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COMMENTS 

Don’t let the Paris murderers win

Professor Laborde warns against the reactivist response to the Paris murders: they misunderstand the role played by free speech and by laïcité. Further, they allow criminals to set the term of the debate on how to better facilitate Muslim integration if France.
Professor Cécile Laborde
26 February 2015 More...

Starts: Feb 26, 2015 12:00:00 AM

Britain and EU reform

Piet Eeckhout revisits the question of EU reform, including different options for and legal as well as political constraints of such reform.
Professor Piet Eeckhout
20 January 2015 More...

Starts: Jan 20, 2015 12:00:00 AM

Europe and Research Excellence in the UK

Prof. Dame Julia Goodfellow examines the role of EU research collaboration and funding in sustaining and fostering research excellence in the UK.
Professor Dame Julia Goodfellow
9 February 2015 More...

Starts: Feb 7, 2015 12:00:00 AM

Ronan McCrea on secularisation in Europe

19 June 2013

Contrary to popular belief, Muslim migration is making Europe more secular, not less.


"The European relationship between religion, law and politics is a strange creature. Religious influence over political life is weaker in Europe than in almost any other part of the world. To adapt the phrase first used by Alastair Campbell when he was spokesman for the British prime minister Tony Blair, politicians in Europe generally ‘don’t do God’. The EU’s Eurobarometer surveys of public opinion suggest that religion has a very limited impact on the political values and behaviour of European voters. Europe has no equivalent to the politically powerful religious right in America, nor to the theological debates in the political arena that one sees in many Islamic countries.

Recently, however, this long-standing distance between religion and politics has been threatened. Migration is one factor that has helped religion to return to centre stage in public life. While Muslim minorities have protested over questions of blasphemy and free speech, Catholic leaders have intervened in political debates about gay marriage and abortion, and conservatives have lamented that European societies are losing touch with their Christian past. The political scientist Eric Kaufmann has argued that religious believers have a demographic advantage in birth rates that will see Europe's secularisation reversed by the end of this century.

...

[However], what we see is a general process under which greater religious diversity is making it difficult for religion in Europe to retain the residual political and symbolic roles that it has had until now. These roles relied on religion being seen as a national cultural symbol, and on implicit understandings that churches would largely steer clear of politics and would not use their legally privileged status to restrict criticism or mockery of religion to too great a degree.

Such a system is proving unsustainable. There are now too many diverse cultural expectations about religion, its role in political life, and the degree to which it can be criticised or mocked. The more muscular religiosity of some migrant communities, among other factors, is provoking European governments to restrict religion firmly to the private sphere, and to render the public sphere a strictly secular one. Perhaps, as Giuseppe di Lampedusa wrote in his novel The Leopard (1958), ‘everything must change so that everything can remain the same."

Read the full article in Aeon magazine.

  • Ronan McCrea is a barrister and a lecturer at the Faculty of Laws at University College London. His latest book is Religion and the Public Order of the European Union (2010).