Public Spirit hosts regular themed debates about specific topics relating to religion and public policy. These themes are listed below. Click on the theme to access the relevant posts.


 Zutshi-Smith Symposium on the Commission on Religion and Belief in British Public Life

The symposium, to mark the anniversary of the publication of the Commission’s report, brought together a number of papers that reflected on the themes of the report and responses to it. Here Public Spirit  has collected a series of those papers, with an introduction by one of the symposium organisers and members of the Commission, Professor Tariq Modood.


Public Faith and Finance

In a context of welfare retrenchment and increasing financial exclusion, faith organisations, including from minority faiths, are not just plugging the gaps, but setting out alternative and often innovative approaches to welfare and economic justice. This theme explores the role of faith organisations in: 1) providing forms of assistance to those experiencing financial hardship; 2) engaging in activism and campaigning to reform financial products and services; and 3) advocating or providing alternative faith-based or ethical forms of finance.

The implications of the counter-extremism agenda

Since 2010, the government’s counter-extremism agenda has been continually evolving – with iterations to Prevent following the Coalition’s revisions to the Prevent strategy in 2011, the establishment of the government’s Terrorism Taskforce (TERFOR) following the murder of Lee Rigby in 2013, the passing of the 2015 Counter-Terrorism and Security Act by the Conservative government, the additional counter-extremism measures announced in the Queen’s speech in the autumn of 2015, and the announcement by David Cameron of a new counter-extremism strategy in 2015. What are the implications of these measures for the role of Muslims and Islam in British public life? What effects will they have on Muslims and civil society more broadly? This special Public Spirit series of articles reflects on the various implications of the government’s evolving counter-extremism agenda.



Muslim community engagement in Bristol

Clifton.bridge.arp_.750pix-300x218How have Muslims engaged in governance and how well do governance processes engage with diverse Muslim groups? These questions have been of political concern for a variety of reasons. They have been driven by a shifting equalities agenda that has increasingly addressed the experiences of religious and Muslim – as distinct from ethnic – groups, by increased recognition by government of the role of faith and faith groups across policy areas such as welfare delivery or urban regeneration, by shifts in integration and community cohesion policies, and more controversially by the security and counter-terrorism agenda.A research team set out to examine how engagement through Prevent was conducted locally in Bristol. Working with Muslim communities in Bristol, the project explored Muslim participation in local democratic life, the impact of Prevent on local state-Muslim engagement, the extent to which Prevent created an opportunity structure for Muslim women’s participation, and the ways in which spaces of decision-making might be reimagined as more inclusive spaces.


Commission on Religion and Belief in British Public Life – discussion

Commission on Religion and Belief in British Public Life

The place of religion in public life in Britain and so many other countries has changed remarkably in the last couple of decades. The renewed public character of religion rightly makes us think anew about the place of religion in the national life of the country and our sense of national identity in a time of rapid change. It is in this context that the Woolf Institute at Cambridge created the Commission on Religion and Belief in British Public Life. Public Spirit asked six contributors  who study or work with religion in the public sphere, to look at some of the questions that the Commission has posed and the general context of where we are today in relation to the phenomenon of religion in public life



Religious Discrimination and Hatred

Tell MamaLegislation making religious discrimination and hatred an offence is relatively recent in the UK, but as this series of articles explores there are a range of legal and conceptual challenges involved in addressing forms of religious hatred.




Faith and wellbeing


With wellbeing attracting greater policy interest, this series examines the myriad ways in which religion and wellbeing intersect – whether that is in faith groups’ efforts to address isolation and loneliness, or in the provision of faith sensitive health and care services.


Spotlight on faith and politics in Tower Hamlets

Altab Ali demo, Alan Denney

Tower Hamlets attracts more media attention than arguably any other local authority in Britain, partly because of its rich history and partly because of its complex local politics. This series looks at the borough from a wide range of perspectives, and covers demographics, local government, the history and influence of Jewish migrants, inter-faith work, secular activism and street politics.


Faith-based organisations and local economic development

Halal Butcher

Since the publication of Faith in the City in 1985, the relationship between religion and local economic well-being has been a matter of intense political interest and argument. This series looks at the subject from a range of perspectives, examining the notion of ‘asset-based community development’, the concept of ‘progressive localism’ and the economic value and impact of faith-based organisations.


Can public faith help rebuild the link between morality and markets?


Recent years have seen prominent campaigns on financial issues such as the expansion of payday lenders and the living wage. Some – such as the Archbishop of Canterbury – have even suggested that churches and other religious institutions could play a role in the provision of financial products and support. But how effective can such activities be, given the resources in faith communities?


Has UK public policy succeeded in ‘empowering’ Muslim women?

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Muslim women continue to be the focus of public debate and policy in Britain, with these debates tending to depict Muslim women as the victims of coercion. But is this perception warranted? And what can recent research tell us about policy debates on issues such as the banning of the niqab or the prevention of violent extremism currently taking place in the UK?


The legacy and future of Prevent

Prevent cropped

Since the launch of the initial ‘pathfinder’ fund in 2006, Prevent – the policy mechanism designed to deter people from becoming involved in violent extremism – has been a source of fierce controversy, especially among Muslims. In this series, Public Spirit examines the impact of Prevent and the changes made to the strategy by the Coalition.


Muslim civil society


Muslim civil society has steadily evolved since the 1980s. In this series, Public Spirit examines different forms of Muslim civil society participation, giving an insight into the transformation of Muslim civil society from the 1980s to the present day.


Equalities and religious difference


In recent years a range of new laws have been introduced to address religious discrimination.  In this series, Public Spirit hosts articles explores some of the most urgent debates about finding the balance between religious freedom and equality.


Faith and social action

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Successive governments have repeatedly praised religious organisations that engage in faith-based social action, but the issue remains controversial. In this series, Public Spirit hosts articles from a wide range of individuals with direct experience of faith-based community work, including those based in Government, research organisations, and charitable groups.


Spotlight on Leicester


Public Spirit’s first local spotlight is on Leicester, one of the most religiously diverse cities in the UK and a place commonly characterised as a ‘model’ multicultural city. Covering Leicester’s history, demographics and its current political challenges, the series examines the lessons Leicester holds for debates about multiculturalism, cohesion and the involvement of faith-based organisations in politics.


From multiculturalism to muscular liberalism? Faith and the future of integration

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In the early debates about multiculturalism in the 1960s and 1970s, religion occupied a relatively marginal place, with the focus falling on racial equality and the recognition given to different linguistic groups. Today, however, the situation is quite different. Tracing the origins of multicultural policies from the 1960s to the present day, this series examines the implications of the present government’s approach to multiculturalism for the integration of faith groups in the UK



Who speaks for us? The ‘who’ and ‘how’ of faith representation

There is a seemingly limitless number of Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Hindu, humanist, Sikh and other faith organisations active in public debates in the UK, many of which advance explicit or implied claims to represent their tradition or community on some – if not all – issues. But can a single organisation ever legitimately represent a faith community, and if so what should it look like?



Faith and the coalition: a new confidence to ‘do God’?

Conservatives such as David Cameron, Eric Pickles and Sayeeda Warsi have indicated that the coalition is keen to ‘do God’, but does this signify a real break from Labour, and what do these developments mean in practice for faith-based organisations?



Muslims and governance in Britain: an evolving relationship

In the last two decades, a wide variety of new partnerships have been formed between government and Muslim representative organisations and individuals. But have these have contributed to a renewal of democratic participation, or are they an illustration of a simplistic ‘take me to you leader’ approach to Muslim politics?