The volume - a study of comparative law which also considers historical, cultural and political aspects - explores a timely topic in today's multicultural societies: the relationship between politics and religion from the standpoint of the acknowledgement and the defence of religious freedom, i.e., the freedom to choose and practice a religion or creed, change it, or not choose any at all. The analysis is developed at a general level - by comparing Western civilisation and Islamic fundamentalism - but also with regard for specific, representative cases. By interpreting empirical research, the author identifies a trend of increasing religious freedom: in the West the latter is now considered a basic human right, deeply linked to the freedom of conscience and thought; and its purely individual nature has been transcended, in that today its collective dimension is also safeguarded. The future, nevertheless, is clouded by doubt: is it possible - and if so, how - to establish a dialogue with another part of the world, i.e., Islamic fundamentalism, which considers the sacred text a universal code, which applies not only to religious relationships and beliefs, but to all aspects of social and political life, and outside of which there exists no liberty, only error? The volume begins with an investigation of some of the relevant basics in both the Western world - through an examination of international and European charters and European constitutions - and the Islamic one. The evolution of religious freedom is traced in selected countries: France, Russia, and Mexico - in which there exists a hostile separation between the State and religious phenomenon - and Portugal, Spain, Quebec - which have abandoned systems which formerly granted privileges to official religions. Particular attention is paid to the relationship between religious freedom and the educational system, which is at the centre of many political debates in Europe.
Stefano Ceccanti teaches Comparative Public Law in the Faculty of Political Sciences at the Forl campus of the University of Bologna.