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Abuse of Muslims shows equality is still an open question in Europe

Religious intolerance is a daily reality in Europe, mainly targeted at Muslims. We need to better understand the dynamics behind the new trend of laws and popular opinion banning minority religious expression and stigmatizing Islam.

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The court of law and public opinion

But the jurisprudence of the court that safeguards this convention shows that not all religions are treated equally. In the recent high profile case, Lautsi vs. Italy, the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights ruled in March 2011 that the presence of crucifixes in Italian primary schools does not violate the right of freedom of conscience of non-Christians. It was a success for the Italian government and 19 other governments that had urged the Court to respect the national identities and dominant religious traditions of each of the 47 member states party to the Convention.

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Minority religions have yet to win a case involving freedom of religious expression before the European Court of Human Rights. And the court of European public opinion appears to be growing ever less tolerant. The possibility of equality among religions in Europe is still an open question.

Virginie Guiraudon is a research professor at the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) and the Center for European Studies at Sciences Po in Paris. The views expressed in this piece are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect those of the United Nation Alliance of Civilizations or of the institutions with which the author is affiliated.

Editor's note: This piece is part four* of five in the series “Religion, Politics & the Public Space” in collaboration with the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations and its Global Experts project. Check back tomorrow to read the final commentary.

No. 1 – Eboo Patel and Samantha Kirby on religion in the public space

No. 2 – Fadi Hakura on secularism and the Arab Spring

No. 3 – Melody Moezzi on Iran's greatest spiritual leader

*No. 4 – Virginie Guiraudon on Europe's Islamophobia

No. 5 – William F. Vendley on the role of ordinary language in religious cooperation

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