Tag Archives: Religion in Europe

David Cameron on the Persecution of Christians

The persecution of Christians, slowly, is making its way onto the world’s agenda. In his annual Easter message, British Prime Minister David Cameron (above) urged churches in Britain to do more to draw attention to the suffering of Christians across the globe. Cameron also spoke, unusually, about his own Christian faith and the benefits Christianity “brings to Britain.” Skeptics might perceive an attempt to smooth relations with rank-and-file Conservatives, many of whom Cameron antagonized by supporting same-sex marriage. But politicians always have a variety of motives. Cameron deserves credit for raising the issue of persecution at a time when many in the West ignore it.

And why do so many in the West ignore the persecution of Christians? The always valuable John Allen explains:

Why isn’t this global war on Christians more of a cause célèbre?Fundamentally, the silence is the result of a bogus narrative about religion in the West. Most Americans and Europeans are in the habit of thinking about Christianity as a rich, powerful, socially dominant institution, which makes it hard to grasp that Christians can actually be victims of persecution.

I’ve made a similar point myself, here.

Arnason & Karolewski (eds.), “Religion and Politics: European and Global Perspectives”

This month, Edinburgh University Press will publish Religion and Politics: European and Global Perspectives, edited by Johann Arnason (La Trobe University, Melbourne) and Ireneusz Karolewski (University of Wroclaw). The publisher’s description follows.

Combining theoretical and empirical research, these 12 essays examine the role of religion and its prospects in Europe. On the one hand, the volume discusses growing Islamic presence in Europe as a reminder of enduring religious pluralism, not least in view of the high prominence given to Islamic experience in arguments against over-generalised notions of secularisation. On the other hand, it explores the question of Christian motivated extremism and religious nationalism. Against this background, the contributors discuss the role of religion in other countries throughout the world including China, Japan, Russia and the MENA region.

Debates on religion and politics have, to a high degree, focused on contrasts between Europe and other parts of the world; the long-established assumption that modern societies are on a secularising path seemed have a stronger claim to validity in Europe than elsewhere. This book shows that, if European modernity does represent an exit from religion, this historical process and its implications are still very imperfectly understood.

Hitchcock, “Muslim Spain Reconsidered”

This February, Edinburgh University Press published Muslim Spain Reconsidered: From 711 to 1502 by Richard Hitchcock (University of Exeter). Muslim Spain The publisher’s description follows.

What made Muslim Spain a unique and successful society? By adopting a multidisciplinary approach within a chronological framework, Richard Hitchcock explores the nature of Muslim Spain’s powerful legacy in the formation of modern Spain, whilst constantly keeping in view the shifting social patterns caused by the changing balance between town and country, constant military activity and concerns about their environment.

You will learn about the main historical developments in al-Andalus, such as the eventual establishment of Islam, the splendour of the Caliphate, the disintegration of central authority, the invasions from North Africa and the ongoing struggle to retain independence when confronted with the increasingly powerful Kingdoms of Aragon and Castile. You will also find wide-ranging discussions of inter-faith relations and the intellectual currents created by Spain’s unique synthesis of pluralism and external influences.

McCrea, “Religion and the Public Order of the European Union”

9780198713944Next month, Oxford University Press will publish Religion and the Public Order of the European Union by Ronan McCrea (University College London). The publisher’s description follows.

Ronan McCrea offers the first comprehensive account of the role of religion within the public order of the European Union. He examines the facilitation and protection of individual and institutional religious freedom in EU law and the means through which the Union facilitates religious input and influence over law. Identifying the limitations on religious influence over law and politics that have been required by the Union, it demonstrates how such limitations have been identified as fundamental elements of the public order and prerequisites EU membership.

The Union seeks to balance its predominantly Christian religious heritage with an equally strong secular and humanist by facilitating religion as a form of cultural identity while simultaneously limiting its political influence. Such balancing takes place in the context of the Union’s limited legitimacy and its commitment to respect for Member State cultural autonomy. Deference towards the cultural role of religion at Member State level enables culturally-entrenched religions to exercise a greater degree of influence within the Union’s public order than “outsider” faiths that lack a comparable cultural role. Placing the Union’s approach to religion in the context of broader historical and sociological trends around religion in Europe and of contemporary debates around secularism, equal treatment, and the role of Islam in Europe, McCrea sheds light on the interaction between religion and EU law in the face of a shifting religious demographic.

The Weekly Five

This week’s collection includes Benjamin Berger on the modest but useful role of law in mediating religious controversies; Cole Durham and others on same-sex marriage across the globe; Kenneth Lasson on food regulation; Ronan McCrea on face veils in Europe; and Eric Segall on legislative prayer.

1. Benjamin L. Berger (Osgoode Hall), The Virtues of Law in the Politics of Religious Freedom. Berger finds a role for law in mediating the politics of religious freedom. Unlike politics or religion, he says, law does not make comprehensive moral and empirical claims. Law’s goals are much more modest. As a result, law can bracket ultimate truth claims and reach workable compromises in religiously pluralist societies. He offers two examples, a Canadian case on the question whether a witness may give testimony wearing an Islamic niqab and an Israeli case about gender segregation on public buses.

2. W. Cole Durham (BYU) et al., A Comparative Analysis of Laws Pertaining to Same-Sex Unions. The authors survey marriage laws across the globe and report that only a relatively small number allow same-sex marriage. Most states that have decided to allow same-sex marriage have done so through the legislative rather than the judicial process. The authors maintain the legislative route is preferable for a variety of reasons and point out that “with very few exceptions, national and supranational courts have held that such decisions must be left to democratic action by citizens or their legislative representatives.”

3. Kenneth Lasson (University of Baltimore), Sacred Cows, Holy Wars: Exploring the Limits of Law in the Regulation of Raw Milk and Kosher Meat. The author discusses constitutional issues raised by food regulations that implicate religious practices, “especially when regulatory schemes bring into play both consumer protection of the public and recognition of individual rights.”

4. Ronan McCrea (University College London), The Ban on the Veil and European Law. McCrea argues that “offensiveness,” alone, will not justify bans on the public wearing of face veils under European human rights law. However, he maintains, “a ban that applies to public face-covering in general (rather than a ban that only targets the veil), that relates to the specific (though admittedly broad) context of social life and that provides some exceptions allowing the veil to be worn in specific religious or expressive contexts, has a reasonable chance of being upheld by European courts despite the significant infringement of personal autonomy it would involve.”

5. Eric Segall (Georgia State), Silence is Golden: Moments of Silence, Legislative Prayers, and the Establishment Clause. This comment on Town of Greece v. Galloway argues that the best solution to the controversy over legislative prayer is to forbid such prayer in favor of a moment of silence. This solution, Segall argues, “would solemnize governmental hearings and allow people with business there to pray or not pray, without causing offense to, or even in some circumstances coercing, people who do not wish to engage in a religious exercise.”

Confino, “A World Without Jews”

Next month, Yale University Press will publish A World Without Jews: The Nazi Imagination from Persecution to Genocidby Alon Confino (University of A World Without JewsVirginia).  The publisher’s description follows.

Why exactly did the Nazis burn the Hebrew Bible everywhere in Germany on November 9, 1938? The perplexing event has not been adequately accounted for by historians in their large-scale assessments of how and why the Holocaust occurred. In this gripping new analysis, Alon Confino draws on an array of archives across three continents to propose a penetrating new assessment of one of the central moral problems of the twentieth century. To a surprising extent, Confino demonstrates, the mass murder of Jews during the war years was powerfully anticipated in the culture of the prewar years.

The author shifts his focus away from the debates over what the Germans did or did not know about the Holocaust and explores instead how Germans came to conceive of the idea of a Germany without Jews. He traces the stories the Nazis told themselves—where they came from and where they were heading—and how those stories led to the conclusion that Jews must be eradicated in order for the new Nazi civilization to arise. The creation of this new empire required that Jews and Judaism be erased from Christian history, and this was the inspiration—and justification—for Kristallnacht. As Germans imagined a future world without Jews, persecution and extermination became imaginable, and even justifiable.

Werth, “The Tsar’s Foreign Faiths”

9780199591770_450This May, Oxford University Press will publish The Tsar’s Foreign Faiths: Toleration and the Fate of Religious Freedom in Imperial Russia by Paul W. Werth (University of Nevada). The publisher’s description follows.

The Russian Empire presented itself to its subjects and the world as an Orthodox state, a patron and defender of Eastern Christianity. Yet the tsarist regime also lauded itself for granting religious freedoms to its many heterodox subjects, making ‘religious toleration’ a core attribute of the state’s identity. The Tsar’s Foreign Faiths shows that the resulting tensions between the autocracy’s commitments to Orthodoxy and its claims to toleration became a defining feature of the empire’s religious order.

In this panoramic account, Paul W. Werth explores the scope and character of religious freedom for Russia’s diverse non-Orthodox religions, from Lutheranism and Catholicism to Islam and Buddhism. Considering both rhetoric and practice, he examines discourses of religious toleration and the role of confessional institutions in the empire’s governance. He reveals the paradoxical status of Russia’s heterodox faiths as both established and ‘foreign’, and explains the dynamics that shaped the fate of newer conceptions of religious liberty after the mid-nineteenth century. If intellectual change and the shifting character of religious life in Russia gradually pushed the regime towards the acceptance of freedom of conscience, then statesmen’s nationalist sentiments and their fears of ‘politicized’ religion impeded this development. Russia’s religious order thus remained beset by contradiction on the eve of the Great War. Based on archival research in five countries and a vast scholarly literature, The Tsar’s Foreign Faiths represents a major contribution to the history of empire and religion in Russia, and to the study of toleration and religious diversity in Europe.

Guiora, “Tolerating Intolerance”

This January, Oxford University Press published Tolerating Intolerance: The Price of Protecting Extremism by Amos N. Guiora (S.J. Quinney College of Law, Tolerating IntoleranceThe University of Utah).  The publisher’s description follows.

Over the years, numerous tragic events serve as a reminder of the extraordinary power of extremism, both on a religious and secular level. As extremism confronts society on a daily basis, it is essential to analyze, comprehend, and define it. It is also essential to define extremism narrowly in order to avoid the danger of recklessly castigating for mere thoughts alone.

Tolerating Intolerance provides readers with a focused definition of extremism, and articulates the tensions faced in casting an arbitrary, capricious net in an effort to protect society, while offering mechanisms to resolve its seemingly intractable conundrum. Professor Guiora examines extremism in six different countries: Germany, Israel, the Netherlands, Norway, the United Kingdom, and the United States through interviews with a wide range of individuals including academics, policy makers, faith leaders, public commentators, national security and law enforcement officials. This enables both an in-depth discussion of extremism in each country, and facilitates a comparative analysis regarding both religious and secular extremism.

Korteweg & Yurdakul, “The Headscarf Debates”

Next month, Stanford University Press will publish The Headscarf Debates by Anna C. Korteweg (University of Toronto) and Gökçe Yurdakul (Humboldt University of Berlin).  The publisher’s description The Headscarf Debatesfollows.

The headscarf is an increasingly contentious symbol in countries across the world. Those who don the headscarf in Germany are referred to as “integration-refusers.” In Turkey, support by and for headscarf-wearing women allowed a religious party to gain political power in a strictly secular state. A niqab-wearing Muslim woman was denied French citizenship for not conforming to national values. And in the Netherlands, Muslim women responded to the hatred of popular ultra-right politicians with public appeals that mixed headscarves with in-your-face humor. In a surprising way, the headscarf—a garment that conceals—has also come to reveal the changing nature of what it means to belong to a particular nation.

All countries promote national narratives that turn historical diversities into imagined commonalities, appealing to shared language, religion, history, or political practice. The Headscarf Debates explores how the headscarf has become a symbol used to reaffirm or transform these stories of belonging. Anna Korteweg and Gökçe Yurdakul focus on France, Germany, and the Netherlands—countries with significant Muslim-immigrant populations—and Turkey, a secular Muslim state with a persistent legacy of cultural ambivilance. The authors discuss recent cultural and political events and the debates they engender, enlivening the issues with interviews with social activists, and recreating the fervor which erupts near the core of each national identity when threats are perceived and changes are proposed.

The Headscarf Debates pays unique attention to how Muslim women speak for themselves, how their actions and statements reverberate throughout national debates. Ultimately, The Headscarf Debatesbrilliantly illuminates how belonging and nationhood is imagined and reimagined in an increasingly global world.

Dingemans, et al., “The Protections for Religious Rights”

This past October, Oxford University Press published The Protections for Religious Rights: Law and Practice by Sir James Dingemans, Can Yeginsu, Tom The Protections for Religious RightsCross, and Hafash Masood. The publisher’s description follows:

The Protections for Religious Rights is the first practitioner work to offer a full and systematic treatment of the law as it pertains to religious rights in the UK and abroad. A practical working aid to a sensitive and important area of increasing litigation and public debate, this text examines the applicable legal instruments, considers the current state of the law, and reviews domestic, comparative, and international case law to provide a comprehensive reference resource that informs on all matters of significance in this area.

The protections for religious rights in the UK are rooted in international law and the English common law. Religious conflicts have arisen when communities have perceived that their religious rights have been targeted for suppression, or ignored. Despite international human rights instruments which are intended to protect such rights, many courts have adopted a narrow and restrictive approach towards these aspects.