As part of wider concerns over migration and integration, religion has become a key issue of public debate and political contestation in European immigration societies. Reviewing and synthesizing major strands of comparative as well as survey-based research, this presentation discusses the paradoxical dynamics of legal openings and social closures that have characterized migration-driven religious diversity and the presence of Islam since the post-Cold War period.
On the one hand, the rise of human rights regimes, European anti-discrimination law and constitutional jurisprudence have blurred institutionalized religious boundaries. Remnants of Europe’s confessional age as articulated in cooperative church-state-relations and privileges for Christian majorities have come under pressure, and courts have considerably expanded the individual and collective rights of Muslim minorities. On the other hand, there is clear evidence for the persisting salience of bright religious boundaries in wider society. That religion is a powerful marker of categorical difference, intricately linked to processes of stigmatization, prejudice-based discrimination and social inequality, is not only evinced by ethno-religious penalties suffered by Muslims in education and on labor markets, but also by the political appeal of populism and its rhetoric of identitarian “Christianism”. This disjuncture of legal openings and social closure raises broader questions about the changing configurations of political and cultural membership in contemporary nation-states.