The title of the Istanbul Seminars 2016 is Religion, Rights and the Public Sphere. While religiously inspired social movements, political parties, and charity institutions make an important contribution to society in terms of civil life and social cohesion, every religion can also play a negative role in radicalizing identities, in making compromises more difficult, and provoking violence and wars. Today it is evident that religious traditions can be a double-edged sword in the Muslim world, where democratization and modernization processes risk being obstructed by radical Islam, terrorism and the escalation of the Shia-Sunni conflict. This situation raises important questions with regard to what makes religions contribute to the foundations and legitimacy of democracy and, on the contrary, why at times religions become a source of extremism and intolerance.
What is the connection between religious radicalism and the colonial and postcolonial legacy? Is radical Islam a consequence of imposed and fragile state-building processes hijacked by secular authoritarian regimes or vice versa? Can it be explained by the collapse of nationalist and socialist ideologies or by underdevelopment and inequalities? Do religious doctrines cause the radicalization of identities quite autonomously and independently from the political and social context? Accordingly, the Istanbul Seminars 2016 will discuss how much religious pluralism is a matter of politics, law and the economy and to what extent it also concerns theology.