Islamic Terrorism: The Legal Impact on the Freedom of Religion in the United States and Europe

42 Pages Posted: 22 May 2015 Last revised: 26 Nov 2015

Date Written: May 21, 2015


This article aims to compare the impact of Islamic terrorism after September 11 on the legal approaches of the United States and Europe – particularly, on their laws governing freedom of religion as well as on the rights of Muslims in these regions. Focusing on a number of post-September 11 cases in the Florida State Court and the European Court of Human Rights, this article argues that despite the limitations on Muslims’ religious freedoms and the demonstrated favoritism towards existing religious majorities, the post-September 11 cases in the U.S. and in Europe have been largely consistent with the principles and holdings of pre-September 11 precedents. The consistent, rather than worsened, treatment of Muslims’ religious rights post-September 11 may be attributed to a number of factors: the nature of the limitations, namely in exemption cases; the courts’ renewed belief that a person’s religion does not reflect disloyalty to the country in discrimination cases; the courts’ recognition of its self-restraining role in policymaking regarding antiterrorism; and the European doctrine of the “margin of appreciation,” which allows the court to defer to national governments on policy issues. Nevertheless, the antiterrorism approaches of the U.S. and EU seem to be more manifest in the policies governing immigration and national security. In the aftermath of the rise of Islamic terrorism, particularly with Al Quaeda and ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Levant, also known as IS), security issues have become a priority for the U.S. and EU. The extent to which such antiterrorism policies have been ultra vires and have disproportionally affected Muslim citizens and immigrants Europe is still under scrutiny.

Keywords: freedom of religion, religious extremism, Islamic terrorism

Suggested Citation

Kouroutakis, Antonios E., Islamic Terrorism: The Legal Impact on the Freedom of Religion in the United States and Europe (May 21, 2015). Boston University International Law Journal, Vol. 34, 2016 Forthcoming, Available at SSRN: or

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