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Religion, Hateful Expression and Violence

Florence, 8-9 April 2022

Project concept paper and conference programme | Project anthology | UNHQ presentation of book | AV Bergsmo (select remarks during the two conference days) | AV Kreß opening statement | AV Vibe opening statement | AV Donat-Cattin opening statement | AV Khan QC keynote | AV Beinisch keynote | AV Luban keynote | AV Manocha keynote | AV Indregård (Session A chair) | AV U Kyaw Tin presentation | AV Cardinal Bo presentation | AV U Aye Lwin presentation | AV Buis (Session B chair) | AV Lokur presentation | AV Damojipurapu presentation | AV Kaur presentation | AV Jelačić (Session C chair) | AV Mønnesland presentation | AV Halilović presentation | AV Walter (Session D chair) | AV Neuner presentation | AV Elbahtimy presentation | AV Cismas presentation | AV Luban (Session E chair) | AV Buis presentation | AV Marett-Crosby presentation | AV Maged presentation | AV Ekeløve-Slydal presentation | AV Buis (Session F chair) | AV Merari presentation | AV Leider presentation | AV U Kyaw Yin Hlaing presentation | AV SONG presentation | AV E. Stern presentation | AV Salzberger (Session G chair) | AV Noam presentation | AV OCHI presentation | AV Dugal presentation | AV Samandari (Session H chair) | AV Badar presentation | AV Ghanea presentation | AV P.J. Stern presentation | AV Ahmed presentation | Project podcast library | PBS No. 132 (2022) | OPS No. 11 (2022) | PBS No. 137 (2022) | PBS No. 138 (2022) | PBS No. 143 (2022) |

This is the web page of CILRAP’s project ‘Religion, Hateful Expression and Violence’. Here you have direct and free access to the project concept note, the programme of the project conference, the videothek of conference keynote and other presentations and statements, the podcast library of conference presentations, and, when available, the project anthology and other materials. As a multi-disciplinary research project fortunate to work with more than 30 international experts, the project seeks to generate new knowledge on or understanding of the factual nature of religion-based or -related hate speech (Part II); factors that motivate such hate speech (Part IV); international law and other significant normative frameworks regulating these forms of hate speech (Part III); and measures external and internal to religious communities that can help religious leaders broadly speaking to better prevent or reduce hate speech in the name of their faith. The context and purpose of the project is sketched below and in more detail in the concept note (which also lists the partners of CILRAP in this project, which is funded by the Norwegian Government). The anthology – the project’s most tangible output – is expected to be published late 2022. In addition to papers presented at the Florence conference, a handful of additional chapters will be included in the anthology.

As properly spelled out in the project concept paper (with sources), rather than solemnly burying God sixty-six years after Nietzsche’s madman pronounced God dead, nations of the world raised a normative shield by declaring that “everyone has the right to freedom of […] religion”, including “freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance”. Article 18 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights recognized freedom of religion as a central value of the post-World War II international legal order. The right was cemented in Article 18 of the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (‘ICCPR’). It became a cornerstone of international human rights law, just as foundational as the freedom of expression in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration (as further refined by Article 19(2) of the ICCPR), both freedoms originating in the domestic laws of several states and the writings of some philosophers. The ICCPR specifies law-prescribed limitations or restrictions to the two freedoms, necessary to protect common (public order, health and morals) and specific interests.

Article 20(2) of the Covenant recognizes that the freedoms of religion and expression in association can pose particular societal risks: “Any advocacy of […] religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence shall be prohibited by law.”. If we look to the ordinary meaning of its wording and the negotiation history, the core of the provision enjoins upon ICCPR States Parties to statutorily prohibit expressions of religious hatred that amount to incitement to violence, also when committed by non-state, religious actors. Some States Parties do not recognize that they have an obligation to adopt legislation under the provision. Other actors have argued that there should be a human right to protection from incitement to hatred as the flip side of the obligation to prohibit incitement. Article 20(2) goes to the core of the present project, which concerns the problem of public advocacy of religious hatred (by religious actors or in the name of religion) that constitutes incitement to violence, especially in situations where such violence has occurred or is likely to occur as a consequence of the advocacy or incitement.

Beyond the fundamental freedoms of religion and expression and the treaty-obligation to prohibit incitement to violence, the sister-discipline of international criminal law also provides international law classifications that may apply to religious incitement to violence. They include the modes of liability of incitement, instigation and ordering, and the crime against humanity of persecution.

Part III of this project (see the programme, which corresponds, with a few exceptions, to the table of contents of the conference anthology) gives an overview of the international law framework sketched here (in Section D), as well as some overarching normative frameworks of philosophy and religion (Section E). We hope the project anthology will receive further contributions than those indicated in conference Session E of the programme. Keynote presentations in Part I discuss dilemmas in the balancing of preservation of freedom of religious expression and prevention of hate speech and incitement to violence.

The project focuses on the expression of religion-based or -related hatred in ways that amount to incitement to violence which can place ‘respectful, thoughtful dialogue’ under serious strain. Hate speech in the name of religion that triggers acts of terrorism or other forms of violence has become a challenge of concern to the international community as a whole. Serious attempts to address this challenge should be informed (a) of the real threat (rather than assumptions or a theory about religious hate speech), and (b) by an attempt to understand the main factors that motivate such hate speech. To this end, Part II of this project includes case studies of relevant hate speech in Myanmar, India and the former Yugoslavia, seeking to establish the exact words used or symbolic acts undertaken, their cultural connotations, and other aspects of the domestic context.

Part IV explores several motivational factors behind relevant hateful expressions (including personality and situational factors, colonial prejudice and discrimination, socio-political factors, and religious themes), and how hate speech contributes to atrocity-inducing environments through social influence. The keynote presentation by David J. Luban in Part I of the project also considers whether there is anything intrinsic to religion that makes it prone to hateful and violence-inspiring expression.

The project’s Parts III (with keynote presentations in Part I), II and IV provide, respectively, normative, factual and explanatory foundation and context to Part V on ‘Measures Available to Prevent or Reduce Hateful Expression in Religious Communities’. Part V tries to zoom in on measures external (Section G) and internal (Section H) to religious communities. In its current stage of development, our project includes papers on five aspects of external measures:

(1) activities and recommendations by inter-governmental organizations (paper 25 in the conference programme);

(2) domestic law as a tool (paper 26);

(3) local regulation and community self-regulation (paper 27);

(4) activities of national human rights institutions (a paper by Elena Abrusci for the project anthology); and

(5) a non-governmental perspective on the relative effectiveness of multilateral and bilateral measures (paper 28).

There are currently another six papers on measures internal to religious communities:

(6) sanctions (formal and informal) and means of disapproval paper 29);

(7) the role of education within religion and belief communities (paper 30);

(8) the potential of social media to assist religious actors who seek to prevent or reduce hate speech (paper 31);

(9) translational and terminological sensitizing of religious leaders (paper 32);

(10) ‘Role of Al-Azhar Al-Sharif in Combating Extremism and Hate Speech According to International Instruments’ (this paper by Justice Adel Maged will be translated from Arabic into English and appear in the project anthology); and

(11) the impact of the threat of thematic prosecutions on the use of moral and spiritual tools within religious communities (paper 33).

This list does not pretend to be exhaustive. It reflects what we have managed to bring together during the preparation of our modest exercise in communitarian scholarship. As it is in Part V that the project seeks to add new knowledge, understanding or ideas – as a basis for recommendations or policy input – we welcome additional papers on important aspects of how religious leaders can (be helped to) better prevent or reduce hate speech by their members or in the name of their community, the main problem that the project addresses. Paper proposals can be addressed to CILRAP at [email protected]. As the selection of speakers and chairs in the programme indicates, this is a multi-disciplinary inquiry that benefits from a diversity of international experts – not limited to lawyers – brought together in a communitarian research effort. Contributions should be informed of the Rabat Plan of Action, the Beirut Declaration, and the 18 commitments on “Faith for Rights” as discussed in some detail in the project concept paper.

Our project should map a variety of ‘informal sanctions’ that may be available to religious leaders to express disapproval of hateful expression by their members or in the name of their community. Such sanctions may include denial of access to some devotional gatherings or to certain locations of worship; inability to serve on boards or in other capacities in humanitarian or educational institutions of the community; inability to lead prayer or other forms of communal worship; denial of right to make financial contributions to (certain) funds of the community; suspension of access to some religious leaders or mass-media; suspension of the right to undertake pilgrimage; and dedicated information to other members of the community about the disapproved conduct of incitement to violence (naming and shaming).


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