Yet we are free to declare, and do declare, that the rights [to religious freedom] hereby asserted are of the natural rights of mankind and that if any act shall be hereafter passed to repeal [an act granting those religious rights]; or to narrow its operation, such act shall be an infringement of natural right. (Thomas Jefferson, 1779:1)
The concept of freedom of religion is one of antiquity, as is the philosophical, sociological and political literature that debate the theoretical significance religious freedom holds, as an attribute of liberal democracies. Yet for the purpose of the dissertation, this chapter aims to analyse the relevance of religious freedom to modern liberal democracy, utilising the work of prominent libertarians during the Age of Enlightenment from 18th Century Europe as a starting point. The chapter will firstly establish a correlation between freedom of religion and the development of the very liberal democratic conditions existing and functioning in a post-1945 Europe, before challenging the congruity of religion through the secularisation theory/thesis; which fundamentally argues that the rise of secularism in Europe in the aftermath of the World Wars, has rendered religion obsolete –and therefore the debate concerning religious freedom is inapplicable to ‘European exceptionalism’. Finally, the chapter will advocate the re-emergence of religion, using the proliferation of Islam throughout Europe via the entrenchment of Multiculturalism as a case example and thereby proving that the free practise of religion is most relevant in an era of post-secular, European societies to conclude that religion continues to be of salience and relevance to modern Europe; as the historical focus on Christianity alone in a western context is inapplicable to a current region with a pluralism of religion.
1.1 The Relevance of Freedom of Religion in 21st Century Europe
Perhaps the notion of freedom of religion continues to exist in current political and intellectual debates and literature, due it to its contribution towards the very civil liberalism that characterises modern European democracy. Fowler (1989) believes that liberalism and religion can be regarded as unconventional partners, fundamentally alluding to a co-operative dichotomy in which religion provides the moral and cultural underpinnings for a liberal society. This is particularly applicable to Europe, as classical liberalism emerged from a set of ideas rooted in Christian ideology, specifically seeking to derive a set of norms stemming from the belief in the dignity and freedom of each individual. This paved way for a conception ‘of democracy based on the Christian view of humanity’ (Grabow 2011: 7).
Although the coinage of liberal democracy precedes 17th/18th Century European libertarian literature, key thinkers such as Locke (1689) and Mill (1859 ) argued in favour of religious freedom, necessary for a cohesive and civil state. This concept of ‘toleration’ which rose to prominence in John Locke’s (1689 ) Letter of Toleration essentially advocates for the plurality of religions , which would reduce the natural domination of one belief and thereby create political stability.
Yet, this promotion of individual equality by way of religious freedom within a state fails to recognise the divisive element to religion and its natural, intermittent desire to compete and conflict with opposing ideologies. Thomas Hobbes (1660) in opposition to Locke (1689 ) believes that the religious emphasis of certitude in one’s belief and totality of commitment to God creates the very political instability evidenced in the Religious Wars of Europe. In this sense religion can be regarded as a source of political instability, in contrast to the rhetoric of Locke (1689) and Mill (1859).
However such libertarians converge or diverge on the political prowess freedom of religion should acquire in both the public and private sphere, the fact remains that religious freedom per se has emerged an inalienable right. The Peace of Westphalia 1648 sparked an unprecedented global recognition and respect of differing beliefs, entrenching such semantics into internationally acclaimed Human Rights Instruments such as the 1945 United Nations Declaration of Human Rights (UNDHR), the 1950 European Charter of Human Rights (ECHR) and the 1966 International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR); thus enshrining freedom of religion as of the hallmarks of contemporary liberal democracies post-1945.
1.2 The Secular versus Sacred Debate
In spite of the globalisation of human rights, which has irrevocably shaped international, supranational and national policies concerning the liberty of each citizen primarily of the West; the case to suggest that freedom of religion is no longer the pinnacle of other inalienable rights continues to gain ground. Leading sociologists of religion, Grace Davies (2000) and Peter Berger (1997 ) fundamentally argue that religion is now obsolete across Western societies, more so in the region of Europe than anywhere else in the globe and therefore the historical necessity to discuss and deliberate the position religion should hold in the private and/or public spheres is now virtually non-existent in Europe today.
Furthermore, Mills (1959) establishes a correlation between the process of European industrialisation and the permeation of secularisation. The key tenets of urbanisation, rationalism and bureaucratisation during the industrial period, leads Mills (1959) to surmise:
Once the world was filled with the sacred in thought, practise and institutional form. After the Reformation and Renaissance, the forces of modernisation swept across the globe and secularisation; a corollary historical process loosened the dominance of the sacred. In due course, the sacred shall disappear altogether, except, possibly in the private realm. (Mills 1959: 33)
Mills (1959) echoes the work of the ‘seminal social thinkers of the nineteenth century, such as Auguste Comte (1851) , Max Weber (1930 ) , Karl Marx (1844) and Sigmund Freud (1927) ‘ (Norris, Inglehart 2006:223). All believed that religion would gradually fade in importance and cease to be significant with the advent of industrial society. The case for religious diminution is evidenced by the rise of empiricism and the development of scientific knowledge, consequently providing answers at a time where a deity or superstitious beliefs would otherwise suffice.
Moreover, Davies (2000 ) and Berger (1997 ) develop Weber’s (1930) notion of the secular Weltanschauung , or ‘secular worldview’ through their posit of the secularisation thesis, whereby the onset of European modernity inevitably led to the decrease in public and institutionalised Christianity; to the extent that ‘religion in Europe is like an iceberg, most of what is interesting is under the water and out of view’ (Davies 2003 ). Davies’ (2003) notion of believing without belonging or the privatisation of religious belief is evident through the separation of church and state throughout Europe, the emergence of secular, bureaucratic states and push for secularity within the socio-political framework of the European Union.
Davies ( 2000) labels Christianity in Europe a ‘vicarious religion’ (2000:1), where there is a ‘decline of institutional belief against an otherwise global trend of sustained or increased religiosity’ (Finke, Stark 2000: 79); feeding into the wider concept of European exceptionalism. Pellivert (2008) hails the work of religious sociology on the secularisation thesis as ‘widely acknowledged as a thorough and accurate explanation of current change in European religion’ (Pellivert 2008: 25).
However, the secularisation thesis which essentially establishes a positive correlation between countries of high development by way of intellectual and technological advancement and low levels of religiosity has been severely challenged over the past three decades. The sustained levels of practised Christianity –monitored through regular church-going and high support for Christian political rhetoric in the United States, to the increase in religious Muslim political parties in the Islamic world for example are case study examples in dissent of the thesis.
Furthermore, placing the notion of European exceptionalism in the context of religious vitality –where European religiosity tends to be vicarious against the global trend of rising zealotry is also flawed. The correlation between modernity and secularity in Europe cannot be wholly applied to Islam, ‘which rejects a dualistic worldview that would compartmentalise areas of life into the religious/sacred versus the sacred/profane. Islam will not readily acquiesce to the privatisation of belief and practise that Christians have undergone’ (Leigh 2013: 5).
Through further analysis of such developments, Peter Berger (1999) , a leading advocate for the secularisation theory during the 1960s recanted his earlier claims in stating:
the world today with some exceptions is as furiously religious as it ever was, in some places more than ever. This means that a whole body of literature by historians and social scientists loosely labelled ‘secularisation thesis’ is essentially nonsense (Berger 1999 ).
In addition to Berger’s (1999) new findings, Stark (2000) and Finke (2000) dismiss the validity of the secularisation thesis in stating:
After nearly three centuries of utterly failed prophecies and misrepresentations of both present and past, it seems time to carry the secularisation doctrine to the graveyard of failed theories and there to whisper ‘requiescent in pace’ (Stanley, Finke 2000: 279).
It would appear therefore, that religiosity rages on.
1.3 Research Literature on the establishment of Islam as a minority religion in the United Kingdom
European state accommodation of Islam continues to remain an increasingly political salient issue, more so especially in light of the ongoing refugee crisis spilling into the region. As of 2010, the European Union is home to 13 million Muslim migrants (Pew Research 2016), ‘making them the largest religious minority in the region’ (Fetzer; Soper 2005:2). The religious freedom provisions of the international human rights instruments, specifically the UNHR (1945), the ECHR (1950) and ICCPR (1960) in granting ‘ freedom [of religion], either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance’ (Article 18, UNHCR 1945; Article 9, ECHR 1950; Article 18 ICCPR, 1966); is implemented in the rise of Islamic institutions across Europe, over historically dominant Catholic or Protestant churches for example.
Whilst it is important to note that ‘Muslims demonstrate a diversity of affiliation to Islam varying from a refusal to proclaim the faith, silent agnosticism or indifference, (Buijs, Rath 2002:2) to ‘culturalist’ Islam, to a more zealous, missionary approach – the fact remains that Islam has become entrenched, across many European states; as evidenced through the erection of Mosques and religious centres throughout the region exempli gratia.
Academic explanation as to the public assertion of the Islamic faith and identity is debated within the research literature which examines cultural and religious minorities throughout Europe. For the purpose of the dissertation the starting point within the hotchpotch of European Muslim migrant literature will initiate from the New Islamic Presence period of the 1950s onwards (Gerholm & Lithman 1988). The New Islamic Presence refers to the ‘guest worker scheme implemented in most western European countries, or the family reunification scheme’ (Buijs, Rath 2002: 6); which enabled a large influx of Muslim migrant resettlement in the region.
The research literature in this field is predominated by sociologists and anthropologists of religion, typically branching into two strands of thinking: the first strand advocates the notion of Muslims being Islamic by default, thereby any study of Muslim political aspirations or social life revolves around the need to retain or be governed by religiosity (Shahid & van Koningsveld 1992). However this approach is ‘criticised as being Orientalist or essentialist, implicating that Islam is thought to be eternal and unchanging, untouched by social development’ (Buijs, Rath 2002: 120) and thereby only compatible across traditional Muslim lands. Furthermore, Krämer (2010) labels this Oriental perspective as:
A project that presents, or ‘constructs’, or ‘represents’ Islam as a distinct, homogenous and timeless entity that is essentially defined by its normative texts –ie the Quran as divine word and the Sunna of the Prophet Muhammad. For the unreformed Orientalist, Muslims are defined by their being Muslim’ (Krämer in Varisco 2010: 7).
According to this approach the rise of Islam throughout Europe is inevitable within significant communities of Muslim migrants, as they have a natural instinct to practise and spread their faith- whether through missionary work and proselytising, or establishing Muslim organisations. Additionally, the rise of hijab-wearing and religious education are all indicative of the importance to preserve the Islamic faith across host countries, perhaps one rationale behind the shift of private to public religiosity and the consequential establishment of Islam as a minority religion.
The second strand of literature assumes a dialectical approach, examining Muslim adaption to their new environment in contrast to the Orientalist approach. The ‘divergent and convergent patterns of accommodation of Islam in Europe are due to the normative, legal and institutional pressures stemming from European integration’ (Maussen 2007: 62), which has given rise to the domestication or Europeanisation of Islam; as evidenced by the inclusion and participation of Muslim representative councils or local religious leaders in inter-faith dialogues for example. However, this notion of a Euro-Islam, is challenged by Höffert & Salvatore (2000) who regard this form of modernism as a threat to the Muslim identity.
Yet it is imperative to highlight that irrespective of the tide of Islamic ideological development throughout Europe, the fact remains that the prominent position of Islam in European society is significantly dependant on state accommodation of such – namely via facilitative political and legal policies designed to publicly recognise and uphold the Islamic presence throughout Europe. Fundamentally, both strands of the research literature fail to sufficiently highlight the instrumental role of Multiculturalism in the official/public establishment and rise of Islam in the region.
1.4 The role of Multiculturalism in the rise of Islam throughout Europe
Today, a French person is not necessarily Catholic, Protestant etc. Today a person is French through an act of citizenship, by sharing common values and by [supporting] everyone’s right to find happiness. But in the end, a French person can be a Muslim, can be a Catholic, a Jew; a Buddhist. [Muslims should enjoy religious liberty ] just as other [French] citizens do (Saïda Kada (2001), President of Femmes Françaises et Musulmanes Engagées, in Fetzer, Soper 2005: 1).
Kada’s (2001) speech stems from French President François Mitterrand’s coinage of le droit à la difference ,emerging from a wider normative framework of tolerance for pluralistic diversity and the concept of an overarching common identity; all synonyms of the political theory of Multiculturalism – initiated in North American politics- ‘largely seen as a normative framework and set of state policies, which advance tolerance and recognition of cultural differences’ (Howarth & Andreouli 2015:1. It is important to note that in studying Multiculturalism there are multiple labels attributed to the concept, contingent upon whether the approach is sociological (Hall 2000), philosophical (Taylor 1992), anthropological (Vertovec 2007) or psychological (Berry 1997) .
However, with regard to examining the role of multiculturalism in facilitating the rise of Islam across European societies, Abbas & Reeves (2007) refers to Rex’s (1996) ‘egalitarian multiculturalism’ (Abbas & Reeves 2007:10) effectively explicates the overhauling of Western, colonial discrimination of indigenous races and religions, thereby feeding into post-colonial guilt and the consequential necessity to replace previous racial/ethnic hierarchy with advocating and accommodating for minority rights during the onset of ethnic immigration from the late 1960s, in particularly western Europe.
It is imperative that egalitarian multiculturalism be contextualised as part of a larger ‘human rights revolution in relation to ethnic and racial diversity’ (Vertovec, Wessendorf 2010:33), providing the very ‘liberal-communitarian’ (May, Modood, Squires 2004:4) constructivist framework existing in racial/religious (western) European state policies today. The change in European social structure, explicitly influenced through the UNDHR (1947) et al recognition of manifestation of belief and which was instrumental in the development of multiculturalism -meant that the establishment of religious institutions was a tangible reality to particularly Muslim families permanently settling across Europe, given the sheer volume of migration from South Asia, North Africa and the Middle East.
Islam and Muslims have certainly gained a new kind of public visibility in Europe, during the past three decades. In contrast to first-generation Muslims, ‘who believed that in order to avoid potential problems with the state it was best to minimise the religious features of their identity’ (Ramadan 1999: 113); for many second and third-generation immigrants, Islam provided a sense of cultural belonging and pride, that could now permeate publicly due to multiculturalist policies – in terms of access to Islamic facilities’ (Nielsen 1992: 119). Therefore ‘the provisions of facilities for prayer, teaching Islam to children, access to halal food and religious burial now had to be consciously sought out’ (Vertovec & Peach 1994: 22).
The rise of Muslim identity politics is significantly due to policies of inclusion in which the Kulturkampf struggle and ‘pillarisation’ process, particularly in northern Europe , influenced European cities such as Copenhagen, Stuttgart, Vienna, Zurich and Dublin to build diversity principles into their current policies and practise (Spencer 2008). This is evidenced in the cases of Austria and the Netherlands, where ‘instruction in Islam is paid by the Austrian state…similar to public financing of the Islamic TV and Broadcasting Corporation’ (Waardenburg in Shadid & van Koningsveld 1991:38) in line with Dutch minorities policies.
In conclusion, it is evident that religion and religious accommodation of ethnic minorities in particular, continue to hold salience across European in especially welfare and social politics. This concept of egalitarian multiculturalism has adopted a rather religious approach particularly from the 1980s across wider Europe, not just the United Kingdom – thus dispelling claims of diminishing religiosity, as the traditional literature in this field has historically focused upon the changing patterns of Christianity. Such literature fails to factor in the Islamic Question in Europe, which has risen to public prominence and setting a precedent an Islamic era in the face of de-Christianisation; evident in the recognition of public Islamic institutions, apparel and media attention.