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Religious Diversity’s Impact on Public Safety Essay

Background Paper

Religious diversity and its impact on the community have been some of the most popular topics of discourse in the last couple of decades. This was primarily caused by a growing share of ethnic immigrant communities in the developed countries of Europe and the United States. It is, therefore, crucial for public service workers to understand the difficulties associated with the management of multi-religious communities and to learn more about how to address these difficulties effectively.


Religious persecution and the widespread neglect of religious diversity originated from the increase in terror attacks and the events of 9/11, which led to the increased alienation of religious minorities, religious persecution, and even hostility (Friedman and Cannon 1379). However, whereas there are a lot of provisions aimed at protecting the public from possible terror attacks, there are no widespread practices to address religious diversity and religious persecution that were also the results of terror attacks. For example, Spalek argues that the lack of proper jurisdiction to address religion-based hate crime in the UK led to an increase in the said offenses due to the fact that they are not charged as severely as gender-based or race-based hate crimes (4). The primary goal of this project, therefore, is to explore the impact of religious diversity on public safety and community policing and to articulate the need to address religious persecution in order to promote public safety.

Review of Primary Sources

Given that Muslim groups are among those most affected by religious persecution in the western world, one of the primary forces of this study was Spalek’s work, Islam, Crime, and Criminal Justice. The book provides an overview of the struggles faced by Muslim communities in Europe and the west and outlines the existing policies that are used to promote the safety of multi-religious communities in Britain. Another important source for this paper is Hodge’s article “Social Justice and People of Faith: A Transnational Perspective,” which explores the intersection between social justice and religion, as seen in the field of social work. The article is particularly useful in outlining the challenges that religious diversity poses for public work: for instance, the author argues that the offenses are usually directed to religious people with low social status, that are often marginalized in both international and community policing (Hodge 139).

An article by Friedmann and Cannon, which compares public safety policies before and after the 2001 attacks, is also a useful source in outlining the gaps in policing that have to be addressed to promote the security of all people in the community, regardless of their religious beliefs. Finally, articles by Smith and Putnam provide a summary of religious diversity today and its perception in public. For example, Putnam argues that increased diversity leads to social issues, such as “Lower confidence in local government, local leaders and the local news media” (149) and “Less happiness and lower perceived quality of life” (150). Smith, on the other hand, claims that the US attitude towards other religions can be characterized as religious orthodoxy, the notion that “society, […] ought to try to ensure that its members adhered to a single faith” (2), which also poses complications for religious integration and cooperation.

Overall, I believe that this project will help me to get a deeper insight into the issues associated with increased religious diversity and their impact on public safety policing. Obtaining more information on the ways to counter these difficulties, on the other hand, will help me in my further work and studies.

Interview Questions

Introduction: Hello, my name is (…). I am here today to talk about your opinion on religious diversity in multicultural communities. Your answers will be used as part of a research study to determine the effects of religious diversity on public safety and policy. Your name and personal detail will not be disclosed in the paper unless under you provide informed consent.

Q1. What religious community are you part of (Christian, Buddhist, etc.)?

Given that Christianity is the primary religion in America, the answer will determine whether the respondent is from the main religious group or part of a minority religion, which can help to evaluate the answers to further questions.

Q2. What other religious groups are there in your community?

The project is focused on religious diversity, so it is crucial to ensure that the respondent is living in a multi-religious community.

Q3. What is your personal opinion on religious diversity?

Determining the respondent’s opinion on religious diversity, in general, gives more insight into his or her answers to further questions.

Q4. What, in your opinion, is the impact of religious diversity on public safety and security?

According to the study by Algan, Hemet, and Latin, many people see religious diversity as a threat to public safety (2). Understanding the respondent’s personal views can be useful in evaluating this finding.

Q5. Are there any religions that you believe pose a threat to public safety and security?

As noted by Spalek, Islam has been widely perceived as a threat to public safety in recent years (7-9), whereas other religions are considered to be more peaceful, although they are more victimized (2).

Q6. What do you think determines the perception of religion in the community?

Spalek argues that the terror attacks of 2001 were largely responsible for the demonization of Islam and Muslims in multi-cultural settings (1). The answer to this question will help to determine how widespread the problem is and whether the respondent shares the same view.

Q7. What are the effects of the negative perception of a religious group? Do you feel like a negative image of a certain religion extends to the people who practice it?

This question is based on research by Friedmann and Cannon, who argue that people who have an ethnic or religious resemblance to the terrorists may face distrust and alienation when living in a multicultural community (1379). The answer will help to identify whether this is true in the respondent’s community.

Q8. How prevalent are religious persecution and religious-based hate crime in your community?

According to Vine, religious persecution remains a widespread issue that affects the people of all religions (35). Religious persecution may lead to hate crime, thus impairing public safety and security (Spalek 4).

Q9. What are the ways in which the public and social workers address religious diversity and religious persecution in your community?

As noted by Brintnall, public workers have to be aware of the issues that might affect the safety of the community (40). However, few efforts to determine the impact of religious diversity on public policing, which is why most areas do not have sufficient provisions to deal with persecution and minor religious hate crime.

Q10. What do you think are effective ways of addressing religious diversity in public policing?

The answer may provide useful suggestions for further research or support the existent findings regarding the policing of multi-religious communities.

The Implications of High Religious Diversity for Public Safety Management

Religious diversity is increasing throughout the world, particularly in developed countries that have large immigrant communities (Putnam 137). Despite the number of benefits that interreligious cooperation and integration have for the future of the community, such as increased solidarity, equality, and the promotion of human rights, religious diversity proved to be one of the most critical challenges that multicultural societies face (Putnam 137). In particular, religious diversity was shown to increase social isolation (Putnam 141), as well as provoke distrust, hostility, and hate crimes against certain religious groups that are viewed as threatening public safety (Friedmann and Cannon 1379). Understanding the development of religious diversity, as well as its effects on multi-religious communities, can equip social workers with the information necessary to develop strategies for reducing the adverse effects and promoting social and cultural cohesion. In the long run, the implementation of appropriate social justice practices for people of all religions can decrease the instances of religious persecution, thus helping to ensure public safety and security in developed countries.

Origins and Benefits of Religious Diversity

The main reason for the increase of religious diversity is the globalization of the world, which leads to an increase in immigration (Putnam 137). Current events, such as the refugee crisis, can also promote immigration and thus facilitate religious diversity in some European countries, as well as in the US. Putnam claims that the increase in cultural, ethnic, and religious diversity has a lot of opportunities for social and economic development (139). For example, the author states that there is historical evidence of the relationship between diversity and creativity: “Throughout history, for example, immigrants have accounted for three to four times as many of America’s Nobel Laureates, National Academy of Science members, Academy Award film directors and winners of Kennedy Center awards in the performing arts as native-born Americans” (Putnam 140). Moreover, in the long run, immigration has a positive influence on the economic development of countries, including an increased income of the native population (Putnam 140).

Furthermore, businesses that employ workers from a variety of backgrounds have more opportunities to grow globally, as employees may become a source of valuable cultural knowledge that can facilitate expansion to certain countries. Religious freedom is also one of the basic human rights (Smith 1), which means that the provisions allowing the free exercise of religion and the protection of religious groups that are under threat of alienation and discrimination promotes the social values of the community and ensures its stability. Nevertheless, since the beginning of the 21st century, religious diversity is widely viewed as a threat to public safety rather than an opportunity for growth (Algan et al. 1). The main reason for the fear of religious diversity in developed countries is the rise in terrorism.

Terrorism and Public Safety Issues

Terrorism became a widespread issue after the 9/11 terror attacks on the buildings of World Trade Center in New York City. The attacks took the lives of almost 3000 people and left thousands more injured. Such a massive incident shook not only the United States but the entire world, prompting most countries to impose stricter public safety controls to prevent future attacks. For instance, in the US, “Encompassing a variety of functions and responsibilities, the DHS has recognized the value of local police forces and has supported these agencies through increased training and monetary funding” (Friedmann and Connan 1373). In fact, the entire working of the Department of Homeland Security was changed after the attacks to incorporate new goals (Friedmann and Connan, 1376). Another effect of the incident was the increased focus on anti-terrorism training of law enforcement and other public service agencies since the attack proved that the current resources were insufficient to provide the necessary aid during such a large-scale crisis (Friedmann and Connan, 1378).

The 9/11 attack was one of the reasons for the US to start a war on terrorism (Pastor 11). The war on terrorism is still on-going, and it affected many countries, as well as their economies. Most importantly, however, it affected the people’s perception of the Islamic religion – since it is deemed to be the source of terrorists’ ideology. Pastor argues that the people’s fear of Muslim people is understandable, especially in the aftermath of the terror attacks: “the message that is conveyed [through the attacks] is this: Anyone, anywhere, at any time may be the target of the next attack” (46). In fact, the personalization of the attack, or the thought “it could have been me” is one of the goals of terrorism, as it helps to raise the fear and incite the conflict between different nations and religions (Pastor 46).

Repercussions of Terrorism for Multi-Religious Communities

Therefore, terrorism is the primary reason for the public’s negative attitudes towards the people of other religions, particularly Islam. Despite the fact that radical activists only represent a very small share of the Muslim population, the fear extends to anyone who shares “ethnic, religious, and immigrant resemblance with individuals involved in terrorist organizations” (Friedmann and Cannon 1379). The fear causes disruptions to the public perceptions of minority religions, which is why religious diversity in the contemporary settings often leads to lower cohesion, decreased social trust, impaired investment into public goods (Putnam 143). Even when people of the minority religions are accepted by the wider society, it is preferred that their religious identity remains invisible to the public. For instance, in the Netherlands, there were major debates about Muslim women wearing veils and other religious attire in public places (Saharso and Lettinga 455). In particular, “The court argued that headscarves threaten people’s trust in the neutrality of the courts” (Saharso and Lettinga 460), whereas the public saw veiling “as a symbol of radicalism and of a cultural threat to Western or Dutch values” (Saharso and Lettinga 468). Algan et al. argue that evidence suggests that religious diversity is now perceived by many as the biggest obstacle to social peace (2). Such social attitudes have led to the increase in hate crimes based on religion and to religious persecution that affected the people of all the religions, thus increasing tensions between the religious groups living or working in the same community.

Religious Persecution and Religion-Based Hate Crime

According to Vine, people all over the world today suffer from religious persecution as a result of increased inter-religious tensions. For instance, in some countries, governments seek control of all the religious groups: in these countries, “religious groups are often viewed as enemies of the state” (Vine 35). In the countries where multiple religious coexist, on the other hand, certain minority religions become the target of hate crimes. For examples, in Britan, violence against all ethnic minority and religious groups is persistent (Spalek 63). In Mauritania, on the other hand, the Muslim majority often shows hostility towards Christian religious groups: “It may be argued that governments tolerate this social hostility, either to further their own religious or political objectives or to divert social hostility away from themselves to convenient scapegoats” (Vine 35). The US also became a major scene of religious hate offences after the events of 9/11: “These attacks had serious repercussions among Muslim communities in the western world in that many individuals were attacked (some were killed) or subjected to abuse, and mosques also became the targets of hate crime” (Spalek 53). As such, religious hate crimes pose a threat to public safety which is no less crucial that terrorism.

Moreover, whereas there are multiple counter-terrorist measures in place to control terror attacks and decrease their incidence, there are currently no distinctive policies to promote the safety of religious minorities and to prevent religious hate crimes. Spalek argues that in most developed countries, religion-based offenses towards minority groups are often overlooked, and the victims of religious crime often decide to claim that the crime was based on racial or ethnic hate in order for the offender’s misconduct to be taken seriously (5). Thus, the increase in religious intolerance calls for public policy measures to promote justice and security for people of all religions.

Implications for Public Service and Safety

Brintnall argues that “Successful governance of multiethnic democracies and advancement of social and political equity for minorities” has become one of the most important goals of social work in developed countries (39). Policymakers must have an understanding of the particular circumstances of the citizens that their policies are aimed at, as well as of the issues appropriate to the various groups of the community (Brintnall 40). Field workers, such as law enforcement, on the other hand, have to be equipped with the necessary training to be able to address the variety of problems generated by multicultural and multi-religious groups (Brintnall 39). Both the community policies and the training provided should promote “(a) assurance of rights for everyone, (b) equitable delivery of services, and (c) movement toward full” (Brintnall 40). One way of completing these goals is by developing new regulations for religious persecution and religious-based hate crimes and to provide the necessary training for the law enforcement to enable the workers to identify religion-based crime from common offense (Brintnall 41). Another practice proposed by Brintnall is to recruit people from minority religions into social structures (41). Indeed, social workers that come from minority religions may offer new ways to adjust the existent approach that will improve the ways in which social workers address religious issues in the community. Finally, Hodge proposes the practice of self-education and the spreading of information regarding religious-based crime as one of the ways in which social workers may help to address the issues (143).

Religious Diversity in the Franciscan Tradition

The issue of religious diversity applies to the Franciscan Tradition as it has a wide history of facing and coexisting with other religions all over the world. For example, Botta provides an overview of the Franciscan views on polytheism. He claims that the Franciscan views helped to alleviate the theological conflict between the indigenous people of New Spain and the colonialists: “the Franciscan offered a clear theology of history that achieved the result of nullifying the scandal generated by the emergence of a plurality of cultures” (Botta 17). Warner, on the other hand, provides another historical view of the relationship between Franciscans and the people of other religions. Drawing on the experience of St. Francis of Assisi, the author argues that the Franciscan tradition was tolerant of a wide variety of people, including those of other religions (Warner 69). One of the main doctrines of the contemporary Franciscan tradition, for instance, is that “God is understood as expressing agency through other social actors to further or deepen one’s own conversion” (69). In this sense, an encounter with people from other religious backgrounds is understood as a favorable experience that does not incite alienation or hostility, but rather facilitate the development of Franciscan values. Moreover, since social cohesion and avoidance of conflict are also important provisions of the Franciscan tradition, ensuring a safe environment and promote cooperation for people of all backgrounds is also a goal that fits the Franciscan understanding of the world.


Overall, I believe that religious diversity is a concept that is widely undervalued in the contemporary world. The instances of interreligious hate and crime become more and more widespread after terror attacks or threats. Nevertheless, there are still opportunities for social workers to promote cohesion and understanding in multi-religious communities. The correct implementation of appropriate education, employment, policing, and training practices will have a positive influence on the quality of life of people from religious minorities, while at the same time allowing a variety of people to enjoy the benefits of diversity and religious freedom.

Annotated Bibliography

Algan, Yann, et al. “Diversity and Public Goods: A Natural Experiment with Exogenous Residential Allocation.” Institude for the Study of Labor Discussion Paper Series, no. 6053, pp. 1-40.

This is a quantitative research study aimed at examining the effect of ethnic and religious diversity on the quality and safety of public places. The authors use French Housing conditions to explore people’s social interactions in a heterogeneous community. The results show that diversity leads to lower levels of sanctions for anti-social behavior, but can impair public efforts to improve housing conditions. The effect on public safety in this setting was rather minimal.

Botta, Sergio. “Towards a Missionary Theory of Polyethism: The Franciscans in the Face of the Indigenous Religions of New Spain.” Manufacturing Otherness: Missions and Indigenous Cultures in Latin America, edited by Sergio Botta, Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2013, pp. 11-35.

This chapter outlines the history of the Franciscans’ attitudes towards other religions. The study was done in a qualitative research setting using a literary review method. The chapter provides a good overview on how the religious diversity was viewed in the Franciscan tradition, thus helping to link my project to the Franciscan values and history.

Brintnall, Michael. “Preparing the Public Service for Working in Multiethnic Democracies: An Assessment and Ideas for Action.” Journal of Public Affairs Education, vol. 14, no. 1, 2008, pp. 39-50.

This article is especially relevant to contemporary multiethnic communities in developed countries. The author explains the challenges of working with people from various backgrounds and provides suggestions for public safety workers to address some of the common issues. Moreover, Brintnall explains the importance of understanding the specifics of multiethnic communities in developing long-term public service solutions.

Friedmann, Robert R., and William J. Cannon. “Homeland Security and Community Policing: Competing or Complementing Public Safety Policies.” Journal of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, vol. 4, no. 4, 2007, pp. 1372–1391.

In the article, the authors compare and contrast the notions of Homeland Security and Community Policing in the aftermath of 9/11 terror attacks. The authors present a qualitative article that reviews the previous literature on the subject of terrorism and the counter-measures to it. The article is particularly useful for the project as it defines the threat that the people who have an ethnic or religious resemblance to terrorists face and how the hostility and distrust towards them affect the community policing.

Hodge, David R. “Social Justice and People of Faith: A Transnational Perspective.” Social Work, vol. 52, no. 2, 2007, pp. 139-148.

In this article, the author aims to equip social workers with a basic understanding of religious persecution today. The article draws on a variety of human rights resources to argue that the limitations on the free exercise of religion are some of the most pressing concerns of contemporary social work. Moreover, the author also outlines the framework for addressing the issues that seems promising in promoting social justice to people of all religions.

Pastor, James F. Terrorism and Public Safety Policing: Implications for the Obama Presidency. CRC Press, 2009.

In this book, the author describes the modern terrorism in terms of its implications for public safety policing. Pastor offers an outline of the definitions and concepts associated with terrorism, as well as a section on the larger issues evoked by terrorism. This source is useful for the project as it shows how, even though most extremists are not religious, people that practice minority religions are still viewed as a threat to public safety.

Putnam, Robert D. “E Pluribus Unum: Diversity and Community in the Twenty-first Century.” Scandinavian Political Studies, vol. 30, no. 2, 2007, pp. 137-174.

Putnam’s work on religious diversity has been one of the most influential recent studies on the effect of religious diversity on contemporary communities all over the world. In this article, the author presents the result of his qualitative survey study that aimed to determine the common problems faced by people living in diverse religious communities. Among the effects outlined was the lower trust in the government and a decreased feeling of social security.

Saharso, Sawitri, and Doutje Lettinga. “Contentious Citizenship: Policies and Debates on the Veil in the Netherlands.” Social Politics, vol. 15, no. 4, 2008, pp. 455-480.

This article provides an analysis of the debates and policies regarding Muslim women’s religious attire, which started in Netherlands back in the 1990s. The authors use a qualitative research technique to provide a thorough historical and literary review of legal and public sources on the issue. They explain the reasons for the negative view of Muslim people and the impact that the debates had on public policy in the Netherlands.

Smith, Steven D. “Religious Freedom and its Enemies, or Why the Smith Decision May Be a Greater Loss Now Than it Was Then.” Social Science Research Network Electronic Paper Collection, no. 10-037, 2010, pp. 1-33.

In this article, the author describes the attitudes towards religious freedom in the United States. Smith provides a thorough literary review of the issue of religious freedom from a legal point of view. Most importantly, the author offers an explanation of the notion of imposed religious orthodoxy, arguing that in most countries, people from religious minority might be pressured into conversion to other religions.

Spalek, Basia, editor. Islam, Crime and Criminal Justice. Routledge, 2013.

In this book, Spalek presents a range of articles on the current issues surrounding the Islamic religion. The authors explain that one of the effects of the rise in terrorism was the change in the public perception of Islam, which became the most demonized religion in the contemporary world. The authors outline the effect of these issues on public safety in diverse communities.

Vine, Conrad. “Discipleship and Suffering: The Christian Response to Persecution.” Journal of Adventist Mission Studies, vol. 12, no. 2, 2016, pp. 35-52.

The author of the article provides another view on religious persecution in the contemporary society. He draws on a literary analysis of the Bible to understand the reasons for persecution and find ways to deal with it that apply to people of all religions, particularly to Christians. The author also discusses the statistics of Christian persecution and the history of the issue, which I use in the project to define the scale of the issues linked to religious diversity.

Warner, Keith Douglass. “The Farm Workers and the Franciscans: Reverse Evangelization as Social Prompt for Conversion.” Spiritus: A Journal of Christian Spirituality, vol. 9, no. 1, pp. 69-88.

This article provides a review of the process of religious conversion as seen in the eyes of the Franciscans historically. The author uses literature review to draw the information from different historical and theological sources. The article adds to the exploration of religious diversity in the Franciscan tradition by exploring the meaning and motives for conversion to Franciscanism.

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