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Governance, Citizenship, Rights & Obligations

Under the broad rubric of religion in public life, this group will explore the challenge of constructing and participating in local, national, and global communities in an era of deepening pluralism. Working within deeply rooted and time-honored traditions, Muslim, Catholic, and secular leaders and institutions have both initiated and responded to the distinctive norms and practices of religious freedom, democracy, pluralism, and human rights. Differing religious and secular conceptions of such norms and practices yield an ongoing debate about how to construct the public sphere, how to balance commitments to an overarching religious community with the obligations of national citizenship, and the patterns of interaction between religious and secular law, jurisprudence, and spheres of authority.

Together, these essays celebrate the power of Kaveny’s work by taking on her challenge to attend to the actual contours of religious and secular discourse in the public square, all with a normative aim. Read the full article »


Suppose that we, taking our cue from the case of India, reverse accepted understandings that the secularisation of society is an essential pre-requisite for secularism, and assume that the two concepts — one social and the other political — may be independent of each other. The Indian experience of secularism offers valuable lessons on how plurality can be managed and accommodated within a framework of a secularism based on equality and toleration. Read the full article »


The groundbreaking transformations initiated in some Middle Eastern and North African countries in the aftermath of the so-called Arab Spring, and the processes of reform unfolding in varying degrees and intensity in other member states of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), raised hopes for new social contracts based on more balanced relationships between states and citizens and between majority and minority communities in terms of ideological, religious or sectarian divides. Read the full article »


Despite the expressed hope of many world leaders that the political uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa in 2011 would lead to greater freedoms and fewer religious restrictions for the people of the region, research suggests that the region’s already high level of restrictions on religion have continued to increase in recent years. In a commitment to furthering necessary progress, the OIC should take on an even greater role in coordinating the efforts of the member states in order to protect the religious freedoms of future generations. Read the full article »


Nahdlatul Ulama, Indonesia’s largest Islamic organization, has been poorly understood in the West. While most Western political commentators and policy makers absorb an almost daily dose of news or intelligence regarding Islamist extremist organizations or terrorist groups in the predominantly Muslim countries of the Middle East and Southeast Asia, there is far less information and understanding of Muslim peacemakers, moderate-progressive groups, and organizations that advocate for tolerance and pluralism. Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) is one of the world’s foremost Muslim associations devoted to the spread of the Islamic message of justice, peace, and tolerance. Read the full article »


Since the rise of so-called “Western civilization” and “modernity,” the relationship between “the West” and the “Muslim world” is highly dynamic and unpredictable, marked by a constant ebb and flow. The encounter between the two has been marked by suspicions, tensions, clashes, and violent conflicts, as well as by cooperation and dialogue across these deep plural societies and overlapping cultures. These modernities will continue to be diverse and they will certainly continue to contend with each other. But their ongoing mutual contention and competition will be far less violent and far more fruitful if we can dispense with the destructive essentialisms recently in evidence in both Western and Muslim-majority societies.


There may be examples of a “clash between modernities,” but the recent wave of protests in several Muslim majority countries against the so-called “innocence of Muslims” film was not one of them. Indeed, protests by Muslims should be accepted as part of the process of “negotiating” the appropriate limits of two varieties of free speech. If the movie maker in this case is exercising his right to free speech, so are Muslims who are protesting the excessively vulgar ways in which he expressed his views. But it is equally clear that violence is never justified.