Osgoode Hall Law Journal

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Book Review


The international media is saturated with stories of religious violence and persecution—particularly in the Middle East. The United States has been engaged in an ongoing battle to combat this violence around the globe, often in the name of ‘religious freedom.’ The concept of religious freedom is typically portrayed as an unalloyed good—an aspiration and ideal that the international community should strive towards. Following the passing of the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998, the United States established an Office of International Religious Freedom. Canada established a similar version with its own Office of Religious Freedom in 2013. In her provocative book, Beyond Religious Freedom: The New Global Politics of Religion, Elizabeth Shakman Hurd critically examines the pursuit of religious freedom as an intrinsic good. Contrary to the prevailing narrative, Shakman Hurd provides a critique of government-led programs and policies that promote religious freedom abroad. She illustrates some of the deeply problematic consequences that occur when religious freedom is used as a tool of foreign policy, and when complex issues are defined solely in terms of religious rights and freedoms.

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