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Religion and Politics in the 21st Century: Tradition, Heritage, Challenges

Konrad-Adenauer-Foundation & Oxford German Forum

On 23rd November, the Konrad-Adenauer-Foundation co-hosted a public panel discussion on religion and the state at Oxford University.

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On 23rd November, the Konrad-Adenauer-Foundation co-hosted with the Oxford German Forum two public panel discussions with the Oxford German Forum on the relationship of religion and state at Oxford University. High-level participants from all over the world reflected on how religion has influenced the state during the past and on political extremism, terrorism, and security politics today.

At the very beginning, former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd posed the question of what impact does and should religion have on legislation today. He followed that religion is most critical in continuing on not compromising on ethical principals in policy-making. The secular state fails to genuinely commit to universal ethical principles, Mr Rudd underlined.

Prof Dr Juliane Kokott who is attorney general at the European Court of Justice in Luxemburg asserted that it is the ECJ nowadays to protect religious minorities from discrimination imposed by legislation, for example on religious dress-codes. However, religion must never be used as a legitimation for the oppression of women, she followed.

Islam teaches that the decision made by the majority should be followed and that Muslims have to follow those rules until they account for a majority, Imam Khalifa Ezzat from the Central Mosque and Islamic Cultural Centre in London explained. Therefore, Islam should be understood to be fully compatible with democratic values and procedures.

Prof Jörg Friedrichs, associate fellow for politics at Oxford University, stressed that different societies deal differently with religious minorities. It additionally seems that even the state sometimes deals with religious minorities differently as the society that state is supposed to govern. In China for example, hostility towards certain religious groups is a matter of state and not society, Prof Friedrichs explained. He concluded that Western societies should try to see what they can learn from religious minorities instead of continuously lecturing them.

Especially Germany needs to broaden its perspective on security politics, Dr Andreas Jacobs who was research adviser for NATO in the Middle East and now works for the Konrad-Adenauer-Foundation reminded. Security politics is not a matter of integration alone but of international and European affairs as well, he followed. Germany should be well advised to strengthen its military forces and take more global responsibility.

Dr Günther Krings, Member of the German Parliament and State Secretary to the Minister of the Interior pointed out that there has always been some kind of terrorism. He mentioned that since the so called Islamic State has almost been defeated in Syria and Iraq, terroristic threats could perhaps increase in Europe wherefore the European Union needs closer cooperation.

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