Regulating Diversity in Europe

Posted on September 26, 2007

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Islam and the European Project

Kathleen Cavanaugh, National University of Ireland, Galway

There exists a limited pluralist model of regulating or `managing’ religious diversity in contemporary Europe. This pluralist model, however, is in contrast to the limitations that appear at the state level, which reflect an increasingly illiberal, secular Europe. Such contrast stems historically from tensions that exist between the national and transnational aspects of the model itself, but it also reflects the emerging debates on religious pluralism and the democratic state. With the settlement of post-colonial migrants (with Muslims constituting a large majority) a public debate on the role of religion in Europe has resurfaced as these communities exist outside the historical formation of Western church-state relations and are challenging the very underpinning of what comprises a `liberal’ democratic state. In particular, it is the role of Islam in secular Europe that frames several questions in this debate: to what extent is it necessary to regulate religious freedoms in the `public sphere’ in order to protect the democratic state? What restrictions on minority religions should be considered `necessary in a democratic society’ and what limitations should be placed on state interference in minority religions as protection against the undue influence of a dominant social group? Against this backdrop, this article explores the historical social formation of religious pluralism in the European context and examines the legal and political frameworks at the national and regional levels to `regulate’ diversity.

 Please click here to download the above article from the Muslim World Journal of Human Rights.

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