Religious Extremism: A Fundamental Danger
26 Pages Posted: 2 Jul 2009 Last revised: 29 Jun 2010
Date Written: June 1, 2009
Terrorism constitutes one of the gravest threats against democratic societies in the 21st century; in particular, religiously motivated terrorism. Why is this the case? There are many reasons. Religion is a powerful motivator for both positive social change and mass violence. It is a force in society that is difficult for many in a secular society to truly understand. It is an institution that is protected in civil society, whether by a state's own Constitution or international agreements.
Given that religious violence constitutes such a grave threat to democracies, governments must begin to examine this institution more critically than they have in the past. Governments are charged not only with protecting civil liberties, like freedom of or from religion, but with protecting their citizens from internal and external threats. This Article discusses the framework modern democratic governments must begin to institute if they are to protect freedom of religion and effectively respond to a unique threat to safety. Five countries - the United States, the United Kingdom, Turkey, Israel and the Netherlands - will be examined. My primary thesis is that civil societies cannot afford to continue to treat religion as an "untouchable" subject - we must begin to understand what religion is in order to know when and how it may be appropriately limited for the benefit of society.
Keywords: Religion, Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Religion, Freedom from Religion, Freedom of Conduct, Freedom of Belief, Incitement, Civil Society, Religious Extremism, The Practice of Religion
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