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EPRS briefings in preparation for the EP event on inter-religious dialogue

Written by Anita Orav

On 24 March 2015, the European Parliament will be hosting a high-level conference on religious fundamentalism and radicalisation as well as on the role of inter-religious dialogue and tolerance in addressing these concerns. The debate between representatives of the EU and the religious communities can be followed directly online. In preparation for the event, we have prepared three briefings on the topics of the two panel discussions.

Religious fundamentalism and radicalisation

IRD-poster (2)The first half of the conference is focused on the rise of religious fundamentalism and radicalisation. Recent Islamist terrorist attacks have highlighted the threats arising from the spread of radical religious views and have moved governments to review their de-radicalisation activity. These concerns are discussed in two complementary briefings.

The first, ‘Religious fundamentalism and radicalisation: a documentary overview’ collects literature on Islamic fundamentalism and Islamist radicalisation, defining the phenomena, and explaining how and where radicalisation occurs. It goes on to present theories on why radicalisation is happening in Europe at this time, finishing with a review of recent Member State activity against radicalisation.

The second briefing, ‘Religious fundamentalism and radicalisation’ discusses the concept of radicalisation in the light of recent developments. Radicalisation is a complex phenomenon lacking a uniform definition and cutting across social and demographic spheres. It can be understood as the process of people embracing views which could lead to terrorism, and is closely connected to the notion of extremism. Recent studies seeking to understand it suggest of the need to profile the processes of recruitment, be it online or in places such as schools, mosques and prisons.

Religious fundamentalism, a belief in an absolute religious ideology with no tolerance for differing interpretations, is a contributing factor to the development of radical opinions.

Radicalisation is a serious threat to internal security in EU Member States, who retain the main competence in this matter. EU measures contributing to the Member States’ efforts include common policy instruments, such as the EU Strategy for Combating Radicalisation and Recruitment to Terrorism, as well as preventive initiatives, such as the community-focused Radicalisation Awareness Network.

The EU institutions and inter-religious dialogue

The second half of the discussion is dedicated to the role of inter-religious dialogue in promoting tolerance and respect for human dignity.

The third briefing, ‘The EU institutions and inter-religious dialogue’ describes the interaction between the EU institutions and European churches and religious organisations, focusing on its evolution from informal contacts to regular meetings. While relations between church and state fall into the Member States’ competence, the latter must ensure compliance with the European Convention on Human Rights. Moreover, since the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty in 2009, the inter-religious dialogue is underpinned by a solid legal basis. Article 17 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU calls for a regular, open and transparent inter-religious dialogue and stipulates that the Union shall respect the status of churches and religious organisations under national law in the Member States.

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