KUALA LUMPUR, May 15 — Nearly two in three Malaysians admit to harbouring prejudices against Jews, according to a global survey conducted by a US-based Jewish non-governmental organisation.
The number of Malaysians (61 per cent) who conceded to such tendencies outstripped the global average of 24 per cent as well as the 22 per cent across the rest of Asia, according to what the Anti-Defamation League dubbed the first survey of its kind.
Malaysia is also 19th in a list of 102 countries, coming in behind the most fiercely anti-Semitic countries from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). It is also the Asian country that is most prejudiced against the Jewish people.
“For the first time we have a real sense of how pervasive and persistent anti-Semitism is today around the world,” ADL director Abraham H. Foxman told US-based newspaper, The New York Times.
But Foxman added that the survey has also helped his group to “identify hot spots, as well as countries and regions of the world where hatred of Jews is essentially nonexistent.”
In this region, Muslim-majority Malaysia and Indonesia (48 per cent) were by far the countries with the strongest predilection for anti-Jewish stereotypes; the next closest country was Singapore at 16 per cent.
The figure decreases elsewhere, dropping to 13 per cent in Thailand, six per cent in Vietnam and three per cent in the Philippines. Laos, at 0.2 per cent, was the country that scored the lowest of all.
Anti-Semitism was strongest in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), with Iraq and the West Bank/Gaza area topping the chart at 93 per cent. Saudi Arabia came in at 74 per cent.
In Germany, 27 per cent of respondents conceded to anti-Jewish tendencies. Nazi Germany had conducted a systematic ethnic cleansing of the Jewish people in World War II in what is now known as the Holocaust.
Respondents in the survey were asked for their agreement to such statements as “Jews have too much power in the international financial market”, “Jews think they are better people”, “People hate Jews because of the way Jews behave”, and “Jews still talk too much about what happened to them in the Holocaust”, among others.
Much of current-day anti-Semitism that exists among Muslim nations stems from the intractable Israeli-Palestinian conflict that was cemented by the post-World War II establishment of what is now known as Israel in then-British-controlled Palestine in the Middle East.
Malaysia’s own bias is rooted in the government’s overt support for Palestinians in the conflict, which in turn has encouraged local politicians to use the issue as a platform to appeal to the Malay-Muslim electorate.
Former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad remains a trenchant critic of the Zionist regime for its occupation of modern day Israel.
In a controversial speech delivered before the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) in 2003, Dr Mahathir had stunned the world by saying “Nazis killed six million Jews out of 12 million (during the Holocaust). But today, the Jews rule the world by proxy. They get others to fight and die for them”.
In 2011, Malaysian fans had targeted Israeli footballer Youssi Benayoun who was playing for English Premier League team Chelsea in a friendly against a Malaysian selection. He was taunted throughout the match by the crowd, leading to his team lodging a formal complaint.
The Football Association of Malaysian subsequently apologised.
The survey also found that the most prevalent stereotype was that Jewish people are more loyal to Israel than the country they live in, illustrating the conflation between ethnic Jews and Zionists.
Zionism is the political movement that espouses the creation of a Jewish homeland known as the Land of Israel.
The survey was done between July 2013 and February this year. It polled 53,100 adults in 102 countries, which the ADL extrapolated as representative of 88 per cent of the world’s adult population.
On its website, the ADL describes itself as an organisation founded in 1913 “to stop the defamation of the Jewish people and to secure justice and fair treatment to all.”