Religious Discrimination
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Religious Discrimination

Religious discrimination is treating a person or group differently because of the particular beliefs which they hold about a religion. This includes instances when adherents of different religions, denominations or non-religions are treated unequally due to their particular beliefs, either before the law or in institutional settings, such as employment or housing.

Religious discrimination is related to religious persecution, the most extreme forms of which would include instances in which people have been executed for beliefs perceived to be heretical. Laws that only carry light punishments are described as mild forms of religious persecution or as religious discrimination.

Even in societies where freedom of religion is a constitutional right, adherents of religious minorities sometimes voice concerns about religious discrimination against them. Insofar as legal policies are concerned, cases that are perceived as religious discrimination might be the result of an interference of the religious sphere with other spheres of the public that are regulated by law.

In Asia


Religious discrimination in Pakistan is a serious issue. Several incidents of discrimination have been recorded with some finding support by the state itself. In a case of constitutionally sanctioned religious discrimination, non-Muslims in Pakistan cannot become Prime Minister or President, even if they are Pakistani citizens.[1][2][3] Pakistan's Blasphemy Law, according to critics, "is overwhelmingly being used to persecute religious minorities and settle personal vendettas".[4] Ahmadiyya Muslims have been subject to significant persecution and are sometimes declared 'non-Muslims'.[5]


Uyghurs or Uighurs are an ethnic and religious minority group in China.[6] Their identity is based on the Islamic religion and has roots in the former East Turkistan culture.[7][8] They reside in Xinjiang, an autonomous region situated in the west of the country.[7][9][6][8] This group is persecuted by the Chinese government due to its perceived threat to the nation's security and identity. The Chinese government believes Uyghurs have separatist, extremist, and terrorist thoughts.[7][6] It has detained around one million Uyghurs in camps.[7][9][6] According to the Chinese government, these camps are created to re-educate the minority Muslims by learning about the negative consequences of extremism.[7][9][10] Detainees are punished in these camps.[7][9][10][6] The treatment of the Uyghurs goes against human rights because they are sent to the camps involuntarily and for an indefinite period of time.[9][6] The discrimination against Uyghurs comes in many forms. Some apparent restrictions include the ban from wearing religious veils or robes in public.[7][6] The training camps serve to inculcate beliefs congruent with the Chinese Communist Party.[9][6] The Chinese government is firmly opposed to all ideologies that deviate from those it supports, which explains its opposition to religion.[6]


Although the Constitution of India prohibits discrimination based on religion[11][12] discrimination and religious violence in India are frequent, sometimes even involving the function of government.[13] For example dalit people who are not Hindu, Sikh, or Buddhist are not covered by the Scheduled Castes laws and hence dalit Christians and Muslims do not receive the affirmative action political representation and educational placement, welfare benefits, and hate crimes protections accorded to their fellows.[12] Dalits worshipping the same gods as Hindus were previously considered to be of a different religion and in the early twentieth century the question "Is he a Hindu or Pariah?" had currency.[12][14]

In the Middle East


Leaving Islam and inciting Muslims to leave Islam is punishable by Algerian law.[15] Prison sentences for those that practice Christianity do occur.[16]


Leaving Islam and inciting Muslims to leave Islam is punishable by Egyptian law.[17] Violence of radical Muslims against the Christian minority is common.[18][19] Coptic Christians face many difficulties in building and renovating Coptic churches.[20]


Assyrian Christians have suffered from discrimination since Saddam Hussein's Arabization policies in the 1980s, with the latest instance of discrimination being the ISIS invasion of the Nineveh plains and Mosul, where tens of thousands have been forced to flee, and multiple Christian sites have been destroyed. The number of Christians in Iraq overall since the 2003 invasion has dropped by around 60%, from 800,000 to 300,000, and in 1987, that number was around 1.4 million.[21] The 2014 invasion by ISIS has likely degraded that number further.


Leaving Islam and inciting Muslims to leave Islam is punishable by Moroccan law.[22] Prison sentences for those that leave Islam do occur.[23]


Historically, religious discrimination in Turkey has been a serious issue, with the Armenian, Greek, and Assyrian genocides all occurring there. Discrimination has continued during the Syrian Civil War. In one instance, Turkey allowed members of Al Nusra, a radical Islamic terror group that controls land in Syria, to enter through its border, and then into the majority Armenian Christian town of Kessab, which is right on the Turkish-Syrian border. Al Nusra raided the town, capturing those who didn't flee. They proceeded to take their captives to the Turkish city of Iskenderun.[24][25]

In Western countries

United States

In a 1979 consultation on the issue, the United States Commission on Civil Rights defined religious discrimination in relation to the civil rights guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Whereas religious civil liberties, such as the right to hold or not to hold a religious belief, are essential for Freedom of Religion (in the United States secured by the First Amendment), religious discrimination occurs when someone is denied "the equal protection of the laws, equality of status under the law, equal treatment in the administration of justice, and equality of opportunity and access to employment, education, housing, public services and facilities, and public accommodation because of their exercise of their right to religious freedom".[26]

However, cases of religious discrimination might also be the result of an interference of the religious sphere with other spheres of the public that are regulated by law. Although e.g. in the United States the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment states that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof", in Reynolds v. United States the U.S. Supreme Court decided that religious duty was not a suitable defense to a criminal indictment. In this specific case a law against bigamy was not considered to be discriminating against Mormons, who stopped practicing polygamy in 1890.[27]


In Canada, during 1995-1998, Newfoundland had only Christian schools (four of them, Pentecostal, Roman Catholic, Seventh-day Adventist, and inter-denominational (Anglican, Salvation Army and United Church)). The right to organize publicly supported religious schools was only given to certain Christian denominations, thus tax money used to support a selected group of Christian denominations. The denominational schools could also refuse admission of a student or the hiring of a qualified teacher on purely religious grounds. Quebec has used two school systems, one Protestant and the other Roman Catholic, but it seems this system will be replaced with two secular school systems: one French and the other English.[28]

Ontario had two school systems going back before Confederation. The British North America Act (1867) gave the Provinces jurisdiction over education. Section 93 of the BNA Act offered constitutional protection for denominational schools as they existed in law at the time of Confederation. Like "Public schools", Catholic schools are fully funded from kindergarten to grade 12. However, profound demographic changes of the past few decades have made the province of Ontario a multicultural, multi-racial, and multi-religious society. The thought that one religious group is privileged to have schools funded from the public purse is becoming unacceptable in a pluralistic, multicultural, secular society. Although it's also true that the people who send their children to those schools have a form that directs their tax dollars to that school system.[29]

Canadian faith-based university Trinity Western University (TWU) is currently facing a challenge from members of the legal and LGBT community to its freedom to educate students in a private university context while holding certain "religious values", such as the freedom to discriminate against other people, including requiring students to sign a chastity oath, and denying LGBT students the same rights as straight students.[30][31] TWU faced a similar battle in 2001 (Trinity Western University v. British Columbia College of Teachers) where the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that TWU was capable to teach professional disciplines.[32]

On June 16, 2019, Quebec banned public servants in positions of authority from wearing visible religious symbols. The legislation was erected with the goal of promoting neutrality. Prime Minister Trudeau argues that the ban goes against fundamental rights of Canadian people.[33]


Scientologists in Germany face specific political and economic restrictions. They are barred from membership in some major political parties, and businesses and other employers use so-called "sect filters" to expose a prospective business partner's or employee's association with the organization. German federal and state interior ministers started a process aimed at banning Scientology in late 2007, but abandoned the initiative a year later, finding insufficient legal grounds. Despite this, polls suggest that most Germans favor banning Scientology altogether. The U.S. government has repeatedly raised concerns over discriminatory practices directed at individual Scientologists.[34][35][36]


In Greece since the independence from the Muslim Ottomans rule in the 19th century, the Greek Orthodox Church has been given privileged status and only the Greek Orthodox church, Roman Catholic, some Protestant churches, Judaism and Islam are recognized religions. The Muslim minority alleges that Greece persistently and systematically discriminates against Muslims.[37][38]

Recently, professor Nick Drydakis (Anglia Ruskin University) examined religious affiliation and employment bias in Athens, by implementing an experimental field study. Labor market outcomes (occupation access, entry wage, and wait time for call back) were assessed for three religious minorities (Pentecostal, evangelical, and Jehovah's Witnesses). Results indicate that religious minorities experience employment bias. Moreover, religious minorities face greater constraints on occupational access in more prestigious jobs compared to less prestigious jobs. Occupational access and entry wage bias is highest for religious minority women. In all cases, Jehovah's Witnesses face the greatest bias; female employers offered significantly lower entry wages to Jehovah's Witnesses than male employers.[39]


According to a Human Rights Practices report by the U.S. State department on Mexico note that "some local officials infringe on religious freedom, especially in the south". There is conflict between Catholic/Mayan syncretists and Protestant evangelicals in the Chiapas region.[40][41][42]

See also


  1. ^ "Non-Muslims ought to be eligible to become President, PM: Kamran Michael - The Express Tribune". The Express Tribune. 2011-08-10. Retrieved .
  2. ^ Khan, Raza (2016-08-11). "Minority MPs seek constitutional amendment, demand top govt slots for non-Muslims". DAWN.COM. Retrieved .
  3. ^ Farooq, Faisal (2012-03-13). "Why cannot a non-Muslim be president or prime minister? - News Pakistan". News Pakistan. Retrieved .
  4. ^ Hanif, Mohammed (5 September 2012). "How to commit blasphemy in Pakistan". The Guardian. Retrieved 10 December 2014.
  5. ^ Basu, Subho (2010). Riaz, Ali, ed. Religion and Politics in South Asia (1st ed.). Routledge. p. 121. ISBN 978-0415778008.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i Holder, Ross (2019-03-27). "On the Intersectionality of Religious and Racial Discrimination: A Case Study on the Applicability of ICERD with Respect to China's Uyghur Muslim Minority". Religion & Human Rights. 14 (1): 1-30. doi:10.1163/18710328-13021144. ISSN 1871-031X.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g Butler, Brennan. "What is happening with the Uighurs in China?". PBS NewsHour. Retrieved .
  8. ^ a b "Why is there tension between China and the Uighurs?". BBC News. 2014-09-26. Retrieved .
  9. ^ a b c d e f "Data leak details China's 'brainwashing system'". BBC News. 2019-11-24. Retrieved .
  10. ^ a b Graham-Harrison, Emma (2020-09-24). "China has built 380 internment camps in Xinjiang, study finds". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved .
  11. ^ Constitution of India, Part III, Article 15
  12. ^ a b c Viswanath, Rupa (2015). "Silent Minority: Celebrated Difference, Caste Difference and the Hinduization of Modern India". In Vertovec, Steven (ed.). Routledge International Handbook of Diversity Studies. New York: Routledge. pp. 140-150. ISBN 9780415813860. OCLC 900901900.
  13. ^ Nussbaum, Martha Craven (2007). "Introduction". The Clash Within : Democracy, Religious Violence, and India's Future. Cambridge, Massachusetts and London, England: Harvard University Press. p. 1. ISBN 9780674030596. OCLC 1006798430. In order to understand India's current situation, we need to turn to a set of events that show more clearly than others how far the ideals of respectful pluralism and the rule of law have been threatened by religious ideology. These events are a terrible instance of genocidal violence; but they are more than that. The deeper problem they reveal is that of violence aided and abetted by the highest levels of government and law enforcement, a virtual announcement to minority citizens that they are unequal before the law and that their lives are not worth legal and police protection.
  14. ^ Mohan, Gopu (January 1, 2018). "The 'P' Word: The dark history of 'pariah'". Commentary. The Caravan. ISSN 0008-6150. LCCN 2010328410. OCLC 613494967. Retrieved 2020.
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  21. ^ The World Factbook
  22. ^
  23. ^
  24. ^ "Kessab Armenians in Diaspora remember their quaint town in Syria". 21 March 2015.
  25. ^ Sherlock, Ruth (4 January 2015). "Syria video dispatch: Kessab churches burned and graves destroyed". Archived from the original on January 4, 2015.
  26. ^ U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, 1979: II
  27. ^ "Polygamy". 2007-07-24. Retrieved .
  28. ^ "The Constitution Since Patriation". 2006-10-03. Archived from the original on 2006-10-03. Retrieved .
  29. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-03-04. Retrieved .CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  30. ^ "Law societies must show more courage on Trinity Western application" – via The Globe and Mail.
  31. ^ "B.C. Law Society OK's Trinity Western law school despite gay sex ban - CBC News".
  32. ^ "Trinity Western University v. British Columbia College of Teachers - SCC Cases (Lexum)".
  33. ^
  34. ^ Barber (1997-01-30)
  35. ^ Kent (2001), pp. 3, 12-13 |
  36. ^ U.S. Department of State (1999)
  37. ^ "Turkish Minority Rights Violated in Greece". 1999-01-08. Retrieved .
  38. ^ "The Turks of Western Thrace". Retrieved .
  39. ^ Drydakis, Nick (2010). "Religious Affiliation and Employment Bias in the Labor Market". Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion. 49 (3): 477-493. doi:10.1111/j.1468-5906.2010.01523.x.
  40. ^ "Country Reports on Human Rights Practices". 2002-03-04. Retrieved .
  41. ^ "BaptistFire - Persecution in Mexico". 2 October 1999. Archived from the original on 2 October 1999.
  42. ^ "U.S. Department of State Annual Report on International Religious Freedom for 1999: Mexico". Retrieved .


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