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Discrimination on the basis of religion and belief or WHAT IS IT?

Discrimination is the unjustifiable or unequal treatment of people by representatives of state or any other individual or party who maintains any particular power or competence over them. It is the responsibility of state institutions to oversee relations between different groups incorporated in their state and that none of these groups is discriminated against on the basis of religious beliefs or non-belief.

Who can discriminate?

The state can discriminate through its representatives, officials and clerks, police and customs officers, prison guards, judges, prosecutors etc.

Also a person can discriminate that is in a position of power over others or has a competence to make influential decisions. This can be demonstrated by a doctor deciding upon surgery or rehabilitation procedures, a clerk from self-government proposing a civic request at the town representation meeting, an employee of an insurance company informing a policy holder about rights resulting from insurance, or a teacher disregarding a student’s grade.

A public service provider can also discriminate, including for example an owner of an occupational agency or a private social service facility.

An employer can discriminate against a new employee, or a senior employee deciding on benefits or promotion of his/her subordinates may be partial.

A colleague can discriminate against colleagues at work by mocking, humiliating, traducing, or inciting to act discriminatory. While in employment, people share the environment, communicate together, and results of their work efforts often depend on cooperation with others.

The inevitable condition, which has to be met before we claim discrimination, is that the one who discriminates has to have power or has to be in a position to make influential decisions, provide service or sell goods to others, or be involved in closed environment relations where people depend on one another.

Is discrimination the same as intolerance?

Discrimination is not the same as intolerance. If two neighbors, for example, hate each other, from which one is a young woman and the other is a retired man, they may act against one another because she perhaps listens to loud music until late at night, and he may burn his lawn just as his neighbor is having picnic in the garden. This is not discrimination but neighbor intolerance. Such conflict can be very serious and possibly end up in court, but it would not be considered a case of discrimination, as neighbors are in their relations equal and they do not depend upon each other.

When students write anti-Semitic slogans on town walls promoting hatred and intolerance, it is a disrespectful and unlawful act. However, when a child is harassed by schoolmates for having Jewish origin and a teacher or the school principal is not capable of handling such a situation, neither stopping nor preventing it, this is discrimination. This is demonstrated in the part of the harassing schoolmates as much as in the part of the inability of the school to insure the safety of the Jewish child.

When a group of skinheads intrudes upon a religious event in the Muslim community, attacks and hurts its community members and dishonors the Muslim sanctuary with profane paintings of the prophet Mohammed, a crime is committed against religious belief. Further, if the police, inspector, or judge deems the act simply as a misdemeanor violating public order and the offenders then get away with minimal punishment, it is a well-founded reason to claim discrimination against the Muslim community because the state is unable and/or unwilling to ensure religious freedom for some portion of its population.

The state has an obligation to protect its people against displays of intolerance and violence, as well as secure the realization of basic rights and freedoms for all people without unlawful restrictions on the part of others. If a state fails to keep its obligations towards a particular group in the population, then a claim of discrimination can be made.

Discrimination is thus the unjustified unequal treatment unfavorable to the concerning party.

There are, however, examples where unequal treatment on the part of the state or private persons is reasoned and indispensable in a particular situation. Such distinctively different treatment is not considered discriminatory.

For instance, if an evangelic church organizes a day camp for children from the evangelic community and there is a bid for camp counselors, the church has a right to require candidates to have congruent religious affiliation and therefore even an atheistic candidate who is otherwise qualified cannot claim a case of discrimination. Why? Because the prerequisite of religion or affiliation to a particular religion is required and reasonable.