Prejudice and discrimination

Prejudice and discrimination are attitudes and resulting actions that cause people to be treated differently. Many Muslims today actively fight against prejudice and discrimination in all its forms.

What does this mean in practice?

The Qur'an teaches Muslims to respect the rights of individuals, and political freedom is one of these rights.

However, prejudice and discrimination do exist in the Islamic world.

There are issues of inequality between men and women in some Muslim countries and communities. These inequalities may be cultural rather than religious. An example of cultural differences is found in Saudi Arabia where women are discouraged from driving and are not allowed to vote.

Although there may be cultural differences, all men and women have the same religious duties in Islam.

Muslims are required to dress and live in a modest way but there is much discussion about the different dress rules regarding men and women. One viewpoint is that the different requirements over dress between men and women may lead to some prejudice and discrimination.

  • Many Muslim women wear a hijab or veil to protect their modesty. Not all Muslim women choose to do this. In the UK this is matter of choice and there is much discussion about the significance of wearing the hijab in British society.
  • Some Muslim women wear a niqab or a burka. Not all Muslim women choose to do this. In the UK this is a matter of choice.
  • Men have no requirement to dress in this way.

Some Islamic states enforce the wearing of religious garments like the hijab, the headscarf which covers a woman's head. In these countries a number of women have been attacked for not wearing the hijab.

In most Western countries Muslim women are free to choose how they want to dress, but some governments are opposed to certain garments. In April 2011, the French government took the decision to outlaw covering the face in public, effectively banning Muslim women from wearing the burka in public places.

Muslim responses to prejudice and discrimination

Muslim responses to prejudice and discrimination can be demonstrated through the voices of individuals, groups, societies and the law:

  • Following arson attacks on mosques in the UK, Baroness Warsi stated that more should be done to combat bigotry against Muslims in Britain. She argued that such prejudice is increasingly seen as socially acceptable.
  • In 2013 the Muslim Council of Great Britain welcomed the decision by the British Government to increase police patrols at Islamic sites following Islamophobic activity.

Yusuf Islam

Yusuf Islam is a famous Muslim working to promote peace and tolerance. Once a successful musician and singer known as Cat Stevens, he converted to Islam in 1977.

Islam abandoned his musical career to concentrate on charitable works, aiming to build bridges between communities. He became involved with the creation of Muslim Aid and founded his own charity Small Kindness.

After 27 years he began writing music again and much of his work now expresses Islamic teachings. He has won critical acclaim for his work, explaining that:

There is a great deal of ignorance in the world about Islam today, and we hope to communicate with the help of something more refined than lectures and talks. Our recordings are particularly appealing to the young, having used songs as well as Qur'an verses with pleasing sound effects.Yusuf Islam
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