Majorities and Minarets: Religious Freedom and Public Space


Morrice Hall TNC Theatre, First floor (Inst. of Islamic Studies), 3485 rue McTavish, Montreal, QC, H3A 0E1, CA

The Interuniversity Research Group in Political Philosophy (GRIPP) and the Research Group on Constitutional Studies (RGCS) welcome Professor David Miller (Nuffield College, Oxford) for a thought-provoking talk.

Excerpt from the abstract

This paper aims to contribute to one of the central questions of political theory, the question of the balance to be struck between the will of democratic majorities and the interests and rights of the minorities they oppose. This question becomes particularly challenging when the minorities involved are religious groups who have to bear the impact of majority decisions. For here what may be at stake is not just the normal weighing of interests and preferences, as might happen, for example, when a decision has to be made about the siting of some local amenity, but claims that are central to the lives of religious believers. What the majority decides may force a religious minority to abandon some practice or mode of behaviour that they regard as central to their identity, whether this is a matter of a style of dress, the use of time set aside for religious ceremonies, or particular forms of religious expression. In such cases, we seem prima facie to have special reasons to curtail the scope of majority decision by putting in place constitutional checks and other devices that will protect minorities’ interests...