The European Court’s Freedom of Association Cases and the Implications for Islam
Religious minorities in Europe have always struggled to obtain legitimacy, both in the minds of the people and the halls of the European legislatures. As interest in protecting human rights spread through Europe over the last few decades, the vast majority of European citizens began to enjoy an increased freedom to speak, worship, and associate. Nevertheless, religious minorities, or sects, through Europe continue to be viewed with skepticism and fear; and it appears that despite a promising wave of international documents declaring the immutability of religious association and religion, an increasing number of European states are also simultaneously tightening the noose on new religious movements by imposing increasingly strict restrictions on registration of legal entities, visa issuances, and proselytism.1 Whether such skepticism and fear is the product of long-standing majorities resistant to change, a fear of the unknown, or simple misunderstanding, many foreign and minority religious groups continue to face
significant restrictions on their right to religiously associate in any official manner in most European countries.