• Addressing religious discrimination and Islamophobia: Muslims and liberal democracies, the case of the United Kingdom

      Weller, Paul; University of Derby (2011-12-06)
      The article examines contemporary claims of Islamophobia and religious discrimination against Muslims in the United Kingdom in the context of the broader dynamics of religious discrimination in British history. How the ‘struggle for existence’ of religious groups who were initially concerned with ‘establishing an identity of their own’ became ‘ the struggle for equality’ among both nonconformist religious minority groups in the nineteenth century as well as among twentieth century Muslim UK citizens of predominantly migrant and minority ethnic origin is examined. The identification of ‘Islamophobia’ as a specific form of discrimination and hatred of ‘the other’ is located in the rise of a late twentieth century ‘politics of identity’ as it emerges from the impact of ‘globalization’. The relationship between the distinctive features of the Muslim experience of discrimination on the basis of religion and that of other groups is explored by reference to the findings of the UK Government Home Office commissioned Religious Discrimination in England and Wales Research Project conducted during 1999–2001, as well as by reference to Orientalist and Islamophobic imagery. This article considers strategies for combating religious discrimination and hatred, from public education through to legal instruments, such as the Human Rights Act 1998 and the Employment Equality (Religion of Belief) Regulations 2003. The visceral and deeply embedded nature of ‘Islamophobia’ is illuminated by reference to the deep-seated and multi-layered admixture of religion and politics in Northern Irish ‘sectarianism’. The article concludes by advocating that it is the responsibility of all groups, of good governance in society, and in the ultimate interests of all, to tackle the phenomenon of religious discrimination and hatred under whatever guise it appears.