Religion and Belief
More interfaith networks are working hard to build good relations between the different religious communities in the UK at both local and national levels. A mutual understanding and respect between religions is the core aim of most interfaith networks. The majority of people in the UK assert an affiliation to a faith/religion, whether they practice it or not. In England, 3.1 per cent of the population state their religion as Muslim (0.7 per cent in Wales), making this the most common religion after Christianity.
Some religious groups and individuals feel they are discriminated against – whether at work, school or in general society – because of their beliefs. In particular some Muslims have been victims of discrimination and until recently followers of this faith were not protected under the current Race Relations Acts. Recent world events have been seen by many as evidence for a need to ensure that religious belief is afforded equal protection from hatred, to that of race and other equalities groups.
The Racial and Religious Hatred Bill 2005 will mean that it will be unlawful for anyone to ‘intentionally’ incite religious hatred by the used of threatening words or behaviour. An amendment to the Bill (which is due to become law) removes terms such as insult and abuse.
As such discussion, criticism, insult, abuse and ridicule of religion, belief or religious practice would not be an offence under law and in theory this limits the scope to prosecute anyone on the grounds of religious hatred as a clear intention will now have to be proven.