Religious Diversity in Prisons and in the Military: The Rights of Muslim Immigrants in Norwegian State Institutions

Inger Furseth

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Abstract

This article analyses the right of Muslims to practise their religion within two state institutions in Norway, the prisons and the military. Whereas the Norwegian Constitution acknowledges the fundamental right of individuals to practise their religious faiths, the case of Muslim immigrants demonstrates that these constitutional principles are often challenged by social practices. Structural barriers to full participation of Muslims in society are exemplified by state institutions such as the prisons and the military, where the responsibility for administrating religious life rests mainly with the clergy of the Church of Norway. While differences in the management of religious diversity in these two institutions may well be explained by their particular characteristics, the differential treatment of Christians and non-Christians in both of them indicates that structural barriers to full recognition of Muslims still prevail in Norway. The increasing diversity of religion caused by immigration processes in many Western European countries thus calls for the redesign of public policies of equal opportunity in order to effectively protect the fundamental right to religious freedom.

Suggested bibliographic reference for this article:

Furseth, Inger. Religious Diversity in Prisons and in the Military: The Rights of Muslim Immigrants in Norwegian State Institutions. IJMS: International Journal on Multicultural Societies. 2000, vol. 2, no.1, pp. 40-52. UNESCO. ISSN 1817-4574. www.unesco.org/shs/ijms/vol2/issue1/art3

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