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Government Practices On Religious Freedom

United Kingdom Government Practices on Religious Freedom in 2016

In April a judge sentenced two university students, Tarik Hassane and Suhaib Majeed, to life in prison for plotting to kill soldiers, police officers, and civilians in a drive-by attack in London inspired by ISIS. The judge stated it was deplorable for two British men to be so influenced by the “bloodthirsty version of Islam” presented by ISIS that they would carry out attacks against their fellow citizens. The two were found guilty of conspiracy to murder and preparation of terrorist acts.

This issue of Religious Freedom in United Kingdom

In May the government again announced plans to introduce a counter-extremism bill. The bill would include a wide range of measures that would restrict what sponsors called religious extremist actions and behavior. By year’s end, the government had not provided any further detail, or laid out a timetable for implementation. In July parliament’s joint Select Committee on Human Rights published a report advising the government to rethink its counter-extremism strategy; use the existing extensive legal framework against those who promote religious extremism and violence; and introduce new legislation only if it could demonstrate a significant gap in the law. Several organizations, including the Christian Institute and the National Secular Society, expressed concerns that the government’s plans to introduce new orders under the counter-extremism law could target activist groups, including nonviolent figures from the political fringe.

Other Developments in 2016

In September as part of its counter-extremism strategy, the Scottish government’s Independent Advisory Group on Hate Crimes published a report on religiously motivated crimes in Scotland. The organization found “facing prejudice and fear remained part of the everyday life of too many people in Scotland, escalating into direct personal violence and threat” particularly during high profile international events such as terrorist attacks committed by ISIS and violence involving Israelis and Palestinians. The report called on the Scottish government to consider whether existing criminal law provided sufficient protections for those at risk of hate crimes, and recommended a public education initiative be undertaken to improve understanding of the nature and extent of hate crimes

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The Home Office examined the role of sharia courts operating in the UK, and whether they discriminated against women by legitimizing forced marriages and issuing unfair divorce settlements. It looked at best practices among sharia councils. The Home Office was scheduled to report its findings in 2017.

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The House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee also conducted an inquiry into sharia councils, examining how they operated, how they resolved family and divorce disputes, and how they operated within the British legal system. Source: 2016 Report on International Religious Freedom, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, United States Department of State, 2017

Global and Comparative Religious Freedom

United Kingdom Government Practices on Religious Freedom in 2016

The government continued to provide religious accommodations for public servants when possible. Muslim employees of the prison service regularly took time off during their shifts to pray. The military generally provided adherents of minority religious groups with chaplains of their faith. The Chaplaincy Council monitored policy and practice relating to such matters.

This issue of Religious Freedom in United Kingdom

In September the government introduced a national database, to which all school governors were required to subscribe, to increase transparency about who governed schools, following criticism and an official independent inquiry of the Department of Education for failing to keep any register of who governed its schools. The government had commissioned the inquiry following allegations from parents and teachers that some Birmingham schools were being infiltrated by fundamentalist Muslims through school board elections, who had replaced moderate staff, driven out staff, undermined head teachers, and interfered in the running of the schools. The official inquiry concluded there had been “coordinated, deliberate and sustained action” by a number of individuals to introduce an “intolerant and aggressive Islamic ethos” into a few schools in the city, and that “there were those who either espoused, sympathized with, or failed to challenge extremist views.”

Other Developments in 2016

In November the Scottish government announced a consultation would be held on whether students aged 16 and above could opt out of religious observance in schools. The move followed criticism by the NGO Humanist Society Scotland, which pledged to seek a judicial review of the policy that required all students to attend religious observances unless they had the consent of their parents.

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The government required schools to consider the needs of different cultures, races, and religions when setting dress code policy – recognizing and accommodating students who conformed to a particular dress code to manifest their beliefs. This included wearing or carrying specific religious artifacts, not cutting their hair, dressing modestly, or covering their head. Schools were required to balance the rights of individual students against the best interests of the school community as a whole.

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On January 5, a Belfast judge acquitted evangelical Pastor James McConnell of charges – improper use of a public electronic communications network and causing a grossly offensive message to be sent by means of a public electronic communications network – for an anti-Islamic sermon he gave in 2014. During his sermon, he described Islam as “heathen,” “satanic,” and “a doctrine spawned in hell.” The Public Prosecution Service brought the case to trial because of the “characterization by McConnell of all Muslims as potential terrorists by virtue of their faith.” The court determined that while the comment was offensive, it did not reach the grossly offensive threshold required by the law for a criminal conviction. Following his acquittal, McConnell stated he was not “out to hurt [Muslims]…but [that he] is against their theology and what they believe in.” Source: 2016 Report on International Religious Freedom, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, United States Department of State, 2017



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  • Article Name: Government Practices On Religious Freedom
  • Author: Shelby Perry
  • Description: United Kingdom Government Practices on Religious Freedom in 2016 In April a judge sentenced two university students, Tarik [...]

This entry was last updated: August 16, 2020

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