Religion – a social factor of ever greater importance

16 July 2010

Religion, society, and law – what do they have to do with each other? A great deal, is the answer from two of the 40 Uppsala researchers who are pursuing research on the impact of religion on society.

The research program Religion as a Societal Factor – Current Challenges to Democracy and Rule of Law – is multidisciplinary. Five different faculties are involved. The program is co-directed by Maarit Jänterä-Jareborg, professor of law and Anders Bäckström, professor of sociology of religions.

Issues regarding human rights, the new poverty, welfare, family forms, existential questions, and health are among those common to the departments involved.

“Something is happening in the Western world, to a great extent as a result of global migration. We are moving from a secularized society where religion has been a private matter to a society where religion has become more visible through the media, but also as a political and moral force,” says Anders Bäckström.

According to these researchers, Islam is the religion that can pose the greatest challenge to our present-day law-based society. What does legal pluralism entail, and where are the boundaries? The trouble in Denmark about the cartoons of Mohammed is a clear example of how freedom of expression and freedom of religion can collide. Women experience religion as an impediment and as a resource. Another field where we need knowledge about Islam and Muslim legal institutions is family law.

“We have a crying need for knowledge in a number of different social and political institutions in society, not least in the courts. I am convinced that this the findings of this program will lead to changes in legislation,” says Maarit Jänterä-Jareborg.