Religious bias 'on increase'

Hostility, abuse and discrimination towards Muslims and Hindus is increasing, a report commissioned by the Home Office revealed yesterday.

They experience unfair treatment in every aspect of education, employment, housing, law and order and local government services, the study by the University of Derby showed.

Organisations representing the religions said hostility and violence remained "very real" concerns. The study, Religious Discrimination in England and Wales, found that most Muslim and Hindu respondents said hostility, verbal abuse, and unfair media coverage had become more frequent in recent years.

Muslim organisations reported more unfair treatment than other religious groups. Pagans and people from new religious movements also complained of open hostility and discrimination, and of being labelled child abusers and cults.

The report suggested some changes in the law might be needed to send the "right message" about discrimination.

"The idea of legislation of some kind received most support from Muslim organisations and interviewees from ethnic minorities."

Mike O'Brien, the Home Office minister, said: "The findings reveal that there is a consensus among all faiths that there is ignorance and lack of respect for religion and religious identity."

He said the research would be used to take practical steps to tackle religious discrimination.