New research shows religious discrimination is on the rise around the world, including in Australia, writes Professor Nicholas Aroney. Source: The Conversation.
There is a theory that despite all the commotion, religious freedom faces no significant threat in Western democracies like Australia. Therefore, the argument goes, we do not need a federal Religious Discrimination Act.
A major international study challenges this idea. Jonathan Fox, from Israel’s Bar-Ilan University, has undertaken a painstaking analysis of the incidence of religious discrimination around the world.
Fox, a professor of religion and politics, recently published the results in a new book, Thou Shalt Have No Other Gods Before Me.
His conclusions are startling. They are also very concerning. And Australia is not exempt from his penetrating analysis.
Fox writes that while many assume the liberal democracies of the West are the strongest bastions of religious freedom in the world, the evidence simply does not support this claim.
For a start, he points out Western democracies such as France, Germany and Switzerland engage in more government-based religious discrimination than many countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America.
He also singles out Australia as a clear example of the recent rise of “socially-based” discrimination against religious minorities in Western democracies, especially against Jews and Muslims.
Fox’s research highlights why an Australian Religious Discrimination Act is needed, to help address these issues in a principled manner, premised on the standards articulated in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Nicholas Aroney is Professor of Constitutional Law, The University of Queensland.