Venice Workshop Participants

•  Soha Abdelaty

Deputy Director, Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights

•  Flavia Agnes

(Advocate) co-founder of MAJLIS, a Mumbai-based legal and cultural resource centre

•  Hossam Bahgat

Executive Director, Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights

•  Peter Danchin

University of Maryland School of Law, Director, International and Comparative Law Program

•  Alessandro Ferrari

Department of Law and Economics of Firms and Persons, Università degli Studi dell’Insubria

Paper Abstract:

What is the legal status of religious minorities in Italy? What are the guiding principles and outstanding issues surrounding religious minorities?  Following a general introduction to the Italian case, this paper will develop a comparison between the legal status of Islam and Orthodoxy in Italy, which are considered paradigmatic.  The intervention will highlight transformations of the right to religious freedom in Italy today.

•  Elizabeth Shakman Hurd

Department of Political Science, Northwestern University

•  Hans G. Kippenberg

Professor of Comparative Religious Studies (Wisdom-Professorship) School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Jacobs University

Paper Abstract:

Restrictions on Religious Freedom in the European Union: The Human Rights Commission/ Court (ECHR) and the Margin of Appreciation of National Jurisdiction.

Article 9 of the European Convention of Human Rights in its first clause guarantees freedom of religion to everybody; in its second clause it adds limitations to it. The criteria for them are described very broadly:  they must be “prescribed by law” and “necessary in a democratic society in the interests of public safety, for the protection of public order, health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others”. Since the seventies the ECHR  has dealt with an increasing amount of cases  dealing with violations of religious freedom. In the course of time the court has developed a doctrine that allows for national diversity in applying restrictions. My paper presents the so called doctrine of Margin of Appreciation, analyses how it operates in two kind of cases – blasphemy and headscarf – and argues that the doctrine reflects an inherent tension between Religious Freedom as a norm and as a procedure.

•  Saba Mahmood

Department of Anthropology, University of California, Berkeley

•  Maleiha Malik

Kings College London, Professor of Law

Paper Abstract:

Liberalism’s ‘Other’ Citizens: Racial/Religious Minorities and Liberal Constitutionalism

Uday Singh Mehta, Liberalism and Empire (University of Chicago Press, 1992):

The world we live in is substantially moulded by the triumph of a liberalism with its rationalistic certainties. Moreover, that liberalism remains the dominant framework from within which we imagine modifications on this world. […] perhaps we are at the end of an idea and cannot see beyond the corner where a new road begins. If this is the case, our abiding commitment to liberalism may just be the particular form that our lack of imagination takes – and for which self-congratulation seems like an inappropriate reaction. Nevertheless, in most respects and for the time being at least, political creativity comes from within the broad constellation of liberal thought; but precisely for that reason liberal judgment and its mode of understanding the unfamiliar matter – and now perhaps with greater urgency than before its putative triumph. (at p. 45)

This paper explores the problems – and paradox – of protecting racial/religious minorities in Europe within a paradigm of liberal constitutionalism. Although the focus is on Muslims, it also discusses Jews. Both groups are non-Christian religious minorities who face similar – although not identical – challenges in the context of legal provisions that guarantee religious freedom and racial equality. The paper argues that recent legal decisions, as well as political incidents, confirm that liberal constitutionalism is part of the problem because it entrenches legal and political concepts that produce, and reproduce, racism. Yet, at the same time, liberalism is now the unescapable framework within which a solution to these problems has to be developed. The paper focuses on decisions of the European Court of Human Rights to illustrate this argument. It ends with some concluding comments: although the current response of liberal legal and political institutions has been disappointing, there is the possibility of developing an ‘alternative’ form of liberal constitutionalism that is better able to safeguard and accommodate racial/religious minorities.

•  Samuel Moyn

Department of History, Columbia University

Paper Abstract:

From Antisecularism to Secularism

I plan to write some reflections about the trajectory of religious freedom since 1945. My main claim will be that religious freedom emerged as a keystone right after 1945 — along with human rights in general — in the service of antisecularism not of secularism. It was part of an orientalist politics, but the relevant extra-European threat was godless communism, not the encroaching Islam of earlier history and current affairs. I will then inquire into when and how religious freedom became bound up with secularism. A tentative answer is that this could only occur following “the religious crisis of the 1960s,” as Hugh McLeod has called the collapse of formal Christianity in much of Western Europe.

•  Mathijs Pelkmans

London School of Economics and Political Science, Department of Anthropology

Paper Abstract: Contradictions of religious repression and religious freedom in the (former) Soviet Union.

An imam who longs back for a period when religion was repressed; a state functionary who complains that missionaries abuse religious freedom. This paper will present these and other examples to discuss the contradictions of both religious freedom and repression. Its empirical focus is on the Republic of Kyrgyzstan, a country which adopted very liberal laws on religious expression after the USSR with its heavy-handed religious repression collapsed in 1991. Because of this radical change, and the speed of “religious liberalization,” the case of Kyrgyzstan enables engagement with a number of interesting questions. What explains the nostalgia of religious repression by practitioners of a formerly repressed faith? How are different religious modalities affected by respectively repressive and liberal laws? Moreover, what does “religious freedom” entail when the law itself is fragile? The paper not only analyzes the unexpected consequences of religious repression and freedom, but also draws attention to how the law relates to other forms of power in a situation of rapid societal change and political turmoil.

•  Winnifred F. Sullivan

University at Buffalo Law School, Director of the Law and Religion Program

•  Michael Wiener

Human Rights Officer at OHCHR, assisting the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief

Paper Abstract:

During the last decade, various United Nations Special Rapporteurs have contributed substantially to the international debate on the prohibition of incitement to religious hatred. This paper traces the arguments developed by the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, the Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression and the Special Rapporteur on racism in their reports to the Commission on Human Rights, General Assembly and Human Rights Council. Furthermore, the paper discusses some case studies from their joint submissions to the series of expert workshops organized by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights in 2011 for Europe, Africa, Asia-Pacific and the Americas.

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