Comparing Antisemitism, Islamophobia, and Asylophobia: The British Case


  • Thomas Linehan

    1. Brunel University
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    • Thomas Linehan is a lecturer in History at Brunel University. He read History at the University of York, before going on to receive his doctorate in History from the University of London. He is the author of Communism in Britain, 1920–39: From the Cradle to the Grave (Manchester University Press, 2007); British Fascism, 1918–1939: Parties, Ideology and Culture (Manchester University Press, 2000); East London for Mosley: The British Union of Fascists in East London and South-West Essex, 1933–1940 (Frank Cass, 1996); and the co-author with Julie Gottlieb of The Culture of Fascism: Visions of the Far Right in Britain (Tauris, 2004). Dr Linehan has just completed writing a monograph on Modernism and British Socialism for Palgrave Macmillan.


This article examines how far discourses on the ‘Other’ and immigration in contemporary Britain resemble antisemitic discourses in Britain during and between the two World Wars. The article contends that there was a particular British species of antisemitism in evidence during the wartime and interwar periods which was made up of a number of key elements, defined here as ‘conspiratorial’, ‘cultural’, ‘religious’, and ‘economic’ forms of anti-Jewish animosity. The article then considers whether similar elements can be discerned in responses to ‘Other’ maligned groups in the contemporary period, particularly in relation to anti-Muslim sentiment or Islamophobic discourses. The article then investigates whether we can identify symmetry in relation to another group which has experienced high levels of discrimination in twenty-first-century Britain, asylum seekers. Here, the article considers whether one needs to situate contemporary ‘asylophobia’ in a wider explanatory framework which both takes account of the possible ‘re-cycling’ of earlier stigmatising representations of Jews, and more contemporary influences and developments relating to neo-liberal globalisation.