Cfp: “Religious Freedom and Religious Minorities” (ECPR General Conference, 31 August-3 September 2021)

Call for papers

Panel on “Religious Freedom and Religious Minorities”

2021 ECPR General Conference – Section on “Religious Freedom in Europe”

Convenors: Adelaide Madera (University of Messina, and Frédérick Strack (Sciences Po Paris,

To propose a paper, please send an abstract of up to 200 words to the convenors by 8 February.


This panel is about religious minorities facing issues of religious freedom. It will deal with the impact of policy measures on the rights of religious minorities, in different legal contexts. Following a comparative approach, it aims at making sense of it through two axes.

The first axis will discuss how religious minorities are particularly affected under specific situations or policies measures. In political regimes where all religions are equal under the law, it may be worth looking if the same goes under emergency time. A fruitful case study is the Covid-19 pandemic. This health crisis has had a significant impact on the exercise of religious freedom across Europe. Whether and to what extent the covid-19 emergency has affected the status of religious minorities are to be found. Have all religious communities been affected the same way, or is there any specifically minority way? Indeed, it could be stated that the pandemic has enhanced inequalities and conflicts among pluralist societies. For instance, in Europe, anti-Semitic and Islamophobic reactions that put social cohesion at risk have increased. Also, the practices and rites of minorities have suffered a worse impact a) as they could not take advantage of alternative means of worship/practice which contradict with their beliefs b) because alternative measures are not equally made available to all religious groups (e.g. access to mass media).

How to understand the variety of those impacts? Is it just due to the minority condition? Papers may take a look at how restrictions on religious freedom happen to exacerbate the already fragile balance between religious majorities and minorities, which are experiencing forms of social, political and economic marginalization. In Western legal systems, the restrictive measures of the collective exercise of religious freedom of religious groups, which were previously disadvantaged by the pre-existing regulatory framework, because public authorities were initially more inclined to meet the needs of mainstream religions. A particular attention could also be paid to another factor accounting for these various impacts: the political/ideological one. Are these restrictions seen as opportunities to take down on religious minorities? Have they something to do with wider anti-democratic and anti-pluralist trends, aiming at quenching religious minorities? In Middle Eastern countries (e.g. India, Iraq, Pakistan, Uganda) where minorities are already victims of discrimination the pandemic has been used to justify forms of repression, persecution and discrimination against traditionally marginalized groups, some of which are also accused of having contributed to the spread of Covid-19.

The second axis will discuss the way religious minorities respond to these emergency situations. Do they abide by restrictions, waiting for better times to come, as we can see during the Covid-19 pandemic, when religious leaders call on their believers for respecting them? Or do they organize to get it over with? If so, how do they handle it practically? Indeed, religious minorities may opt for various strategies to cope with restrictions. In some cases, they can try to ally in, in order to present a common front and lead common talks with public institutions.  Should they come together, have some minorities elective affinity with one another? Or do they proceed separately? In France for example, it rather seems that they have an every-man-for-himself approach. In such cases, it would be interesting to analyze the reasons why it is so.

This axis also aims at taking a step back and answer some questions: Do some religious minorities favor the same pattern across time and space? Are those patterns new or are they in line with pre-existing repertoires of actions to deal with perceived restrictions and/or discriminations? To give an example, Muslim or Sikh communities in some European countries, like in the UK, are prone to take judicial actions to fight against perceived discriminations. Does it still the case? Another factor is worth investigating: the level of religiosity, as orthodox trends may have a more hardline approach to these restrictions. In Israel for example, ultraorthodox people have consistently defied public restrictions of religious praxis. Finally, it would also be interesting to see how different religious minorities react to restrictions, compared with mainstream religions. How do they behave in countries like Greece or Hungary, where catholic priests outspokenly open their church? To put it differently, are religious minorities minority in their attitudes to limitations of freedom of religion?

To go even further and take a problem-solving approach, this panel is set to examine the development of new narratives, and workable anti-discrimination policies that can be implemented nationally and supranationally to safeguard and promote the status of religious minorities, to balance religious claims with public health, safety and stability, to promote cooperation with religious communities in the pursuit of shared goals.


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