The presence of religious symbols in Europe kindles debates about the growing visibility of religion in public spaces and the governance of religious diversity. Religious symbols and garments, and the Muslim veil in particular, are often considered marks of religious diversity, as they are an embodiment of lived religious practices. The visibility of religious symbols in Europe can also lead to legal disputes in national or international courts.
This article “Proselytism and Ostentation: a Critical Discourse Analysis of the European Court of Human Rights’ Case Law on Religious Symbols”, co-authored by dr. Giulia Evolvi, analyzes the discourses about religious symbols—specifically headcovers and crucifixes—by looking at the totality of cases related to religious symbols ruled on by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR). The ECtHR is an international court that interprets the human rights standards defined in the European Convention on Human Rights (echr), binding for forty-seven states.
The analysis allowed the researchers dr. Giulia Evolvi (ESHCC) and dr. Mauro Gatti, to come to two conclusions. First, the ECtHR indirectly promotes and perpetuates the notion of Christian secularism by describing Christian symbols as compatible with secular values and non-Christian symbols as the ‘other’ of European culture. Second, the ECtHR judgments seem to progressively change over time in offering more agency to Muslim applicants, but cases that occurred closer in time are not necessarily consistent in their narratives.