University of Mannheim
Discrimination against religious minorities is ubiquitous and rising. To understand this troubling trend and heeding the complexity of the topic, Jonathan Fox presents his new tour-de-force. Instead of a single parsimonious theory, Fox offers a sweeping empirical assessment of potential explanations for religious discrimination – defined as government restrictions on religious practices of minorities only. Among them, a state's religious ideology and majority religion, secular-political ideology and regime type, threat perceptions and other historic or cultural factors. Fox takes context dependency seriously by investigating each of the explanations separately for major country groups defined by majority religion and world region. As with any book by Fox, this latest addition comes chock-full of fresh data on religious policy: round 3 of the Religion and the State Religious Minorities Data Set with a rich set of indicators on 771 religious minorities in 183 countries for the period 1990–2014. The dataset also contains new measures on the social discrimination of religious minorities by non-state actors, which will prove valuable to many researchers. (Fox is very generous when it comes to sharing his data). Ultimately, a book's contribution is measured against the question of whose mind it changes about what. Fox certainly challenges us to change our minds on some deeply held beliefs concerning the state of religious tolerance around the world. Indeed, neither Western values nor liberal democracy are a guarantee for low levels of religious discrimination. Paradoxically and provocatively, it is precisely the secular-liberal values of gender equality, bodily integrity and animal rights that bring Western liberal democracies in direct conflict with minorities’ religious practices like dress codes, male circumcision and ritual slaughter.