Report: More than Half of Britons Have No Religion

More than half the British people admitted they have no religious adherence, revealed a new U.N. report published this week.

Unlike the 2001 National Census conducted by the United Kingdom – which said nearly 72 percent of the population is Christian – the 23-page U.N. report, published Thursday, showed that two-thirds of the population claims no religious affiliation, according to UK newspaper The Times.

The report by U.N. special rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, Asma Jahangir, called for the disestablishment of the Church of England because it no longer reflected "the religious demography of the country and the rising proportion of other Christian denominations." Jahangir contends the role and privileges of the Church of England should be challenged given the new statistics on the state of religion in the United Kingdom.

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The treatment of Muslims living in Britain and the government's battle against terrorism was another topic of focus in the report.

According to the report, there is an "overall respect for human rights and their value," but it cited research that shows 80 percent of Muslims in Britain feel they have been discriminated against. In particular, the report criticized a terrorism act that allows police in some areas to stop and search people without having to show reasonable suspicion, according to The Times.

From 2004 to 2006, there has been an 84 percent increase in searches of people with "Asian appearance" under this act, compared to an increase of 24 percent for white people, the report noted.

U.N. special rapporteur Jahangir, although a strong proponent in the belief that religion should not be given a lower priority than other rights, acknowledged in the report that some religious laws are "unacceptable." She said the argument by some Muslim leaders that their religious tradition should override the rights of women is "unacceptable."

Just a day before the report was published, the Archbishop of Canterbury also said some of the ways that Sharia laws were practiced were "appalling."

"What I was trying to say the other day is that Sharia law is a very, very wide-ranging scheme of legal understanding within historic Islam," the Archbishop said at a public lecture in Great St Mary's Church after being criticized for saying that some parts of Sharia could be integrated into the British legal system.

"It is rooted in the sense of doing God's will in the ordinary things of life," Williams said. "[But] in some of the ways it has been codified and practiced across the world, it has been appalling."

Williams specifically criticized the way the system applied to women in countries such as Saudi Arabia.

Jahangir, 55, was twice the chair of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan and was released from house arrest in Lahore in November. She has faced punishment under her own government for her outspoken human rights advocacy and for criticizing the government's human rights violations. Jahangir has been attacked by Islamic radicals for what they consider her liberal stance on religion.

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