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doug saunders

The headline figure is sadly unsurprising: There is a lot of bigotry in the world. But the fine print reveals something more interesting: The bigotry is not found where you'd expect it.

As many as a quarter of the world's adults hold anti-Semitic views, according to a large-scale new worldwide survey conducted for the Anti-Defamation League, which found that 26 per cent of people agreed with at least 6 of 11 statements that could be construed as anti-Jewish. The figures varied widely internationally, ranging from 80 to 90 per cent in most Arab states to under 10 per cent in Britain, Southeast Asia and the United States (Canada registered 14 per cent).

But the details reveal that bigotry against religious minorities is not necessarily found where you'd think it would be. The report, whose figures are largely consistent with results from other worldwide surveys by organizations such as Pew, contain a number of startling revelations:

1. Iran is the least anti-Semitic country in the Middle East

Anti-Jewish discrimination is at its most intense in the Middle East and North Africa, with an average of 74 per cent of the region's residents holding anti-Semitic views. The major outlier, however, is Iran, where only 56 per cent of people discriminate against Jews. That number is lower than Greece, where an alarming 69 per cent of citizens are anti-Semitic.

This might surprise people used to seeing anti-Israel rallies in Tehran or who witnessed the anti-Jewish diatribes of the country's erstwhile president Mahmoud Ahmedinajed (the current president, Hassan Rouhani, has distanced himself from such views). But Iranian people have shown little sign of the angry intolerance that has overtaken Arab countries. This is a strong sign that their clerical dictatorship, despite having been in power since 1979, has failed to win over the population with its theocratic message; it may also be a sign of a more educated and worldly population. And Iran has a history of religious pluralism; it is probably the only Muslim-majority country that reserves seats in its legislature for members of its Jewish minority.

2. Anti-Semitism is lower in countries that are critical of Israel

Iran is far from alone among countries with governments that are hard on Israel but populations that are more tolerant of Jews. In fact, this appears to be a trend: Many countries with very low rates of anti-Semitism, such Sweden (which emerges as the least anti-Semitic country in Europe), Norway, Denmark and Britain, have governments that have been sharply critical of Israel.

"In fact," writes Chemi Shalev in Israel's Haaretz, "the ADL poll more or less upsets the apple cart altogether in disestablishing the causal connection between anti-Jewish and what are widely perceived as anti-Israeli sentiments."

The ADL's survey is careful not to mistake anti-Israel sentiment with anti-Semitism, and this appears to be a key reason: the populations most tolerant of the Jewish people often appear to be the most willing to criticize the policies of the Jewish state.

3. It isn't about religion, or history

While the high rates of anti-Semitism in Arab states (as high as 98 per cent in the Palestinian territories) might lead you to believe that this is related to Islamic faith, the wider world doesn't bear this out.

The world's largest Muslim populations – found in Indonesia, Bangladesh and India, together home to more than half the world's Muslims —appear to have rates of anti-Semitism that are lower than those in many European countries. Bangladesh clocks in at only 32 per cent.

Nor does anti-Semitism appear higher in countries with histories of extreme bigotry and intolerance. In Russia - - the country that gave the world the word "Pogrom" - - only 30 per cent of people hold anti-Semitic views, and 27 per cent in Germany.

4. Anti-Jewish belief tends to go along with anti-Muslim belief

Outside the Middle East, anti-Semitism appears to go along with anti-Muslim bigotry. The ADL study found levels of anti-Jewish intolerance tend to track levels of anti-Muslim intolerance. A recent survey by Pew seems to confirm this: The European countries where attitudes toward Jews are most distrustful are also, with a few exceptions, countries where anti-Muslim bigotry is high.