When sociologists refer to the contemporary crisis of multiculturalism, they are typically talking about how modern states, especially liberal democratic states, respond to the rise of “public religions.” These religious conflicts and uncertainties about appropriate state responses to them have produced a general retreat from multiculturalism – at least in Europe (Joppke, 2004). More specifically, the contemporary problem of politics and religion has been increasingly orchestrated around the global revival of Islam and the emergence of a global Muslim community. However, the particular issues surrounding Muslim minorities in non-Muslim secular societies can be seen as simply one instance of the more general issue of state and religion relationships in modern complex societies. There is growing awareness about the limitations of the Westphalian solution to religious conflicts and hence political theory is undertaking a serious reconsideration of liberalism as the philosophical basis of political strategies to manage conflicting cultural, religious and ethnic interests. In the modern global world where state boundaries have been contested, there is a need to rethink how the competing claims of secular and religious citizens can be articulated and respected within public discourse (Habermas, 2008).
This question – how to manage the public expression of religion in multicultural and therefore multifaith societies – is not simply an issue for conventional liberal societies, because religious revivalism and community conflict raise political issues across a wide spectrum of modern societies.