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  • A law against religious discrimination


    by Sunny
    17th September, 2008 at 4:53 pm    

    Sadiq Khan MP has called for the upcoming Equalities Bill to have a clause so it covers discrimination on the basis of religion, in a Fabian Society article.

    For some bizarre reason, John Hirst thinks he’s calling for Sharia law, and LFaT reckons that somehow white people will lose out.
    The second blog response is even more bizarre - are we living in such a zero-sum world that any anti-discrimination legislation is designed to heart white people? Are they all such Islamophobes that they’ll lose out if govt bodies are told they must also avoid discrimination against people on the basis of religion?

    There’s a good post here on the similarities and differences between anti-semitism and islamophobia. Why is it ok to tackle anti-semitism but not discrimination against Muslims? And lastly, how is Sadiq Khan a ‘separatist’ when he says:

    Mr Khan wants to break down religious barriers and argues strongly that Britain’s Muslims must change, too. He urges them to forget about the Iraq war; give their women more freedom and use their charities to help white poor people. He also calls for imams to stress the importance of parental participation in schools and says everyone should learn English.

    All this is eminently sensible. I’ve also argued in the past that learning English is very important for everyone. That shouldn’t even be up for debate.


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    Filed in: Culture,Race politics,Religion






    29 Comments below   |  

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    1. The Common Humanist — on 17th September, 2008 at 5:06 pm  

      “All this is eminently sensible. I’ve also argued in the past that learning English is very important for everyone. That shouldn’t even be up for debate”

      Totally agree.

      I also think we should ALL use the same courts and legal system on a footing of equality.

      Looks like that principal is out of the window now….

      “”Five sharia courts have been set up in London, Birmingham, Bradford and Manchester and Nuneaton, Warwickshire. The government has quietly sanctioned that their rulings are enforceable with the full power of the judicial system, through the county courts or High Court. Previously, the rulings were not binding and depended on voluntary compliance among Muslims.

      Lawyers have issued grave warnings about the dangers of a dual legal system and the disclosure drew criticism from Opposition leaders.

      Dominic Grieve, the shadow home secretary, said: “If it is true that these tribunals are passing binding decisions in the areas of family and criminal law, I would like to know which courts are enforcing them because I would consider such action unlawful. British law is absolute and must remain so.”

      Douglas Murray, the director of the Centre for Social Cohesion, added: “I think it’s appalling. I don’t think arbitration that is done by sharia should ever be endorsed or enforced by the British state.”

      Muslim tribunal courts started passing sharia judgments in August 2007. They have dealt with more than 100 cases that range from Muslim divorce and inheritance to nuisance neighbours.

      It has also emerged that tribunal courts have settled six cases of domestic violence between married couples, working in tandem with the police investigations.

      Sheikh Faiz-ul-Aqtab Siddiqi, whose Muslim Arbitration Tribunal runs the courts, said that sharia courts are classified as arbitration tribunals under a clause in the Arbitration Act 1996.

      “All we are doing is regulating community affairs in these cases,” said Mr Siddiqi, chairman of the governing council of the tribunal.

      There are concerns for women suffering under the Islamic laws, which favours men.

      Mr Siddiqi said that in a recent inheritance dispute handled by the court in Nuneaton, the estate of a Midlands man was divided between three daughters and two sons.

      The judges on the panel gave the sons twice as much as the daughters, in accordance with sharia. Had the family gone to a normal British court, the daughters would have got equal amounts.

      In the six cases of domestic violence, Mr Siddiqi said the judges ordered the husbands to take anger management classes and mentoring from community elders. There was no further punishment.

      In each case, the women subsequently withdrew the complaints they had lodged with the police and the police stopped their investigations”"

      So already we have British female citizens made to be half people by a court sanctified by the UK Govt…..

      And it is already seeing domestic violence cases - these are criminal offences - aprt from if you are a muslim in an area covered by these ‘voluntary’ (ahem) courts…..

      How long before community pressure revolves around ‘you are not a proper muslim unless you use these ‘voluntary’ (ahem) courts’

      So it is back to the Middle Ages we trot.

      Huge Sigh.

    2. Muhamad — on 17th September, 2008 at 5:11 pm  

      I’m all in favour of equality, but if a piece of legislation attempts to silence any critique of Judaism, Christianity, Islam, etc, then, that isn’t equality, that’s not equality in one’s right to speak one’s mind about Islam, etc.

      I commend Khan for saying that everyone should learn to speak in English.

    3. Sunny — on 17th September, 2008 at 5:26 pm  

      Both these criticisms misunderstand what is being proposed here.

      Firstly, any such equality law CANNOT silence criticism of Islam, Judaism or any religion. THAT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO DO LEGALLY AND NOT BEING PROPOSED HERE!

      What he’s saying is - if there is a better qualified Muslim candidate, but he’s being discriminated against a non-Muslim candidate, purely because of his religion, then that should be made impossible.

      Race legislation doesn’t outlaw racism - it makes it illegal for companies to discriminate against a black person because of his/her race. This concept isn’t hard to understand.

      TCH - I’m not sure why people keep bringing up sharia courts. I’m against them. Sadiq Khan doesn’t mention them or has said anything approving about them. Why are they being mentioned in a debate that is about something else?

    4. Muhamad — on 17th September, 2008 at 5:28 pm  

      Common Humanist,
      by “UK Govt.” I guess you mean New Labour?
      Do we have any other British political parties endorsing it?

    5. Don — on 17th September, 2008 at 5:55 pm  

      Based on the Indy article, I can’t see anything wrong with Khan’s suggestion.

      I’m not sure that Hirst was suggesting Khan was calling for sharia, but it was such a short comment I guess you could read it either way.

      LFaT was little more than a generic rant which had little to do with the supposed topic.

      But the recent developments re. sharia are a cause for concern. I’ll have to read the details before I say more than that.

    6. Sunny — on 17th September, 2008 at 5:58 pm  

      by “UK Govt.” I guess you mean New Labour?
      Do we have any other British political parties endorsing it?

      I was going to write about this too. Conservatives can’t do much either - they either then decide to get rid of the Beth Din courts as well, or make a law specifically banning Muslim arbitration courts.

    7. Anon Y mouse — on 17th September, 2008 at 5:58 pm  

      The Common Humanist

      “Totally agree.

      I also think we should ALL use the same courts and legal system on a footing of equality.

      Looks like that principal is out of the window now”

      Why “now”? Orthodox Jews’ Beth Din courts have been operating for decades in the exact same way the Sharia courts you mention will operate.

      Do you think there is equality in Beth Din courts?

    8. digitalcntrl — on 17th September, 2008 at 6:20 pm  

      “Why is it ok to tackle anti-semitism but not discrimination against Muslims?”

      Probably has something to do with the fact that many in muslim world are far more parochial,predujiced, and many times down right hostile towards jews, homosexuals, ahmadis, bhahias, shias, whites, and anyone that does not fit into a narrow behavoir code (like me). Not many people would sympathize with those who are themselves either discriminatory or judgmental toward others.

    9. Letters From A Tory — on 17th September, 2008 at 6:32 pm  

      3 Sunny “What he’s saying is - if there is a better qualified Muslim candidate, but he’s being discriminated against a non-Muslim candidate, purely because of his religion, then that should be made impossible.”

      No, he is not saying that. Read the article properly. It says “A minister has called for the Government to introduce a new religious discrimination law which would require public bodies to have a legal duty to PROMOTE between faiths“ (my emphasis). Promotion of equality is totally different from preventing discrimination. The latter is already covered by employment law but Sadiq Khan wants a law under which employers who don’t actively ‘promote’ ethnic minorities to be breaking the law. So, in essence, any public body will be forced (on penalty of financial punishments or worse) to take on people on the basis of their religious beliefs instead of whether they are the most qualified person for a job.

      This is precisely the same issue as when Harriet Harman said a few weeks back that women should be given jobs, even if they are less qualified as men, to make sure that ‘equality’ is achieved.

      You stated above that Sadiq Khan is proposing that government bodies must avoid discrimination against people on the basis of religion, which is totally incorrect. What he is proposing is that public sector organisations are forced to make sure that they have ethnic minorities represented even if no discrimination has taken place. This is totally against the concept of a meritocracy and is a complete joke.

      Please read my post properly next time.

      http://lettersfromatory.wordpress.com

    10. MaidMarian — on 17th September, 2008 at 7:09 pm  

      Sunny - ‘All this is eminently sensible. I’ve also argued in the past that learning English is very important for everyone. That shouldn’t even be up for debate.’

      Leave to one side the very good comment by Letters from a Tory (9) about the apparent artificial creation of discrimination and also the wider question of why it is that various faiths need legislation to encourage/promote their closer working.

      Khan may well have the best of intentions - I don’t doubt it. But he is attempting to legislate away feelings and in doing so he is attempting the impossible.

      This is an issue for civil society, not statute.

      To my mind there is a far greater problem in that this appears to propose is an attempt to legislate for intent, that is treacherous territory and one that is doomed to fail at any level more substantive than the superficial.

      Governments should always avoid the temptation to legislate for intent.

    11. Sunny — on 17th September, 2008 at 7:17 pm  

      What he is proposing is that public sector organisations are forced to make sure that they have ethnic minorities represented even if no discrimination has taken place.

      What are they going to be forced about? Affirmativa Action, or Positive Discrimination is illegal right now and that can’t be altered. Similarly, Positive Discrimination on the basis of religion is also illegal and he’d be pretty stupid to argue for it.

      He’s saying that orgs should take more responsibility to ensure that orgs are watching out for religioud discrimination.

      Similarly, Harman did not say there should be positive discrimination towards women. You’re misreading the Indy’s exaggerated editorial.

      MM - maybe. I have sympathy for that view. I still think its unfair to attack Sadiq Khan. Tories aren’t exactly big on small state either. Its just they want the laws to focus on different things.

    12. MaidMarian — on 17th September, 2008 at 7:33 pm  

      Sunny (11) - ‘He’s saying that orgs should take more responsibility to ensure that orgs are watching out for religious discrimination.’

      As I said, I imagine that Khan has the best of motives, but your quote sums up the problem with his approach.

      What you suggest is quite benign, but how long is it until, ‘watching out,’ for discrimination becomes a catch-all for a very wide range of claims regardless of merit?

      It goes back to the whole idea of judging intent. Race relations are over-regulated as it is without addint intent to the list.

    13. MixTogether — on 17th September, 2008 at 7:38 pm  

      i continue to argue that this line of legislation increases resentment because it does nothing to counter the blatant racial and religious discrimination practiced by many minority families against their children’s chosen partners. A Muslim could launch action against an employer for religious discrimination then go home and threaten his daughter for wanting to marry a Hindu, for example. How does that increase a sense of fairness? Fine words from Khan are just fluff unless they are backed by action. Will he endorse the new Muslim Marriage Contract, for example?

    14. Don — on 17th September, 2008 at 8:11 pm  

      LFaT; a legal duty to PROMOTE between faiths

      Khan; a legal duty to promote equality between faiths,

      Spot the difference.

      If Khan had thought to add ‘and non-faiths, I’d have been happier, but that’s just me nit-picking.

    15. marvin — on 17th September, 2008 at 9:33 pm  

      If Khan had thought to add ‘and non-faiths, I’d have been happier, but that’s just me nit-picking.

      Just nit picking! Can’t believe you said that. If your promoting ‘faiths’ then you have to be able to present atheism as perfectly acceptable too. Otherwise this is discrimination too.

      I don’t really understand how you ‘promote’ equality by giving special attention to certain groups at the expense of other groups. Social engineering only leads to resentment anyway.

      The problem with even more legislation is that some employers are bound to interpret this as literally giving favour to Muslims, or at least better to be safe than sorry, and favour Muslims anyhow, in order to prevent any accusations of ‘islamophobia’.

      What is fear of Christians btw?

    16. Cabalamat — on 17th September, 2008 at 9:34 pm  

      Part of the problem with this is that the proposals are (as I understand them) rather vagie at the moment so that it’s hard to tell what will be in them.

      Consider the example of a person who thinks religion is a load of irrational and pernicious nonsense that tends to cause people to kill or harm others.

      This person is discussing their beliefs at work with a fellow employee, who happens to be religious. Now its quite possible that the religious person might find those beliefs offensive. If they do, and they complain to their employer that their work ewnvironment is oppressive to them, would this constitute constructive unfair dissmissal?

      What if the person with the anti-relgious viewpoint is the employer. Would they be required, by law, to keep their views to themselves? What iof, as a result, they just refused to employ anyone who they thought might be religious, e.g. if they had a Muslim-sounding name? Such discrimination would be unlikely to be found out and prosecuted.

    17. marvin — on 17th September, 2008 at 9:39 pm  

      Excellent points Cabalamat. Those are exactly my fears. And let’s face it, employers will always err on the side of caution. Any perceived hint of ‘causing offence’ could cost you your job. It’s bad enough as it is.

    18. Roger — on 17th September, 2008 at 9:40 pm  

      ““Why is it ok to tackle anti-semitism but not discrimination against Muslims?”

      Probably has something to do with the fact that many in muslim world are far more parochial,predujiced…”

      I don’t thonk that’s true, digitalcntrl. However, most followers of parochial and restrictive forms of judaism in the U.K.- and similar forms of christianity- want to stay away from the rest of sinful huamnity- discriminate against and want to be discriminated against- in a way that their muslim equivalents do not. They tend to be self-employed or employed by their co-religionists.

      Is this proposal actually necessary, however? Present employment law make it illegal to discriminate against candidates because of their beliefs or non-beliefs rather than because of their behaviour unless the job required a belief as a basis for it.

    19. Rumbold — on 17th September, 2008 at 9:54 pm  

      I agree with Cabalamat. This is bound to be one of those laws that turns into a legal nightmare, as lawyers exploit the confusion.

    20. Tu S. Tin — on 17th September, 2008 at 10:03 pm  

      as an outsider looking in … I never understand this at all!
      or how everything said somehow turns into “discrimination”…
      on this site alone I have seen endless arguments on how those of any faith all have different beliefs, that even if you are taught things in school or by parents people still manage to think for themselves.
      There was the post from the girl wanting to take her scarf off …. etc
      I have heard the moderate muslim voice screaming to be heard … watched the undercover mosque programs,read all the papers, listened to all the opinions.
      I am far from Islamiphobic, and I am not atheist.
      But how is this not catering to extremists?

    21. Tu S. Tin — on 17th September, 2008 at 10:09 pm  

      I mean really … is this an argument over what is right and wrong?
      who asked for this right?
      The moderate Muslims?

    22. marvin — on 17th September, 2008 at 10:18 pm  

      Certainly extremists would exploit this for all it’s worse through legal system. Woo. Can’t wait for this to come in to law…

      Also, surely it reinforces the victimhood mindset, that I must be specially protected because I believe in certain things and I’m not able to stick up for myself.

      Bullying and harassment are already pretty strictly fought against in the courts, sometimes with huge settlements.

      Is there a barrage of islamophobia in the work place? My previous work place had a barrage of extra special attention to Muslim employees, and an extremely harsh view taken on anti-religious ideas.

      I am not playing the victim here at all, but, if I were to play the victim I’d say I’d be the least able to sue my employer if my boss took a dislike to me. It’s happened a few times!

      White, male, English born, able-bodied, non-religious, heterosexual. On what basis can I claim discrimination?! Err none!

      It does cause a bit of resentment when somebody is successfully able to sue for large amounts of money due to claiming discrimination of one of variations of the demographics mentioned above.

    23. Cabalamat — on 17th September, 2008 at 10:20 pm  

      Here’s another what-if. Will religious institutions be exempt from this law?

      If not, then I won’t be able to discriminate against the religious, but the religious will still be able to discriminate against atheists like me. And that’s wrong.

    24. Tu S. Tin — on 17th September, 2008 at 10:36 pm  

      Imagine the outrage if this right is taken away ….

    25. Tu S. Tin — on 17th September, 2008 at 11:41 pm  

      forgive my comments here…I was thinking in combination with other things I have been reading today … mostly on the sharia courts now being recognized in the UK. Maybe thats why it keeps coming up in the arguments sunny.
      The thing don’t understand is england at least, seems to have been built on the basic principles of equality, fairness, and tolerance. Now there is a whole population of people entering into a culture wanting to define what that means to THEM! Without understanding at all what it already means! not caring really to learn or even try to understand the culture they live in .. its much easier to cry racist discrimination I guess.
      Though it is quoted above … asking the muslim community to change themselves…. which brings me back to the comments I did make… in what way are muslims changing so far if they are asking for their own courts? which group of muslims asked for it in the first place….. how and to who is it fair?

    26. Frank — on 18th September, 2008 at 11:09 am  

      Sadiq Khan’s problem is that he wants in effect a Muslim foreign policy-and he repeats the very dangerous mistake that someone should automatically identify with a co-religionist. That is sectarianism and is very dangerous. But it wins votes of course.

    27. jailhouselawyer — on 18th September, 2008 at 6:53 pm  

      “For some bizarre reason, John Hirst thinks he’s calling for Sharia law”.

      What is bizarre, Sunny, is your claim to be a mind reader, and if you put your prejudice a side for a moment, I will explain exactly what I said in plain English. Please do try and keep up.

      1) This country is England, it is governed by English law. It is not a Islamic country, which is governed by Sharia law.

      2) I do not take issue with Muslims conducting their own affairs according to Sharia law, providing that there is consent between parties.

      3) I do take issue with those involving domestic violence. These should be resolved using the law of the land, that is English criminal law. Sharia law calls for the death of Mickey Mouse, a cartoon character created by Walt Disney, on the ground that he is evil. In my view, this is Muslim extremism. People like that cannot be trusted to act fairly. My understanding is that Sharia law is very male orientated, it does not give the female equal status. As the majority of cases of domestic violence are male upon female, my feeling is that it is wrong to allow this to be determined by Sharia law. Those calling for this argue that Muslims should be treated differently, separately, it is apartied.

      4) Along comes Sadiq Khan saying that Muslims can be integrated with the law.

      5) One set are calling for apartied. The other for inclusion.

      6) I accept the inclusion.

      7) I reject the apartied.

      I hope this clarifies your clouded thinking?

    28. Shuggy — on 19th September, 2008 at 9:15 am  

      Hmmm - at present not only is religious discrimination perfectly legal, it’s institutionalised in the education system. Since this government - and any possible future Tory one - is committed to extending the branch of the education service that openly practices discrimination (i.e. faith schools), I would have thought it was unlikely in the extreme that Mr Khan’s proposals would be adopted.

    29. Muhamad — on 19th September, 2008 at 1:02 pm  

      Sunny @ 3

      I think you’ve somewhat misconstrued what I said. I wasn’t suggesting that this is what Sadiq Khan is proposing; I’ve read your link to what his calling for, and I understand it isn’t anything to do with Sharia, hence my commendation.

      Whether you be Jewish, Muslim, Christian, etc, you should show a little committment to British legislature, considering that we’ve got a decent enough judicature that’s perfectly capable of emending any discrepant legislation, when the British public press on for a change.

      “What he’s saying is - if there is a better qualified Muslim candidate, but he’s being discriminated against a non-Muslim candidate, purely because of his religion, then that should be made impossible.”
      Yes. I agree with that. And it doesn’t quite sound like positive discrimination. But there’s bound to be some people out there thinking that that’s what Sadiq Khan is asking for.

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