s few remaining allies in Europe since the launch of its military offensive in Ukraine.
Serbian daily Vecernje Novosti reported that Bulgaria, Macedonia and Montenegro had refused access to their airspace.
While Serbia has condemned Russia’s military action in Ukraine, it has not joined the European Union in imposing sanctions in Moscow, despite its bid to join the bloc.
Ukraine has asked supporting countries for ever more powerful arms to fend off the Russian attack, and its deputy defense minister stressed on Sunday this support was needed until Moscow was defeated.
The United States last week said it would supply Ukraine with advanced missile systems, the latest in a long list of weaponry sent or pledged to the pro-Western country.
But Putin said long-range missile supplies to Ukraine meant “we will draw the appropriate conclusions and use our arms… to strike targets we haven’t hit before.”
Unveiling the latest UK contribution, Defense Secretary Ben Wallace insisted Ukraine’s Western allies must maintain their weapons deliveries to enable it to win.
The UK defense ministry said London had coordinated closely with Washington over its gift of the multiple-launch rocket systems, known as MLRS.
The M270 launchers, which can strike targets up to 80 kilometers (50 miles) away with precision-guided rockets, will “offer a significant boost in capability for the Ukrainian forces,” the ministry added.
Western powers have imposed increasingly stringent sanctions on Russia but divisions have emerged on how to act, particularly on whether to engage in dialogue with Russia.
Russian troops now occupy a fifth of Ukraine’s territory, according to Kyiv, and Moscow has imposed a blockade on its Black Sea ports, sparking fears of a global food crisis.
Ukraine and Russia are among the top wheat exporters in the world. Some 30 percent of the world’s grain exports originate from the warring countries.
The United Nations said it was leading intense negotiations with Russia to allow Ukraine’s grain harvest to leave the country.
JAKARTA: The death toll of a ferry sinking in Indonesian waters rose to 19 on Monday, after a 10-day search and rescue operation was called off, authorities said.
The KM Ladang Pertiwi ran out of fuel and sank in bad weather while sailing through Indonesia’s Makassar Strait in South Sulawesi province on May 26.
News of the accident only reached officials two days later, prompting a search and rescue operation that involved local fishermen and tugboats passing through the strait.
Authorities rescued 31 passengers and crew, found four bodies and declared 15 missing before the search effort concluded. Those who were missing are now presumed dead.
“We are calling off the search because there are no signs that more victims could be found,” local search and rescue chief Djunaidi, who like many Indonesians goes by one name, told AFP.
The ship’s captain, who survived the sinking, was named last week as a suspect for transporting passengers without the necessary permit and the ship’s owner was named as a suspect for hiring crew without the proper qualifications, local media reported.
Djunaidi said local fishermen who regularly sail the area were told to alert the authorities if they found more bodies.
He said the search operation could be reopened if there were any signs of survivors.
Djunaidi told a press conference Monday that the incident served as a reminder to “prioritize our safety.”
Marine accidents are common in Indonesia, a Southeast Asian country of around 17,000 islands where safety regulations are often laxly enforced.
In May, a ferry carrying more than 800 people ran aground in shallow waters off East Nusa Tenggara province and remained stuck for two days before being dislodged. No one was hurt in that accident.
In 2018, more than 150 people drowned when a ferry sank in one of the world’s deepest lakes on Sumatra island.
LAGOS: Gunmen who attacked a Catholic church on Sunday with explosives in southwest Nigeria killed 21 people and wounded others, a local government official said.
Richard Olatunde, spokesman for the Ondo State governor’s office, said that dynamite exploded inside the church in Owo town before gunmen opened fire through the windows during a service.
The violence at St. Francis Catholic Church in Owo town in Ondo State erupted during the morning service in a rare attack in the southwest of Nigeria, where militants and criminal gangs operate in other regions.
Pope Francis said in a statement he had learned of the “death of dozens of faithful,” many children, during the celebration of the Christian holiday of the Pentecost.
“While the details of the incident are being clarified, Pope Francis prays for the victims and for the country,” he said.
No group claimed responsibility for the attack.
The motives and the exact death toll were not immediately clear, but President Muhammadu Buhari condemned the “heinous killing of worshippers.”
Ondo state governor Oluwarotimi Oluwarotimi Akeredolu said Sunday’s attack was a “vile and satanic attack” and appealed to the security forces to track down the assailants.
The attack comes a day before the ruling APC party starts primaries for its candidate in the 2023 election to replace Buhari, a former army commander who steps down after two terms in office.
Security will be a major challenge for whoever wins the race to govern Africa’s most populous country and the continent’s largest economy.
Gun and bomb attacks are rare in Ondo state and other parts of the southwest, but Nigeria’s military is battling a 12-year-old militant insurgency in the northeast, gangs in the northwest and separatist agitation in the southeast.
Parts of northwest and north-central Nigeria in particular have been increasingly plagued by heavily armed gangs who raid villages and target communities and schools for mass kidnapping attacks.
MOSCOW: Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was forced to cancel a visit to Serbia on Monday after several of its neighbors prevented his plane from passing through their airspace, officials said.
Lavrov had been due to hold talks with top officials in Belgrade, one of Moscow’s few remaining allies in Europe since the launch of its military offensive in Ukraine earlier this year.
“The countries around Serbia have closed the channel of communication by refusing to authorize the overflight of the plane of Sergei Lavrov who was headed to Serbia,” Russian news agencies quoted ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova as saying.
“The Russian delegation should have arrived in Belgrade for talks. But the EU and NATO member countries closed their airspace.”
Serbian daily Vecernje Novosti reported that Bulgaria, Macedonia and Montenegro had refused access to their airspace.
A Russian diplomatic source told news agency Interfax there had been no choice but to cancel the visit.
“Russian diplomacy has not yet learned how to teleport,” the source said.
The chairman of the foreign affairs committee of the Russian parliament’s upper house, Konstantin Kosachev, suggested NATO was pressuring the three countries.
“We are talking about a NATO demarche, and without the United States it could not have happened,” Kosachev said on Telegram.
He accused NATO of “direct intervention” in bilateral ties between Russia and Serbia, and of “trying to seize and subjugate the rest of Europe.”
Atanas Atanasov, co-chairman of the right-wing Democratic Bulgaria, which is part of the ruling coalition, told public BNT television on Monday morning: “These are part of the measures that the free world places on Russia and they should continue.
“These things reflect on the activity of the Russian state and this is the aim of the measures that are put in place.”
Lavrov had been due to meet President Aleksandar Vucic, his counterpart Nikola Selakovic and Serbian Patriarch Porfirije.
While Serbia has condemned Russia’s military action in Ukraine, it has not joined the European Union in imposing sanctions in Moscow, despite its bid to join the bloc.
The two countries enjoy longstanding close ties and Belgrade recently signed a new three-year contract to receive Russian natural gas.

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