Britain does not have any written laws that protect the rights to religious freedom; however Britain is bound by international laws, the most important of which is the European Convention of Human Rights. Under article 9 the rights of religion are protected.
European Convention of Human Rights
- Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief, in worship, teaching, practice and observance.
- Freedom to manifest one’s religion or beliefs shall be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of public safety, for the protection of public order, health or morals, or the protection of rights and freedoms of others.
The Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003 was a new law introduced by the labour government to comply with the EU. This regulation makes any discrimination direct or indirect towards any individual on the grounds of religion unlawful.
In French Law – Article 10 of the Declarations of the Rights of Man in the French constitution, which states “no one shall be disquieted on account of his opinions, including his religious views, provided their manifestation does not disturb the public order established by law;”
And Article 9 of the European Convention of Human Rights, which states: “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief, in worship, teaching, practice and observance.”
The Niqab and hijab is NOT a religious symbol, it is an ACT OF WORSHIP. This is very important to remember, because if it is an act of faith, it will render the ban in breach of the human rights laws that protect the expression of religious belief.
According to International Human Rights law, specifically Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) the freedom to manifest religion and belief individually or with others is protected and considered fundamental to freedom of expression. Article 26 of the ICCPR outlines the right to non discrimination on the grounds of religion.
Article 20 of the ICCPR states that international human rights law protects people against the promotion of religious hatred which amounts to incitement of discrimination, hostility or violence. (These bans in France and Belgium can be seen as a way to incite religious hatred, as it demonises the Niqab and thus everybody who wears it, making them targets of hostile attention.