We hosted our third workshop in Cairo, Egypt on January 9-10, 2013. It focused on the legal and political struggles around the concept and practice of the right to religious freedom in the Middle East. Part of the aim of our project is to track the contested and multivalent meanings and histories of the right to religious liberty in non-western societies, with special attention to how the development of this concept in Europe, the United States, and international law continues to shape debates in non-western parts of the world. Following the events associated with what has been called the “Arab Spring,” we are particularly interested in how the debate on religious liberty is being transformed by the ongoing political unrest and change taking place in the region. While focusing on the Middle East and North Africa, we hope to maintain the comparative, historical and transnational perspective that is one of the hallmarks of the project. Discussions therefore were not limited to developments in the region but also drew upon our previous workshops to address the global and comparative dynamics associated with the politics of religious freedom.
The workshop papers addressed the following issues:
- legal contestations surrounding religious freedom in the Middle East and comparatively in Europe, South Asia, and the United States;
- the role of global norms of religious freedom in regional debates;
- the social, political and historical contexts of conflicts related to these issues (such as the Ayodhya or Ahmadiyya controversy);
- legal and political contestation surrounding the rights of religious minorities; and
- family and personal status law in relation to debates over religious freedom.