Tag Archives: Comparative Law and Religion

Janssen, “Faith in Public Debate”

In April, Intersentia published “Faith in Public Debate: On Freedom of Expression, Hate Speech and Religion in France and The Netherlands,” by Esther Janssen (University of Amsterdam).  The publisher’s description follows: 

Should a politician be free to fiercely attack the religion of a sector of the population? Should he be allowed to strongly reject the culture of a
 particular minority group? Should religious adherents be allowed to advocate the transition from a democratic to a theocratic state? Should a satirical magazine be free to mock religious figures and practices? These sort of questions concern ‘the place of faith in public debate’ and continue to dominate public discussion that has been fuelled by a series of events, including the terrorist attacks in New York, Madrid and London; the assassination of Dutch film director Theo van Gogh; the affair of the Danish Cartoons; the prosecution of Dutch politician Geert Wilders for his statements on Islam and Muslims; and the terrorist attack on French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris.

The overarching question triggered by these events concerns the relationship between freedom of expression and the regulation of ‘hate speech’; which forms of hate speech should the state prohibit, on what grounds and by which means? Notably, the restriction of hate speech uttered in the context of the public debate about multiculturalism, immigration, integration and Islam, and of religious fundamentalism has become a topic of lively discussion.

This research constitutes the first international comparative study that provides a profound analysis of the law on hate speech in France and the Netherlands and under European and international law. It thoroughly examines the national legislation, its drafting history, policy and other legal documents and case law including famous legal cases against Dutch politician Geert Wilders, French politician Jean-Marie Le Pen and le Front National, French comedian Dieudonné and satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. It also makes reference to the most recent international hate speech literature and discusses its key issues. This book can, thereby, form a source of inspiration for anyone interested or involved in the regulation of hate speech: academics; legislators; judges; prosecutors; politicians; interested citizens; and involved NGO’s and can contribute to the ‘faith in public debate’, by elucidating its possible boundaries.

Greece and the Price of Europe

Alexis Tsipras, head of the anti-bailout Syriza party, speaks during a financial conference in Athens on Tuesday, Dec. 2, 2014.  Tsipras said that Greece’s battered economy could not recover unless the money owed to other Eurozone country’s was cut significantly. The leader of Greece’s popular left-wing opposition says he will demand a massive debt haircut from bailout lenders if his party comes to power in a possible snap election early next year. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

(AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

Last week was a momentous one for the European project. On Monday, the Greek Parliament passed an austerity package that other Eurozone members, especially Germany, had demanded as a condition for considering Greece’s request for an €86 bailout. Negotiations will now begin. How they will end is anybody’s guess.  No one thinks the austerity package itself will solve the economic crisis Greece faces, and pretty much everyone thinks it will lead to years of misery for the nation. Greece already owes creditors an unsustainable €320 billion. But Germany argues that EU rules prohibit any debt reduction for Greece. Perhaps the parties will find a way to extend Greek payments without calling it a debt reduction. I’m sure the lawyers are working on it.

There is plenty of blame to go around. Yes, Greece misled people about the state of its finances when it joined the euro and has spent beyond its means. And the left-wing Syriza government greatly misjudged the mood in Europe and allowed itself to be completely outmaneuvered. But the banks that made the loans should have known Greece was in no position to pay. Having collected their commissions, they passed the debts to national governments–privatized gains and socialized losses–and walked away. As for those national governments, they should have known a common currency without a common fiscal policy was an unworkable proposition. They ignored this truth in pursuit of the illusion of a common Europe, extending from Scandinavia to the Mediterranean and from the Atlantic to the Black Sea. Greece is now paying the price for that illusion.

All this has been said before. But I’d like to draw attention to a small element of the austerity package Greece’s creditors demanded, one that has largely escaped notice. Under the terms of the package, in order to stimulate commerce, Greece will have to repeal its restrictions on Sunday store openings. From now on, nationwide, Sunday will be a shopping day. (Two years ago, Athens allowed Sunday shopping in 10 tourist areas, a move that led to protests). Presumably, Greeks will respond by buying and selling and generally growing their economy. The increased tax revenues will allow Greece to pay some of its debt. And repeal of anti-liberal Sunday closing laws will allow Greece to create a rational European economy, like Germany’s—though, ironically, German stores are closed Sundays.

We Americans are likely to view this matter as trivial. In America, as Robert Louis Wilken once wrote, the only thing that distinguishes Sunday from other days of the week is that the malls open a little later. Besides, a country can’t be pre-modern forever. Sunday closing laws are hopelessly old-fashioned and illiberal. If Greeks want to stay home on Sundays, they can; but people should be able to shop if they want to.  Resistance probably comes from interest groups that oppose free competition.

But Greece isn’t America or Germany, or at least it didn’t want to be, and the reform is indicative of a larger issue. The Sunday closing laws reflected the fact that Greece had values in addition to the market. Greece has had a tradition of Sunday closings to allow people to spend time with family and attend church. (Sure, lots of people watch football instead, but that’s a different matter. Hypocrisy is the tribute vice pays to virtue). The ban on Sunday trading acknowledged that Greece is an Orthodox Christian country, with its own rhythms and ways of life. No matter. In Europe today, if it’s a choice between religious and cultural traditions, on the one hand, and commerce, on the other, commerce wins.  That’s the economically sound choice.

I don’t suppose there’s anything to be done. Greece is in a terrible situation and needs to find a way out. And I know it’s a small matter, compared to the other hardships Greeks will have to bear. But something important is being lost. To be part of the European project, apparently, a country must do whatever it can to become a secular, consumerist, market-oriented place—Sundays included. Localized cultures that stand in the way of economic rationality must recede. Perhaps that’s the inevitable logic of modernity. But it’s not an image the Christian Democratic founders of Europe like Konrad Adenauer and Robert Schuman would have recognized.

“Religion, Politics and Nation-Building in Post-Communist Countries” (Simons & Westerlund, eds.)

In March, Ashgate released “Religion, Politics and Nation-Building in Post-Communist Countries,” edited by Greg Simons (Uppsala University) and David Westerlund (Södertörn University). The publisher’s description follows:

The increasing significance and visibility of relationships between religion and public arenas and institutions following the fall of communism in Europe provide the core focus of this fascinating book. Leading international scholars consider the religious and political role of Christian Orthodoxy in the Russian Federation, Romania, Georgia and Ukraine alongside the revival of old, indigenous religions, often referred to as ‘shamanistic’ and look at how, despite Islam’s long history and many adherents in the south, Islamophobic attitudes have increasingly been added to traditional anti-Semitic, anti-Western or anti-liberal elements of Russian nationalism. Contrasts between the church’s position in the post-communist nation building process of secular Estonia with its role in predominantly Catholic Poland are also explored.

Religion, Politics and Nation-Building in Post-Communist Countries gives a broad overview of the political importance of religion in the Post-Soviet space but its interest and relevance extends far beyond the geographical focus, providing examples of the challenges in the spheres of public, religious and social policy for all transitional countries.

Hawley, “A Storm of Songs”

In March, the Harvard University Press published “A Storm of Songs: India and the Idea of the Bhakti Movement,” by John Stratton Hawley (Barnard College). The publisher’s description follows:

India celebrates itself as a nation of unity in diversity, but where does that sense of unity come from? One important source is a widely- accepted narrative called the “bhakti movement.” Bhakti is the religion of the heart, of song, of common participation, of inner peace, of anguished protest. The idea known as the bhakti movement asserts that between 600 and 1600 CE, poet-saints sang bhakti from India’s southernmost tip to its northern Himalayan heights, laying the religious bedrock upon which the modern state of India would be built.

Challenging this canonical narrative, John Stratton Hawley clarifies the historical and political contingencies that gave birth to the concept of the bhakti movement. Starting with the Mughals and their Kachvaha allies, North Indian groups looked to the Hindu South as a resource that would give religious and linguistic depth to their own collective history. Only in the early twentieth century did the idea of a bhakti “movement” crystallize—in the intellectual circle surrounding Rabindranath Tagore in Bengal. Interactions between Hindus and Muslims, between the sexes, between proud regional cultures, and between upper castes and Dalits are crucially embedded in the narrative, making it a powerful political resource.

A Storm of Songs ponders the destiny of the idea of the bhakti movement in a globalizing India. If bhakti is the beating heart of India, this is the story of how it was implanted there—and whether it can survive.

“Religious Diversity in European Prisons: Challenges and Implications for Rehabilitation” (Becci & Roy, eds.)

In June, Springer released “Religious Diversity in European Prisons: Challenges and Implications for Rehabilitation” edited by Irene Becci (University of Lausanne) and Oliver Roy (European University Institute). The publisher’s description follows:

This book examines how prisons meet challenges of religious diversity, in an era of increasing multiculturalism and globalization. Social scientists studying corrections have noted the important role that religious or spiritual practice can have on rehabilitation, particularly for inmates with coping with stress, mental health and substance abuse issues. In the past, the historical figure of the prison chaplain operated primarily in a Christian context, following primarily a Christian model. Increasingly, prison populations (inmates as well as employees) display diversity in their ethnic, cultural, religious and geographic backgrounds. As public institutions, prisons are compelled to uphold the human rights of their inmates, including religious freedom. Prisons face challenges in approaching religious plurality and secularism, and maintaining prisoners’ legal rights to religious freedom.

The contributions to this work present case studies that examine how prisons throughout Europe have approached challenges of religious diversity. Featuring contributions from the UK, France, Italy, Germany, Switzerland, The Netherlands, Belgium and Spain, this interdisciplinary volume includes contributions from social and political scientists, religion scholars and philosophers examining the role of religion and religious diversity in prison rehabilitation.  It will be of interest to researchers in Criminology and Criminal Justice, Social and Political Science, Human Rights, Public Policy, and  Religious Studies.

Movsesian at ICON-S Conference This Week

ICON-S-logoOn Thursday, I’ll be appearing on a panel at the annual ICON-S conference on Public Law, to be held this year at New York University. The conference is sponsored by the International Journal of Constitutional Law, and draws scholars from around the world. My panel, “The Foundation of an Uncertain Law,” will discuss Cambridge’s new collection of commentary on the jurisprudence of Pope Benedict XVI, Pope Benedict XVI’s Legal Thought: A Dialogue on the Foundation of Law (Cartabia & Simoncini eds. 2014). Other panelists include Michel Rosenfeld (Yeshiva), Ran Hirschl (Toronto), and John Garvey (Catholic University of America). The panel will be moderated by Sabino Cassese, formerly of the Italian Constitutional Court. CLR Forum readers at the conference, please stop by and say hello!

Omar and Duffey, “Peacemaking and the Challenge of Violence in World Religions”

This month, Wiley-Blackwell released “Peacemaking and the Challenge of Violence in World Religions,” by Irfan A. Omar (Marquette University) and Michael K. Duffey (Marquette University). The publisher’s description follows:

Written by top practitioner-scholars who bring a critical yet empathetic eye to the topic, this textbook provides a comprehensive look at peace and violence in seven world religions. 

* Offers a clear and systematic narrative with coverage of Buddhism, Christianity, Confucianism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, and Native American religions

* Introduces a different religion and its sacred texts in each chapter; discusses ideas of peace, war, nonviolence, and permissible violence; recounts historical responses to violence; and highlights individuals within the tradition working toward peace and justice

* Examines concepts within their religious context for a better understanding of the values, motivations, and ethics involved

* Includes student-friendly pedagogical features, such as enriching end-of-chapter critiques by practitioners of other traditions, definitions of key terms, discussion questions, and further reading sections. 

González, “The Lawyer of the Church”

This month, the University of Nebraska Press released “The Lawyer of the Church: Bishop Clemente de Jesús Munguía and the Clerical Response to the Mexican Liberal Reforma,” by Pablo Mijangos y González. The publisher’s description follows: 

Mexico’s Reforma, the mid-nineteenth-century liberal revolution, decisively shaped the country by disestablishing the Catholic Church, secularizing public affairs, and laying the foundations of a truly national economy and culture.

The Lawyer of the Church is an examination of the Mexican clergy’s response to the Reforma through a study of the life and works of Bishop Clemente de Jesús Munguía (1810–68), one of the most influential yet least-known figures of the period. By analyzing how Munguía responded to changing political and intellectual scenarios in defense of the clergy’s legal prerogatives and social role, Pablo Mijangos y González argues that the Catholic Church opposed the liberal revolution not because of its supposed attachment to a bygone past but rather because of its efforts to supersede colonial tradition and refashion itself within a liberal yet confessional state. With an eye on the international influences and dimensions of the Mexican church-state conflict, The Lawyer of the Church also explores how Mexican bishops gradually tightened their relationship with the Holy See and simultaneously managed to incorporate the papacy into their local affairs, thus paving the way for the eventual “Romanization” of Mexican Catholicism during the later decades of the century.

Leichtman, “Shi’i Cosmopolitanisms in Africa”

In August, the Indiana University Press will release “Shi’i Cosmopolitanisms in Africa: Lebanese Migration and Religious Conversion in Senegal,” by Mara A. Leichtman (Michigan State University). The publisher’s description follows:

Mara A. Leichtman offers an in-depth study of Shi‘i Islam in two very different communities in Senegal: the well-established Lebanese diaspora and Senegalese “converts” from Sunni to Shi‘i Islam of recent decades. Sharing a minority religious status in a predominantly Sunni Muslim country, each group is cosmopolitan in its own way. Leichtman provides new insights into the everyday lives of Shi‘i Muslims in Africa and the dynamics of local and global Islam. She explores the influence of Hizbullah and Islamic reformist movements, and offers a corrective to prevailing views of Sunni-Shi‘i hostility, demonstrating that religious coexistence is possible in a context such as Senegal.

Juergensmeyer et al., “God in the Tumult of the Global Square: Religion in Global Civil Society”

In September, the University of California press will release, “God in the Tumult of the Global Square: Religion in Global Civil Society,” by Mark Juergensmeyer (University of California, Santa Barbara), Dinah Griego (University of California, Santa Barbara), and John Soboslai (University of California, Santa Barbara). The publisher’s description follows:

How is religion changing in the twenty-first century? In the global era, religion has leapt onto the world stage, though often in contradictory ways. Some religious activists are antagonistic and engage in protests, violent acts, and political challenges. Others are positive and help to shape an emerging transnational civil society. A new global religion may be in the making, providing a moral and spiritual basis for a worldwide community of concern about environmental issues, human rights, and international peace. God in the Tumult of the Global Square explores all of these directions, based on a five-year Luce Foundation project that involved religious leaders, scholars, and public figures in workshops held in Cairo, Moscow, Delhi, Shanghai, Buenos Aires, and Santa Barbara. In this book, the voices of these religious observers around the world express both the hopes and fears about new forms of religion in the global age.