The classical liberal concern for freedom of religion today intersects with concerns of equality and respect for minorities, of what might be loosely termed ‘multiculturalism’. When these minorities were primarily understood in terms of ethno-racial identities, multiculturalism and freedom of religion were seen at that time as quite separate policy and legal fields. As ethno-religious identities have become central to multiculturalism (and to rejections of multiculturalism), specifically in Western Europe in relation to its growing Muslim settlements, not only have the two fields intersected, new approaches to religion and equality have emerged. We consider the relationship between freedom of religion and ethno-religious equality, or alternatively, religion as faith or conscience and religion as group identity. We argue that the normative challenges raised by multicultural equality and integration cannot be met by individualist understandings of religion and freedom, by the idea of state neutrality, nor by laicist understandings of citizenship and equality. Hence, a re-thinking of the place of religion in public life and of religion as a public good and a re-configuring of political secularism in the context of religious diversity is necessary. We explore a number of pro-diversity approaches that suggest what a respectful and inclusive egalitarian governance of religious diversity might look like, and consider what might be usefully learnt from other countries, as Europe struggles with a deeper diversity than it has known for a long time. The moderate secularism that has historically evolved in Western Europe is potentially accommodative of religious diversity, just as it came to be of Christian churches, but it has to be ‘multiculturalised’.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
Funding: The authors gratefully acknowledge the support of the project Radicalisation, Secularism and the Governance of Religion: Bringing Together European and Asian Perspectives (GREASE), funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement number 77064.
© 2021 by the authors.