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Introduction

In this video clip you will be introduced to this third course, which is the last in this ExpertTrack.

In this video clip, you will be introduced to this third course, which is the last in this ExpertTrack.

The concept of the right to religious freedom is not new. The Treaty of Westphalia 1648 ending the Thirty Years War in Europe, for example, sought to guarantee religious freedoms to Catholics living in Protestant countries and rights to Protestants living in Catholic countries. Why was this so significant? Simply because, as Petty put it succinctly:

“Historically, Europeans have not been especially kind to each other, especially when there are religious differences between them. Religion has been the cause of controversy and war in Europe for centuries. The last hundred years alone have seen attempts at exterminating substantial parts of populations identi­fied by their religious difference: Armenian Christians, Ashkenazi Jews, and Bosnian Muslims have all faced systemic state-sponsored violence.”

Sadly, Europe is not alone in having experienced war and violence in the name of religion. But most attempts to address the question of religious freedom have been rooted in the experience of wars or inter-community violence. It is clear that religious intolerance has, and continues to be a source of violent conflict, genocide and other significant human rights abuses around the world.

This week we will examine the right to religious freedom and then move to focus on the freedom of European Muslim women to wear garments that cover their heads and/or faces. This aspect of religious freedom may seem rather niche; however, the reason for choosing it is that the responses of some governments, as well as that of the European Court of Human Rights, tell us something profound about tolerance in the 21st Century.

By the end of this week you should be able to:

  • identify the importance of religious freedom in the modern era and the protection afforded to it by human rights law instruments
  • identify some of the challenges to religious freedom and the challenges for religious adherents in the modern era
  • examine the case-law of the European Court of Human Rights relating to freedom of religion in general and the Court’s treatment of Muslim women’s choice of attire
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Human Rights, Ways of Life, and the Future

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FutureLearn - Learning For Life

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