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Faith in the public realm

Faith in the public realm: Controversies, policies and practices

Adam Dinham
Robert Furbey
Vivien Lowndes
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  • Book Info
    Faith in the public realm
    Book Description:

    Based on primary research, this book explores the controversies, policies and practices of 'public faith', questioning perceptions of a fixed divide between religious and secular participants in public life and challenging prevailing concepts of a monolithic 'neutral' public realm. It takes an in-depth look at the distinctiveness of faith groups' contribution, but also probes the conflicts and dilemmas that arise, assessing the role and capacity of faith groups within specific public policy contexts, including education, regeneration, housing and community cohesion. 'Faith in the public realm' will be of interest to students, academics, policy-makers and practitioners in the public and voluntary sectors, and in faith communities themselves.

    eISBN: 978-1-84742-442-6
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. List of tables and figures
    (pp. iv-iv)
  2. Foreword
    (pp. v-viii)
    Bhikhu Parekh

    The traditionalist’s fear or the rationalist’s hope that modernity will see off religion as a legitimate form of thought has paradoxically both come true and been proved false. It has come true because religion today is no longer what it was in premodern times. It is self-conscious, argumentative, seeks rational justification, and is not a matter of a basic ontological trust, an unargued faith, or a taken-for-granted fact of life. The hope or the fear has been proved false because religion matters a great deal to a large number of people, in some respects even more than it did in...

  3. ONE Faith and the public realm
    (pp. 1-20)
    Adam Dinham and Vivien Lowndes

    Academics, policy makers and practitioners are grappling with the emphatic return of faith to the public table, and seeking to make sense of its implications. Many have observed a surprising ‘political revitalization of religion at the heart of Western society’ (Habermas, 2007, p 2) and some have expressed concern about the renewed ‘turn to faith’. This book is an attempt to unpack at least some of the ‘grappling’, and to surface the many questions, challenges and controversies it raises.

    Such a project must occur at several levels, encompassing a wide range of debates. The place of faith in the public...

  4. TWO Controversies of ‘public faith’
    (pp. 21-40)
    Robert Furbey

    This chapter explores some fundamental philosophical, scientific, socio-political and theological controversies that underlie the place of faith in the public realm. The quality of these debates has been variable and often inflamed.

    The two guiding questions of the chapter combine the normative and the empirical:

    Should religious faith have an organised presence in the public realm?

    What are, and what might be, the consequences of a faith presence?

    Specifically, the chapter addresses a strong secularist critique of ‘public religion’ in the UK in which the following objections are prominent:

    Religion is irrational and essentially at odds with science and evidence-based...

  5. THREE ‘Soft’ segregation: Muslim identity, British secularism and inequality
    (pp. 41-62)
    David Cheesman and Nazia Khanum

    Current controversies about faith in the public realm have been stirred by historical and contemporary developments and events relating specifically to Islam and the perceptions of, and by, Muslim people in the UK and in the wider world. This chapter brings the perspectives of two Muslim authors to the exploration of Muslim experience in the cultural context of Britain where public expression of faith is often met with unease or even hostility.

    Muslims are now the largest religious minority in the UK. Like other recently settled minorities, they stand out because most are not white, and their customs and beliefs...

  6. FOUR How participation changes things: ‘inter-faith’, ‘multi-faith’ and a new public imaginary
    (pp. 63-82)
    Paul Weller

    In recent decades the ‘religious landscape’ of the UK has changed significantly, as has the approach of government to religions. Especially at local and regional levels, government and other public bodies have become engaged with inter-faith initiatives, organisations and structures that have the contribution of religions to public life and civic society as a central part of their rationale.

    It was argued inTime for a change: Reconfiguring religion, state and society(Weller, 2005a p 73) that the UK’s ‘religious landscape’ has become increasingly ‘three-dimensional’ and is now ‘exhibiting contours that are Christian, secular and religiously plural’. Each of these...

  7. FIVE Faith, multiculturalism and community cohesion: a policy conversation
    (pp. 83-104)
    Maqsood Ahmed, Ted Cantle and Dilwar Hussain

    This chapter considers whether the rise of faith identities poses a challenge to multiculturalism as a settlement within the public realm. It also looks at the relationship between faith and the policy agenda for ‘community cohesion’, which has emerged from a critical engagement with multiculturalism. The chapter hosts a ‘policy conversation’ between three people who are currently active in civil society and governance, and have a long and varied experience in working on faith and diversity. The chapter captures the views of those who are actually shaping policy and practice on faith in the public realm. It is interactive and...

  8. SIX Blurred encounters? Religious literacy, spiritual capital and language
    (pp. 105-122)
    Christopher Baker

    This chapter is framed by the idea of ‘blurred encounters’, particularly the encounters between faith groups, government, academia and other partners in the third sector. These encounters have recently increased in scope and frequency due to current government policy aimed at increasing the role played by the third sector (including faith groups) in key policy areas such as social cohesion, local democracy and public service provision (for example, LGA, 2002; PIU, 2002; Home Office, 2004).

    The following discussion first describes the phenomenon of blurred encounters. This provides a basis for the subsequent identification and exploration of different levels of miscommunication...

  9. SEVEN Religion, political participation and civic engagement: women’s experiences
    (pp. 123-142)
    Brenda O’Neill

    The role that religion plays in shaping political and civic behaviour has received significant attention in recent years (see, for example, Norris and Inglehart, 2005). Religion’s influence on political behaviour has been well established (Layman, 1997). Burns et al (2001, p 231) suggest that ‘religious institutions are a crucial component of civic society’. Within this area of research, however, women have received less focused attention. This stems perhaps from religion’s longstanding negative impact on women’s equality, and the traditional roles that it can assign to them in both the public and the private sectors (Woodhead, 2001; Inglehart and Norris, 2003)....

  10. EIGHT Young people and faith activism: British Muslim youth, glocalisation and the umma
    (pp. 143-162)
    Richard Gale and Therese O’Toole

    In this chapter, we examine a case study of faith activism among young Muslim men in Birmingham, UK, exploring how faith identity frames their public engagement and political activism. The chapter engages with two core concerns raised in this volume: the ways in which faith frames or orientates public action; and how we should conceptualise the public realm as a site of faith activism.

    Our case study arises from a two-year qualitative study of black and minority ethnic young people’s political engagement, in the course of which we worked with young members of a locally based Muslim ‘justice movement’. This...

  11. NINE Faith-based schools: institutionalising parallel lives?
    (pp. 163-182)
    John Flint

    The impacts of education policy and faith-based schools in particular, have constituted a central element of contemporary debates about community cohesion and national identity in the UK. This chapter begins by describing the provision of state-funded faith-based schooling in the UK and how faith-based schools have been conceptualised within public policy discourses around cohesion. It then explores the evidence regarding the impact of faith-based schools on three key dimensions of social cohesion: the inculcation of values; sociospatial segregation; and disparities in educational attainment. This informs an assessment of whether such schools are institutionalising ‘parallel lives’. The discussion then addresses the...

  12. TEN Faiths, government and regeneration: a contested discourse
    (pp. 183-202)
    Richard Farnell

    The engagement of faith communities in regeneration and community renewal is a matter of keenly contested debate. Stakeholders bring varying, and not always compatible, perspectives to the table (Dinham and Lowndes, 2008). Leaders of faith groups aspire to a recognised role in regeneration but are liable to resist uncritical co-option into government agendas. Conversely, the pronouncements of national politicians and senior civil servants often assume that, with a little encouragement, people of faith will participate in the implementation of official policies and plans. Many professionals at the local level, whether in local authorities, regeneration agencies or third sector bodies, view...

  13. ELEVEN Faith and the voluntary sector in urban governance: distinctive yet similar?
    (pp. 203-222)
    Rachael Chapman

    The engagement of voluntary and community sector (VCS) organisations is an important strand in government policy agendas on sustainable communities (DCLG, 2007a; HM Treasury and Cabinet Office, 2007). The sector’s contribution stems from its values, philanthropy, resources and social capital, all of which inform a range of activities including welfare provision, campaigning, advocacy and interest representation. More recently, the government has drawn increasing attention to the potential for faith communities to contribute in similar and, in some cases, distinctive ways to this agenda. A growing body of research confirms that faith-based organisations have much to contribute, not least through their...

  14. TWELVE Conclusions
    (pp. 223-236)
    Adam Dinham, Robert Furbey and Vivien Lowndes

    The preceding chapters have exploredcontroversiesthat attend faith involvement in a liberal public realm;policiesthat provide its parameters, both endorsing a religious presence and sometimes circumscribing it; andpracticesof ‘public faith’ in various settings and sectors. This concluding chapter explores key themes emerging from the earlier contributions.

    The central question remains as to whether ‘faith’ is legitimate as a public category at all. ‘Strong’ secularists argue for the exclusion of religion from the public realm and its confinement to private life. A model of progressive secularisation informs this position, in which the Western liberal Enlightenment steadily marginalises...