Articles of faith: Freedom of expression and religious freedom in contemporary multiculture

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This article examines the relationship between freedom of religion and freedom of speech and expression within contemporary multicultural liberal democracies. These two fundamental human rights have increasingly been seen, in public and political discourse, in terms of tension if not outright opposition, a view reinforced by the Charlie Hebdo killings in January 2015. And yet in every human rights charter they are proximate to one another. This essay argues that this adjacency is not coincidental, that it has a history and that, in illuminating this history, it is possible to explore how the contemporary framing of these two rights as being in opposition has come about. Looking back to the framing of the First Amendment of the US Constitution, the essay offers an historical perspective that, in turn, facilitates a reappraisal and re-evaluation of these two liberties that is the necessary, albeit insufficient, predicate to the task of addressing the problematic of multicultural ‘crisis' in the contemporary liberal democracies of Western Europe, North America and Australasia, in which the presence of certain religious communities (Muslims, in particular) and the role of religion in public and political life more generally (and, conversely, of secularism) has assumed a central importance.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3-24
Number of pages22
JournalIslam and Christian–Muslim Relations
Issue number1
Early online date22 Feb 2016
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Freedom of religion
  • freedom of expression
  • free speech
  • tolerance
  • multiculturalism
  • Islam
  • secularism
  • First Amendment
  • liberalism
  • Racial and Religious Hatred Act 2006 (UK)
  • accommodation

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