The Equality & Human Rights Commission (EHRC) have today published the first edition of its ‘Religion or Belief E-Newsletter’. Included in this is a short review of the Islamophobia and religious discrimination symposium held at the University of Birmingham last December. The review is pasted below:

Islamophobia & Religious Discrimination: new perspectives, policies and practices

A symposium in December at the University of Birmingham – hosted by the Institute of Applied Social Studies (IASS) – brought together key individuals from the Department of Communities & Local Government, the Equality & Human Rights Commission, the Houses of Parliament, Birmingham City Council and the University of Birmingham amongst others, to consider the extent to which religious discrimination was on the rise and whether the current legislation and policies were working.

As well as hearing a number of challenging presentations, an audience of around 200 people – drawn from the public, private and third sectors along with different faith groups and those from community and grassroots organisations – put their own questions to the panel of experts. Sometimes resulting in heated debates, the event raised a number of issues that both experts and audience alike agreed warranted further exploration.

One of the speakers, Robin Richardson – a former director of race relations think tank Runnymede Trust and editor of the Trust’s ground-breaking report on anti-Muslim prejudice in 1997 – argued that there were still too many questions left unanswered. As he put it, ‘influential decision-makers need to think hard about what still needs to be done.’

Chris Allen, an IASS Research Fellow and convenor of the event, reminded the audience how prejudices and discrimination can easily become hostilities and hatreds that bring about tension, unrest and harm between different communities and religions: ‘If we want to ensure the future wellbeing of a cohesive multicultural, multi-faith Britain, then it is vital that we not only have more open discussion about these issues but so too do we need more evidence and more research.’

For more information about the event or IASS’s faith, ethnicity and migration research programmes, please contact Dr Chris Allen at c.allen.2@bham.ac.uk or on 0121 414 2703.

More information about the EHRC’s work on ‘religion or belief’ can be found here.

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