Religions & Constitutional Transitions, Muslim Mediterranean: “The Pluralistic Moment”

The conference Religions and Constitutional Transitions in the Muslim Mediterranean: “The Pluralistic Moment” was held 3-5 June 2014 at Insubria University in Como, Italy. Co-sponsored by Insubria’s International Center for Religion, Law and Economy in the Mediterranean Area and the International Center for Law and Religion Studies at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, the conference aimed at investigating the role and place of religion in the present constitutional transitions in the Islamic Mediterranean area, paying special attention to experience with rule by Islamic-oriented political parties in recent transitional contexts. The effort was to analyze pressing concerns flowing from increasing pluralism for states, religions, and societies and the consequences for their normative systems.

The conference provided an opportunity to bring together scholars, government officials, and civil society leaders from the Middle East, North Africa, and southern Europe to discuss three basic questions related to religious freedom: constitutionalism, the role of religious parties, and the status of religious minorities. In addition to several individual speakers, the conference consisted mainly of a series of panel discussions: one on Italy, and the others on countries affected by the recent political and social turmoil in the Middle East: Tunisia, Morocco, Egypt, Turkey, Palestine, Algeria, and Jordan.

The conference focused on three principal topics: (1) the role of Islamic political parties, and more generally, on the extent to which religion is allowed to play a role in political processes; (2) the place of religious freedom in constitutional evolution; (3) the treatment of religious minorities, both as an object and a subject of political and legal debate.

The 2014 conference provided the impetus and the venue for launching a new academic center dedicated to law and religion studies in the Muslim Mediterranean:  The Insubria Center on Religion, Law, and Economy in the Mediterranean Area, Insubria University, Como, Italy (REDESM).