Muslims and the Human Rights Act: A new beginning or new excuses?

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The IHRC welcomes the implementation of the Human Rights Act in the UK, starting Monday October 2, 2000.

 

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Islamic Human Rights Commission
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PRESS RELEASE

For immediate release
27th September 2000

UK / Human Rights

Muslims and the Human Rights Act


The Islamic Human Rights Commission welcomes the implementation of the Human Rights Act, starting Monday October 2, 2000. Its enshrinement into British law of basic principles, such as the right to religious expression, education regardless of religious affiliation and protection from discrimination on the grounds of inter alia race, culture and religion, are provisos long overdue.

IHRC's report, 'Anti-Muslim Discrimination & Hostility in the UK, 2000'[1] identified from its two year survey that 45% of Muslims had experienced some form of hostility or discrimination because of their faith. Its qualitative research showed time and again that even when victims took legal action to seek redress, they were discriminated against by the legal system itself. From employment and education to immigration and health services, IHRC can cite case after case of prejudice and hostility leading to the exclusion of Muslims from mainstream life - regardless of whether they adhere to the faith or not. Home Office Minister Mike O'Brien speaking at the report's launch stated categorically that this form of prejudice is unacceptable. The question remains - will the Human Rights Act address any of these issues?

Needless to say, IHRC is deeply worried that the Act does NOT incorporate the right to an effective remedy, as outlined in Article 13 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Home Secretary Jack Straw's comments in March this year that independent schools and public bodies should not fear the Act are also unhelpful. His contention that human rights are not absolute, increase IHRC's worries that, like its predecessors the Act will be interpreted in a discriminatory manner by the same judicial system that has interpreted Muslims out of the equation as far as equal opportunities and civil rights are concerned. There is no better example than the Race Relations Act of 1976 which in practice protects only two religious groups and therefore discriminates against others, including Muslims.

The British Muslim Community has been increasingly disenfranchised and marginalized, and IHRC hopes the Act will open avenues of redress to a community that has faced discrimination in almost every sphere of life. IHRC currently has a number of cases, which if pursued through legal channels will become test cases.

The full text on 'Anti-Muslim Discrimination & Hostility in the UK, 2000' can be downloaded from our website: www.ihrc.org in .pdf format. Chapter 6 deals with the anomalies of the current legal system and the potentialities of the Human Rights Act.

For more information, please call the Press Office on (+44) 208 902 0888, mobile (+44) 958 522 196, e-mail: ihrc@dial.pipex.com.



[1] Launched in the House of Lords in February

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IHRC, PO Box 598, Wembley, HA9 7XH, UK
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