skip to content

Centre for the Study of the International Relations of the Middle East and North Africa

ESRC Grant 'Media, Faith and Security: Protecting Freedom of Expression in Religious Context'

ESRC Project

ESCR impact grants are designed to put research to work, to produce change, new thinking, and to broaden horizons. Received in 2015 by POLIS member and Principal Investigator, Dr Roxane Farmanfarmaian, the grant enables Cambridge-generated research on the nexus between free expression, community security, and practices of belief to be shared with British law-makers, faith leaders and representatives from both British and Middle Eastern media, so as to draw out new ideas and understanding for use in policy, reporting and scholarly output.

The Project

This project is designed to open up debate on a difficult subject: A debate about freedom of expression and freedom of belief. It is a difficult debate because freedom of expression, freedom of religious practice and freedom from hate speech are all basic human rights. Yet the freedom to practice any one of these rights entails restrictions on practicing any other of these rights. To practice complete freedom of expression, for example, risks impinging on others’ freedom of religious dignity. How then to balance freedoms with protections, rights with limits? 

This portal and a day-long workshop scheduled for 28 January 2016 at the House of Lords are designed to build on research conducted at the University of Cambridge and facilitate dialogue around the concept of freedom of expression in a religious context. It links the expertise of three research centres at the University: The Centre for the International Relations of the Middle East and North Africa (CIRMENA), the Woolf Institute of Interfaith Studies and the Centre of Islamic Studies. The approach is interdisciplinary, inter-sectoral, and aims to foster sober debate divorced of emotions. In a world being redefined by technological advancement and globalisation, it is imperative that we build on research to reach an understanding and respect for religious practice. After all, the biggest threat comes from the conversations that never take place.

Find more information on


Blog Free Expression Blog



Follow us on Twitter