Freedom of Religion and Freedom of Expression: Exposing Contradictions in Europe

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The purpose of the paper is to bring to light the inherent contradictions in the European approach to freedom of expression and freedom of religion vis-à-vis Islam. The right to freedom of religion is enshrined in every European and Western human rights instrument. However, recent occurrences around the Muslim hijab and headscarf in France and Germany manifest a xenophobia of Islam in Europe. While curtailing freedom of expression and religion in this respect, the recent cartoon controversy permits freedom of expression beyond the limits of hate speech. The paper will demonstrate the inherent contradictions – and hypocrisy – of this approach. The Islamic approach to freedom of expression and its limits will also be examined. The paper will critically assess how the limitation of the rights to freedom of religion and freedom of expression directly encroach upon the cornerstone of and fundamental purpose of all human rights, namely the protection of human dignity and human self-worth. The paper concludes that the xenophobic approach in Europe and elsewhere is contrary to European ideas of humanism and post-modernism itself. A true commitment to diversity and multiculturalism in Europe must be underpinned by a sincere attempt at ‘reasonable accommodation’, a sincere attempt to integrate the values of a different culture - and a different legal culture - into the new European ius commune. The paper thus fits into the conference sub-theme “Freedom and tolerance: within what latitudes?”

Keywords: Freedom of expression, Freedom of religion, Multiculturalism, Islam in Europe
Stream: Ethnicity, Difference, Identity
Presentation Type: Plenary Presentation in English
Paper: A paper has not yet been submitted.

Prof. Nazeem Muhammad Ismail Goolam

Associate Professor, Department of Jurisprudence, School of Law, University of South Africa
Pretoria, Gauteng, South Africa

BA LLB (Univ of Cape Town)
MCL (International Islamic University, Malaysia)

Teaching experience: 15 years

Research interests include:
Legal Pluralism (one book published in this field as co-editor)
Legal philosophy
Islamic law
Civilisational dialogue
Medical law and ethics

Ref: H08P0288