Prejudice and Discrimination

Quick revise

‘Prejudice’ means to pre-judge – so you have decided in advance what you think of someone or a group of people based simply on knowing a fact about them (e.g. they are elderly).

Discrimination is putting your prejudice into action.

Prejudice and discrimination usually come from ignorance, fear, upbringing and stereotyping. In the UK, discrimination because of race or gender is illegal. All religions teach against prejudice and discrimination.

Types of prejudice
  • Racism – judging someone because of their nationality or skin colour.
  • Sexism – judging someone because of their gender. This usually applies to the treatment of women.
  • Disability – disabled people sometimes feel that people judge them or discriminate against them.
  • Other types could include age, sexuality, social class and so on.
General Muslim beliefs
  • All humans are created equally. The great variety of Allah’s creation is shown in the difference in languages, colours, etc.
  • Differences in colour, tribe, race, traditions should not be used as an excuse for unjust treatment.
  • On Hajj, Muslims wear simple white garments to show they are all equal in the eyes of Allah.
  • The Ummah is emphasised – the worldwide community of Muslims from all over.
Specific Teachings

‘Mankind, we created you from a single pair of a male and a female, and made you into tribes and nations that you may know each other.’ (Qur’an, surah 49:13)

‘Allah does not look upon your outward appearance; he looks upon your hearts and your deeds.’ (Hadith)

Race

Muslims have often had prejudice against them through history. Muhammad (pbuh) had friends and followers from outside Arabia and he said that they were as entitled to attend the mosque as anyone else. Anyone may become a Muslim, no matter what their background.

From Muhammad’s (pbuh) final Hajj. ‘All of you descend from Adam and Adam was made of earth. There is no superiority for an Arab over a non-Arab nor for a non-Arab over an Arab, neither for a white man over a black man nor a black man over a white man.’

Gender
  • Within the Ummah, men and women are of equal status but have different roles.
  • Women cannot become imams in the mosque and either do not go or sit separately. They must bring up the children in their faith.
  • Although in some Muslim countries women are not given full rights, this is against the teachings of the Qur’an.

‘Whether male or female, whoever in faith does a good work for the sake of God will be granted a good life and rewarded with greater reward.’ (Qur’an, surah 16:97)

Muhammad (pbuh) said ‘Women have certain rights over you and you have certain rights over them. Treat them well and be kind to them for they are your partners and committed helpers.’ (Farewell speech)

He was once asked who deserved the best care, and replied, ‘Your mother, your mother, your mother, then your father and then your nearest relatives.’

What can Muslims do?
  • Support the work of ‘Muslims against Racism’ which campaigns in a non-violent way against discrimination.
  • Educate others, for example, educate non-Muslims about Muslim practices. This education might need to extend to the media, for example.
  • Ensure that people do not stereotype Muslims with extremists in the world by challenging the behaviour of those extremists.

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