Zutshi-Smith Symposium on The Commission on Religion and Belief in British Public Life: Introduction

Tariq Modood

The Commission on Religion and Belief in British Public Life (CORAB, 2015) was convened by the Woolf Institute, Cambridge and chaired by Baroness Butler-Sloss and report in December, 2015. It was the fulfilment of one of the recommendations of the Commission on Multi-Ethnic Britain (CMEB), which under the chairmanship of Lord Professor Bhikhu Parekh reported in 2000. Its recommendations included:

A commission on the role of religion in the public life of a multi-faith society should be set up to make recommendations on legal and constitutional matters.

CORAB ran from 2013 to 2015 and its terms of reference were to:

  1. consider the place and role of religion and belief in contemporary Britain, and the significance of emerging trends and identities
  2. examine how ideas of Britishness and national identity may be inclusive of a range of religions and beliefs, and may in turn influence people’s self-understanding
  3. explore how shared understandings of the common good may contribute to greater levels of mutual trust and collective action, and to a more harmonious society
  4. make recommendations for public life and policy.

The final report was published in December, 2015. It presented a picture of the religion and belief landscape today and a vision of how that diversity should be seen in terms of an evolving national story and a sense of the common good. It specifically looked at and made recommendations in relation to Education, Media, Dialogue, Social Action and Law.

It was widely reported in the media and within a few days achieved report and discussion in over sixty print articles, including editorials, about forty mentions in broadcast and it is estimated that tweets in which it was mentioned reached a million people. To mark its anniversary, the Zutshi-Smith benefaction at the University of Bristol, which exists to advance discussion to promote peace and understanding amongst religions held a two days symposium on 15-16th December, 2016. Many topics were discussed and Public Spirit is publishing blogs based on some of the presentations. They are grouped within two themes. In the first of these we published some blogs on legal themes, which can be found here. We now publish another set on education and on more general perspectives.

The blogs in this second theme are:

Tariq ModoodEquality for Minority Faiths? Reflections on the Commission on Religion in British Public Life

Robin Richardson – Allies, enemies or critical friends? – religion and Enlightenment

Trevor Cooling – Consensus and coalition in education: epistemological reflections on the use of the term “religion and belief” in the Report of the Commission on Religion and Belief in British Public Life (CORAB)

Andrew Copson – Religion and belief in education

Jonathan Chaplin – The Right Kind of ‘Secular State’ – a Christian Perspective


Tariq Modood is Professor of Sociology, Politics and Public Policy at the University of Bristol, founding Director of the university’s Centre for the Study of Ethnicity and Citizenship and founding editor of the journal Ethnicities. He was one of the commissioners on the report one of the organisers of the symposium.



To cite this article, please use the following: Modood, Tariq. (2017) ‘Zutshi-Smith Symposium on The Commission on Religion and Belief in British Public Life: Introduction’, Public Spirit (January, 2017:  http://www.publicspirit.org.uk/?page_id=4618&preview=true)

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