Religious discrimination and hatred have relatively recently received legislative recognition in the UK (for an overview of the legislative context, see the Public Spirit theme on Equalities and Religious Difference). But, as Chara Bakalis discusses in her post Legislating Against Religious Hatred, the Racial and Religious Hatred Act that came into force in 2006 is not only narrowly focused, and little implemented, it is not particularly well designed to address forms of online hate speech that incite hatred towards religion or religious groups. She argues we need to reconsider our definition of harm in order to address the spread of religious hate speech on the internet – despite the legal and practical difficulties that this entails.
In addition to the legislative issues connected to religious discrimination and hatred are conceptual challenges, which are the topic of Brian Klug’s article, Islamophobia and Antisemitism: do we need the words? Addressing the conceptual and terminological debates over whether religious discrimination can be seen as analogous to racism, or whether different manifestations of religious discrimination share similar characteristics, Klug argues that we should pay more attention to the use to which terms such as ‘Islamophobia’ and ‘antisemitism’ are put in practice.
The question of whether Islamophobia and anti-Semitism are analogous or distinct phenomena is taken up again in Nasar Meer’s article: Challenging Islamophobia and Antisemitism Together. Reviewing survey evidence, he suggests that there is a correlation between the prevalence of Islamophobia and antisemitism across Europe, and he argues that both draw on similar tropes of race, culture and belonging. Noting the tendency of Islamophobes and antisemites to pit these forms of racism against one another, he suggests Muslim and Jewish minorities have a clear and pressing rationale for collaborating and tackling both together.
Taking an historical and comparative perspective, Raymond Taras’ article Mapping the Politics of Fear across Europe traces forms of racisms and phobias that are directed at ethnic and religious groups, alerting us to the linkages between a variety of forms of fear perpetrated as well as experienced by religious groups, including antisemitism, Islamophobia, xenophobia and Orthodoxophobia. The latter is less well recognised, but Taras argues that whilst religious identity is often submerged beneath the denigration of cultural and ethnic identities, the pattern of negative associations with Eastern Orthodoxy warrants greater attention.
Image of Tell Mama reporting campaign poster included with the kind permission of Tell Mama: http://tellmamauk.org/