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The influence of religions may become even stronger when nations adopt a state religion or religious ideology. In such situations, religion and religious arguments may become confused with the political, economic or social reasoning. The extent to which freedom of thought, conscience and religion allow distinctive practices of a community of believers to diverge from those of the rest of the society is often debated within the human rights community.

Examples of this include attitudes towards women in religious leadership positions, traditional ceremonies involving children, laws surrounding marriage, divorce or burial, prohibition on the depiction of divine beings or other religious figures, and so on. Ascribe not to any soul that which thou wouldst not have ascribed to thee, and say not that which thou doest not.

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In such contexts, the human rights bodies would criticise harmful practices, regardless of whether they were traditionally condoned by particular cultures, nations or religions. Such criticism is not an attack on culture, nationality or religion but an attempt to strike a balance between the right to one's religions and belief and other human rights, since several of these practices can result in serious human rights abuse.

Harmful traditional practices include female genital mutilation, son-preference which can manifest itself in sex-selective abortion, failing to care for newborn girls, discrimination in education in favour of sons, discrimination in nutrition , arranged or forced marriages, marriage of children, dowry-related crimes and crimes justified by "honour", exclusion or limitation of some rights of non-adherents to a more powerful religious group in a given community, segregation according to religious lines, and so on.

Such practices disproportionately affect women and children: invoking tradition is used to justify discrimination on the basis of gender and age. Furthermore, in several cases, situations which, from a human rights perspective, are a violation of human dignity, remain unrecognised, taboo and unpunished. Few of these practices are based on religious precepts; the fact that they are deeply anchored in culture and tradition do not make ending them any easier. Changes have to come through legislative change, education and empowerment.

Throughout history, religions have played a crucial role in imposing limitations on human action in order to protect the physical and psychological integrity or dignity of other people. Yet, even though religious philosophies have contributed to the development of a conscience of human rights and dignity, the human rights related to religion and belief are no more exempt from the tensions and contradictions that are present in human rights instruments, than are other rights.

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As seen in the case of harmful traditional practices, sometimes convictions or beliefs are used to justify outright physical harm with severe health consequences. Religious intolerance can be observed at different levels: among adherents of the same religion intra-religious intolerance ; between one religion or religious attitude and another, manifesting itself in various forms of conflicts between persons and groups of persons inter-religious intolerance ; in the form of confrontational atheism or confrontational theism, which are intolerant of free choice and practice of other religions or belief commitments; or in the form of anti-secularism.

Religious intolerance is often confused with xenophobia and other forms of discrimination; sometimes it is also used to justify discrimination. Most human rights violations related to freedom of religion and belief are also related to freedom from discrimination. Discrimination on the grounds of religion and belief is contrary to human rights but it is nonetheless experienced daily by many people across Europe.

The fact that religion and belief are often confused with culture, nationality and ethnicity makes it more complicated but also more painful on an individual level: you may be discriminated against on the grounds of religious affiliation even if you happen not to believe in the religion you are associated with.

Discrimination and intolerance impact negatively on society as a whole, and particularly on young people who experience it. Such effects include:. Religious intolerance is also used to feed hatred in, and to contribute to, armed conflicts, not so much because it is the cause of conflict but because religious belonging is used to draw dividing lines, as armed conflicts in the Balkans and Caucasus demonstrate.

The consequences of international terrorism and the "wars on terrorism" have been particularly devastating in Europe and beyond, notably because religious intolerance becomes mixed with xenophobia and racism. No single social group, religion or community has the monopoly of discrimination. Even though the levels of protection of the freedom of religion and belief vary significantly across the member states of the Council of Europe, religious intolerance and discrimination affects everyone in Europe. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

Saint Paul.


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Of particular concern in several European countries is the rise of Islamophobia, the fear and hatred of Islam, resulting in discrimination against Muslims or people associated with Islam. Islam is the most widespread religion in Europe after Christianity and the majority religion in various member states of the Council of Europe. The hostility towards Islam as a religion and to Muslim people, particularly following the "wars on terror", has revealed deep-rooted prejudices against Muslims in many European societies.

These are all the world's major religions in one map

With the perception of the religion of Islam as being associated only with terrorism and extremism, Islamophobia has contributed to negative views of Islam and Muslims, wrongly generalising militant religious extremism and ultra-conservatism onto all Muslim countries and Muslim people. This intolerance and stereotyped view of Islam has manifested itself in a number of ways, ranging from verbal or written abuse of Muslim people, discrimination at schools and workplaces, and psychological harassment or pressure, to outright violent attacks on mosques and individuals, especially women who wear headscarves.

Like other victims of discrimination grounded on religious affiliation, discrimination against Muslims may overlap with other forms of discrimination and xenophobia, such as anti-immigrant sentiments, racism and sexism. Six recurring prejudices about Muslims All the same: Muslims are seen as all being much the same as each other, regardless of their nationality, social class and political outlook, and of whether they are observant in their beliefs and practice.

All are motivated by religion: It is thought that the single most important thing about Muslims, in all circumstances, is their religious faith. So, if Muslims engage in violence, for example, it is assumed that this is because their religion advocates violence.

Totally "other": Muslims are seen as totally "other": they are seen as having few if any interests, needs or values in common with people who do not have a Muslim background. Culturally and morally inferior: Muslims are seen as culturally and morally inferior and prone to being irrational and violent, intolerant in their treatment of women, contemptuous towards world views different from their own, and hostile and resentful towards "the West" for no good reason. Threat: Muslims are seen as a security threat, in tacit or open sympathy with international terrorism and bent on the "Islamisation" of the countries where they live.

Co-operation is impossible: As a consequence of the previous five perceptions, it is claimed that there is no possibility of active partnership between Muslims and people with different religious or cultural backgrounds. Christianophobia refers to every form of discrimination and intolerance against some or all Christians, the Christian religion, or the practice of Christianity.

Like other forms of discrimination based on religion, the perpetrators may be people from other religions — often the majority religions — as much as secular institutions. Hostility against Christians manifests itself in attacks against places of worship, verbal abuse and, particularly in countries where Christians are a minority, restrictions on building and sometimes preserving churches or monasteries.

Particularly worrying is the rise in attacks against Christians in the Middle East. A recommendation of the Parliamentary Assembly on this matter calls, amongst other things, for the need to "raise awareness about the need to combat all forms of religious fundamentalism and the manipulation of religious beliefs for political reasons, which are so often the cause of present day terrorism. Education and dialogue are two important tools that could contribute towards the prevention of such evils" 8. Question: Have you ever experienced any bias towards you because of your religion or belief? How did you react?

As you would have people do to you, do to them; and what you dislike to be done to you, don't do to them. Prophet Mohammed. Antisemitism — hostility towards Jews as a religious or minority group often accompanied by social, economic, and political discrimination — is an example of the combination of racism and religious discrimination. Even though the direct targets of antisemitism are Jewish people, the motivation for discrimination and violence is not necessarily based on Judaism as a religion but on Jews as a people.

Reports from human rights organisations regularly state an alarming rise in the number of antisemitic attacks accompanied, in some countries, by the rise of openly antisemitic speech in the political arena. Events include attacks against Jewish schools, "while Jewish pupils were assaulted, harassed, and injured in growing numbers on their way to and from school or in the classroom, including by their classmates. Educators report that the term "Jew" has become a popular swearword among youngsters. In its Recommendation No.

Religious intolerance and discrimination is not limited to Antisemitism, Christianophobia or Islamophobia.

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Among the many forms of discrimination is the non-recognition of some religions and the difference of treatment between them. Religions and systems of belief can thus be banned, persecuted or closely controlled because of their alleged "sectarian" nature or their irrelevance on the grounds of being "insignificant". It is important to recall that freedom of religion and belief includes the right to change religion and the right not to adhere to, or declare, a religion.

Question: What happens if you decide to adopt a religion different from your family and community? One should never do that to another which one regards as injurious to one's own self. This, in brief, is the rule of dharma.


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Brihaspati, Mahabharata. Despite the growing and widespread manifestations of religious intolerance, it is important to bear in mind that religion and human rights are perfectly compatible and that only a human rights framework can secure freedom of religion and belief for all.

The history of Europe is, indeed, full of examples of violence and barbarity in the name of religion. These acts have been and are being committed by men and women, not commanded by religious precepts, but by people. Fortunately, the history and the reality of our world is also a living evidence of the optimism of religious diversity: no single society is mono-religious and no single system of thought has ever prevailed, even under the most extreme forms of totalitarianism.

Furthermore, the examples of people accepting each other despite religious difference, and often united in diversity, are many more than those of intolerance. The Council of Europe, White Paper on Intercultural Dialogue "Living Together as Equals in Dignity" recognises that a range of religious and secular conceptions of life have enriched the cultural heritage of Europe and notes the importance of inter-religious, intra-religious and other dialogue for the promotion of understanding between different cultures.

These are all the world's major religions in one map | World Economic Forum

It also emphasises that the Council of Europe "would remain neutral towards the various religions whilst defending the freedom of thought, conscience and religion, the rights and duties of all citizens, and the respective autonomy of state and religions". A number of events organised under the All Different — All Equal campaign in developed recommendations and action plans for promoting inter-religious dialogue in European youth work, including the Istanbul Youth Declaration on Inter-Religious and Intercultural Dialogue in Youth Work 12 , and the Kazan Action Plan All of these documents stress the crucial role of young people and youth organisations in contributing to the change towards religious tolerance.

The sphere of education may be a platform for tensions of human rights related to religion and belief, as in cases where the educational content has been criticised as limiting the freedom of religion and belief, or in cases where religious symbols used by schools or by students have resulted in conflicts.

At the same time, education is also one of the most important spheres of life where stereotypes and prejudices can be counteracted. Norway Parents successfully appealed to the court in Strasbourg to avoid mandatory religious classes of one particular denomination of Christianity.

The cultural evolution of prosocial religions.

The court found that the state was in violation of Article 2 of Protocol no. In the exercise of any functions which it assumes in relation to education and to teaching, the State shall respect the right of parents to ensure such education and teaching in conformity with their own religious and philosophical convictions". Lautsi v. Italy Ms Lautsi's children attended a state school where all the classrooms had a crucifix on the wall, which she considered contrary to the principle of secularism by which she wished to bring up her children.

She complained before the Court that this was in breach of Article 9 freedom of thought, conscience and religion and of Article 2 of Protocol No. The Court found no violation; it held in particular that the question of religious symbols in classrooms was, in principle, a matter falling within the margin of appreciation of the state, provided that decisions in that area did not lead to a form of indoctrination and there was nothing to suggest that the authorities were intolerant of pupils who believed in other religions, were non-believers or who held non-religious philosophical convictions.

Ercep v. Turkey This case concerned the refusal by the applicant, a Jehovah's Witness and conscientious objector, to perform military service for reasons of conscience and his successive convictions for that reason. The Court found a violation of Article 9 and a violation of Article 6 right to a fair trial. It invited Turkey to enact legislation concerning conscientious objectors and to introduce an alternative form of service. The Framework Convention on the Protection of National Minorities also protects religion as an element of the identity of minorities, "The Parties undertake to promote the conditions necessary for persons belonging to national minorities to maintain and develop their culture, and to preserve the essential elements of their identity, namely their religion, language, traditions and cultural heritage" Article 5 and prohibits forced assimilation.

Nothing which breathes, which exists, which lives, or which has essence or potential of life, should be destroyed or ruled over, or subjugated, or harmed, or denied of its essence or potential. Just as sorrow or pain is not desirable to you, so it is to all which breathe, exist, live or have any essence of life. Acaranga Sutra. Students can also explore topics such as the relationship between religions and science, and the place of religious ethics in public life.

Your typical weekly timetable will be divided between one or two tutorials and up to six lectures each week. Throughout the course and particularly in your first year, you will attend at least three and often more language classes each week. A large part of your week will be spent in independent study to prepare for language classes and for tutorials. Tutorials are usually up to three students and a tutor. Seminar and language class sizes may vary depending on the options you choose or the language you are studying, but there would usually be no more than around 10 students and classes would often be smaller.

Lectures are normally around students.