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BEYOND BELIEF: Religion and Belief in Professional Practice Dr. Marie Macey Senior Research Fellow Centre for Applied S PowerPoint Presentation
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BEYOND BELIEF: Religion and Belief in Professional Practice Dr. Marie Macey Senior Research Fellow Centre for Applied S
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  1. BEYOND BELIEF: Religion and Belief in Professional Practice Dr. Marie Macey Senior Research Fellow Centre for Applied Social Research


  3. SOME IMPORTANT POINTS • There is a crucial distinction between religion and cultural definitions/ interpretations of religion. • The conflict between religion and human rights stems more from cultural than from religious beliefs. • However, this is not always the case – sometimes religious teaching itself constitutes an abuse of human rights. • My focus today is on two examples of abuses of human rights that are currently occurring in Britain: • one that stems from cultural beliefs which are actually in opposition to religious teaching (on marriage), and, • one that does rest on religious teaching (on sexual orientation).

  4. CULTURAL INTERPRETATIONS OF RELIGION AND HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES: FORCED MARRIAGE • It is important to be clear at the outset that none of the major world faiths condones force in relation to marriage – and Islam specifically condemns it. • Forced marriages occur in a number of minority ethnic and religious communities but are most common in those of Pakistani and Bangladeshi origin and Muslim faith (House of Commons Home Affairs Committee, 2008; Forced Marriage Unit, 2009a & b). • This is linked to migration and the desire to maintain (a) close family ties and (b) the culture and religion of the homeland. • This has resulted in the practice of transcontinental marriages, often between close family members (Macey, 2008). • The Muslim Arbitration Tribunal suggests that some form of coercion or force is involved in at least 70% of transcontinental marriages (MAT, 2008). • In addition to forced marriage, some ‘arranged’ marriages are ‘false’ in that they involve deception about aspects of one of the partners (UK Border Agency, 2007; Khanum, 2008).

  5. RELIGIOUS TEACHING AND HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES: HETERONORMATIVITY AND HOMOPHOBIA • All the major world faiths prohibit non-heterosexual relationships. • The strength of condemnation varies between religions and between denominations of those religions, e.g. Islamic teaching is more rigid than that of Christianity and Catholic teaching is more inflexible than that of Anglicanism (Macey, 2009; Macey, Carling & Furness, 2010; Macey & Carling, 2011). “God must be weeping looking at some of the atrocities that we commit against one another. In the face of all that, our Church, especially the Anglican Church, at this time is almost obsessed with questions of human sexuality.” (Archbishop Desmond Tutu, 2007) • Thus, religion contributes to the ideology that only heterosexuality is ‘normal’ and ‘acceptable’ in society and this results in abuse of the human rights of LGBT people in a number of ways, ranging from bullying, through social exclusion, to serious homophobic violence – up to and including murder (Crockett & Voas, 2003; Home Office, 2006; Hunt & Jensen, 2006; Hartnell, 2007; House of Commons Education and Skills Committee, 2007). • Some lesbians and gay men are forced into heterosexual marriages (Raz, 2006; Roald, 2001; Yip, 2002a, 2004).

  6. RELIGION AND BELIEF IN PROFESSIONAL PRACTICE (1) How have professionals responded to human rights abuses linked to religion or belief? General • To date, such professionals as doctors, the police, social workers and teachers have been reluctant to intervene in so-called ‘community affairs’ (Mahoney & Taj, 2006; Raz, 2006; Brandon & Hafez, 2008). Forced Marriage • The police have sometimes refused to take seriously young women’s reports of forced marriage and associated threats of violence. They have also treated women fleeing forced marriages as teenage runaways and returned them home (Allen, 2008). • Teachers have been tricked into making contact with escapees and thus enabling their families to track them down (Khanum, 2008). • Social Workers have seen family mediation as an appropriate way of dealing with forced marriage (Khanum, 2008). • Doctors have reported violence against women to families and to community leaders (Puri, 2005). All these actions have resulted in a number of women being murdered.

  7. RELIGION AND BELIEF IN PROFESSIONAL PRACTICE (2) Heterosexism and Homophobia • In the 12 months up to January 2006, the Metropolitan Police recorded 1,359 incidents of homophobic hate crime, but estimate that as much as 90% of such crime goes unreported (Home Office, 2006). • Stonewall’s national survey of 2,656 LGBT people found that 2/3 had been victims of at least one homophobic incident (National Advisory Group, 1999). • Over 90% of the respodents in Yip and Keenan’s survey of lesbian and gay Christians believed that religion contributes to homophobia by limiting the expression of sexuality to heterosexual marriage (Yip, 2002b). • The extent of reported homophobic bullying in schools is 30-50% relative to 10-20% of other kinds of bullying (House of Commons Education and Skills Committee, 2007). • In secular schools, 65% of children experience homophobic bullying, but this rises to 75% in faith schools (Hunt & Jensen, 2006). • 62% of children in faith schools who reported homophobic bullying to teachers said that this is ignored, that 50% of teachers do not respond when they hear homophobic language and that many teachers join in ‘the joke’ (Hartnell, 2007).

  8. WHY HAVE PROFESSIONAL PRACTITIONERS FAILED TO TAKE ACTION (OR TAKEN INAPPROPRIATE ACTION)AGAINST HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES IN ETHNO-RELIGIOUS COMMUNITIES? The Muslim women reported in Mahoney and Taj (2006) suggested: • Fear of being accused of racism. • Treating culture as constituting mitigation for violence against women. • Failing to understand the impact of izzat [honour]on women. • Allowing ‘political correctness’ to take precedence over women’s, children’s and young people’s human rights. To these suggestions, I would add: • Fear of being accused of Islamophobia. • The dominance of an ideology (in academia, central and local government, and the professions) which prohibits any suggestion that bad behaviour takes place in minority as well as majority communities – Afshar’s ‘conspiracy of silence’ (1994). • Ignorance and essentialism. • Denial? Lack of concern/care? Prejudice?


  10. REFERENCES (1) Afshar, H. (1994) ‘Muslim Women in West Yorkshire: Growing up with Real and Imaginary Values amidst Conflicting Views of Self and Society’, in H. Afshar and M. Maynard [eds] The Dynamics of Race and Gender: Some Feminist Interventions, London: Taylor & Francis. Allen, S. (2008) in P. Sawyer, ‘Forced Marriage Victims Betrayed by Doctors’, The Telegraph, 29 June. Brandon, J. and Hafez, S. (2008) Crimes of the Community: Honour-Based Violence in the U.K., London: Centre for Social Cohesion. Crockett, A. and Voas, D. (2003) ‘A Divergence of Views: Attitude Change and the Religious Crisis over Homosexuality’, Sociological Research Online, 8 (4), Forced Marriage Unit (2009a) Draft Multi-Agency Practice Guidelines: Handling Cases of Forced Marriage, London: FMU. Forced Marriage Unit (2009b) What is a Forced Marriage? [Guidance for LGBT Young People] London: FMU. Hartnell, S. (2007) Tackling Hate Crime, Schools Out. Home Office (2006) Tackling Hate Crime: Homophobic Hate Crime, London: Home Office. House of Commons Education and Skills Committee (2007) Bullying, London: The Stationery Office. House of Commons Home Affairs Committee (2008) Domestic Violence, Forced Marriage and ‘Honour’-Based Violence, London: The Stationery Office. Hunt, R. and Jensen, J. (2006) The School Report: The Experiences of Young Gay People in Britain’s Schools, Survey by the Schools Health Education Unit, London: Stonewall. Khanum, N. (2008) Forced Marriage, Family Cohesion and Community Engagement: National Learning Through a Case Study of Luton, Luton: Equality in Diversity. Macey, M. (2008) ‘Transcontinental Marriages between British and Pakistani Citizens: Arranged or Forced?’ Pakistan Journal of Women’s Studies, 15 (2): 1-28. Macey, M. (2009) Multiculturalism, Religion and Women: Doing Harm By Doing Good? Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

  11. REFERENCES Macey, M., Carling, A.H. and Furness, S. (2010) The Power of Belief? Review of the Evidence on Religion or Belief and Equalities in Great Britain. Bradford, University of Bradford, http://hdl. Macey, M. and Carling, A. (2011) Ethnic, Racial and Religious Inequalities: The Perils of Subjectivity, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. Muslim Arbitration Tribunal (2008) Liberation from Forced Marriage, London: MAT. Mahoney, M. and Taj, S. (2006) Muslim Women Talk Wales: Saheli Project Report, Cardiff: Welsh Assembly Government National Advisory Group (1999) Puri, S. (2005) ‘Rhetoric v. Reality: The Effect of “Multiculturalism” on Doctors’ Responses to Battered South Asian Women in the United States and Britain’, Patterns of Prejudice, 39 (4): 416-30. Raz, A. (2006) She Who Disputes: Muslim Women Shape the Debate, London: Muslim Women’s Network Roald, A. (2001) Women in Islam: The Western Experience, London: Routledge. Tutu, D. [Archbishop] (2007) ‘Williams Should Tackle Anglican Homophobia, says Desmond Tutu’, Ekklesia, 19 November, UK Border Agency (2007) Marriage Visas: Pre-Entry English Requirements for Spouses: Consultation Paper, London: UK Border Agency. Yip, A.K.T. (2002a) A Minority within a Minority: British Non-heterosexual Muslims. End of Award Report, Swindon: ESRC. Yip, A.K.T. (2002b) ‘The Persistence of Faith among Non-heterosexual Christians’ Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 41 (2): 199-212. Yip, A.K.T. (2004) ‘Negotiating Space with Family and Kin in Identity Construction: The Narratives of British Non-heterosexual Muslims’, Sociological Review, 2 (3): 336-50. Yip, A.K.T. and Keenan, M. (2004) ‘By Name United, by Sex Divided: A Brief Analysis of the Current Crisis Facing the Anglican Communion’, Sociological Research Online, 9 (1).