Contemporary UK: A Religiously Intolerant Country

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In 1689, the English philosopher John Locke stated that “neither Pagan, nor Mahometan, nor Jew, ought to be excluded from the civil rights of the commonwealth because of his religion” (149). As this quotation suggests, the question of religious tolerance and equality is not just a recent concern arisen in our age, but has been an issue dealt with ― even legally ― since the era of the Enlightenment (Habermas 5). In the UK, while religious equality has been officially assured by a number of decrees, tolerance for religious communities, i.e. the willingness to accept spiritual beliefs and views different from one’s own (OED), is nothing that can be imposed by legal action. Rather, it is a phenomenon to be developed (or not) within a certain society by reciprocally assuming the perspective of the others and by recognising and accepting their respective norms (ibid. 7). Unfortunately, although the country has tried to come to terms with religious diversity for over three hundred years, the United Kingdom of the twenty-first century is still a religiously intolerant nation. This religious intolerance is reflected in the hostile and unfair attitude Muslims are confronted with in the British society. According to the study “Religious discrimination in England and Wales”, conducted in 2001, Muslims experience totally imbalanced media coverage (Weller et al. vii), a claim also corroborated by figures published in the BBC News in 2007 which reveal that 91% of all reports concerning Muslims are negative, as opposed to only 4% of positive testimonies (“Muslims ‘demonised’ by UK media”, par. 1-8). Moreover, when it comes to Muslim faith schools, roughly one in ten Britons have voiced their support for a complete banning of such institutions (ICM Research 14). While it can be argued that the objectors to Muslim faith schools account for only 10% of the total amount of respondents, this percentage is still remarkable considering that, at the same time, they agree on the general...
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