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A Unique Series on Religion & the Public Space: An Introduction

May 9th, 2011

In spring 2011, the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations invited eminent analysts from around the world to provide informed commentaries on pressing issues of their own choosing that touch upon the role(s) of religion in the public space from a variety of perspectives and backgrounds.  As part of an online resource of experts (—established in 2010 by the UNAOC—to provide quality analysis and ensure a diversity of opinions in public and media debates, these experts reflect a variety of professional, cultural, and geographical backgrounds, and political perspectives.  This series, Religion, Politics & the Public Space, brings together their contributions.

Through this innovative article series, the UNAOC Global Experts project aims to offer the world’s foremost newspapers with unique commentaries by prominent thinkers and analysts. This stems from the UNAOC’s global mission: amplifying the constructive role of the media in increasing public understanding of divisive debates, ensuring that a diversity of voices are heard from, and providing free quality content to newspapers worldwide. The UNAOC is committed to maintaining the broad intellectual reach and the global scope that readers need to understand a common issue that is experienced in different ways around the globe.

Questions of the engagement of religion in politics and public life are indeed among the most pressing and complex on the international agenda and within many countries. In a modernizing world of mass human migration and ever faster dissemination of ideas and images, no country or culture stands immune from outside influences. While many products and processes are traded freely with little thought and few worries, challenges to cultural identity brought by interaction with different beliefs can generate far greater concern and sometimes serious tensions.

Our Global Experts address different aspects of religion and politics in the public space from their various perspectives, from concerns over rising intolerance of religious differences in Europe to worries over similar trends discerned in a number of countries of Africa, Asia, and elsewhere. The role religion is likely to play in the unfolding transitions of the “Arab Spring” is also touched upon.

Several writers find new reasons for hope in growing interfaith or multifaith movements that are bringing together people of disparate religious groups, as well as non-believers, in efforts to work practically for the common good on the basis of shared core beliefs. Using plain language in the public space to promote such core values, we are told, is a valuable tool that transcends particular religious discourse to allow people to work together.

We hope that these commentaries will inform and enrich the important, and, at times, difficult discussion about religion in the public space.  We warmly welcome your thoughts on this and other matters on our website. (

Marc Scheuer

United Nations Alliance of Civilizations


NB: You may wish to draw inspiration from the paragraphs above in presenting this series to your readers, either by reproducing them as an introduction by the Alliance of Civilizations, or by otherwise introducing the series in your own words. In any event, the following mention should always appear clearly:

This article is part of the series “Religion & the Public Space” in collaboration with the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations and its Global Experts project ( .

The views expressed in these articles are those of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect those of the United Nation Alliance of Civilizations or of the institutions to which the authors are affiliated.

Discover a new article every Monday and Thursday from May – July on

May 9: “Private Beliefs, Public Change,” Eboo Patel, the founder and executive director of the Interfaith Youth Core

May 12: “Securalism to the Rescue of the Arab Spring,” Fadi Hakura, Manager of the Turkey project at UK-based Chatham House

May 16: “Iran’s Greatest Spiritual Leader,“ Melody Moezzi, lawyer, columnist and activist, USA/Iran

May 19: “The Fate of Minorities in the Arab Spring,” René Guitton, writer and publisher, France

May 23: “Religion and Public Space in India,” Christophe Jaffrelot, Senior research fellow at CERI-Sciences Po/CNRS

May 26: “Faith and Free Speech,” Marina Mahathir, Columnist, blogger and women’s rights activistfrom Malaysia

May 30: “Religious Pluralism and Democracy on Show in Egypt,” Asma Afsaruddin, Professor of Islamic Studies at Indiana University, USA

June 2:  “The Sacred and the Secular: Promoting Muslim Democracy,” Professor Asef Bayat, Illinois University, USA

June 6 “The Reorganization of Muslims Structures in Russia: an Example for Europe?” Vitaly Naumkin, director of the Institute of Oriental Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences

June 9: “Europe’s Rising Islamophobia,” Virginie Guiraudon, CNRS, Research fellow at the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS)

June 13: “Expression of Religion in Public Space – Assurances and Barriers in Indonesia,” Bernhard Platzdasch, Visiting Research Fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS), Singapore

June 16: “Sharia and Democracy in Nigeria’s Public Space,” Professor Ali A. Mazrui,  Binghampton University, USA

June 20: “Speaking Out, Out of Turn?,” Maria José Rosado-Nunes, Brazil, graduate professor of sociology of religion and feminist studies at the Pontifical Catholic University of São Paulo

June 23: “Cutting the Fog: Multiculturalism, Religion and the Common Good,” Professor Sara Silvestri, City University London and Cambridge University, UK

June 27: “Religion, Revolution and Two Languages,” Dr. William F. Vendley, Secretary General of Religions for Peace, USA

Partner newspapers may publish the above articles in a different order depending on their own constraints and preferences.


2 Responses to “A Unique Series on Religion & the Public Space: An Introduction”
  1. s.j.r.bilgrami says:

    A reader of such an important series would, no doubt, be interested to comment on the invited articles.But how to contribute if one so wishes? How to get the contact no or relevent E-Mail.

  2. [...] This article is part of the series "Religion, politics and the public space" in collaboration with the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations and its Global Experts [...]

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