The relationship between democracy and religion that nineteenth century philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville identified as “the great problem of our time” appears to be no less problematic today. Both in Europe and in the Muslim world, “religion”, “Islam”, “secularism” and “liberal democracy” are emotionally charged topics that are increasingly treated as markers of identity, non-negotiable values or even irreconcilable worldviews. Do “traditional” categories and paradigms describing this relationship provide any illumination on the moral and political questions facing both 21st century Muslims and European democracies witnessing a deep and unprecedented identity crisis? Or is the time ripe to rethink the relationship between religion, societies and democratic governance on both sides of the alleged “Islam-West” divide? And if so, then how?
These topics will be addressed during the round table on “Liberal Democracy and Religious Identities” organized at the Ex Nihilo Zero Conference of the European Academy of Religion (Bologna, June 18-22).