East European Yearbook on Human Rights

Article

Changing Realities

Islamic Veils and Minority Protection

Keywords European Court of Human Rights, freedom of religion Islamic veils, minority protection
Authors Dr Gábor Kardos LLM, PhD.
Author's information

327069 Dr Gábor Kardos LLM, PhD.
LLM, PhD. Dr Habil. Professor of International Law, International Law Department, Faculty of Law, ELTE University, Budapest, Hungary.
  • Abstract

      Most of the immigrant communities in Europe do not show any signs of giving up their identity. Just the contrary, they seem to be more and more committed to preserving their culture, traditions, language and religion. Their growing numbers and adherence to their culture and traditions have raised the question of whether it would be necessary to accept them as permanent factors in the society, and consequently, to secure for them, beside equality and freedom of religion, other minority rights such as the right to preserve their cultural and language identity. This change might presuppose a renewal of the traditional understanding of the concept of the national minority. To raise the standards for minority rights of immigrants and at the same time to maintain the level of protection of homeland minorities is not an easy but a necessary solution. But even the accommodation of certain aspects of the freedom of religion of migrants is a problem in practice. As far as the public use of Islamic veils is concerned, the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights proved to be too lenient towards those state parties which put secularity of public institutions before the freedom of religion of the individual. The dissenting opinions correctly emphasize that the role of the authorities is not to remove the cause of tension by eliminating pluralism but to ensure that competing groups tolerate each other. If the Islamic veils are symbols of pressurization, oppression and discrimination, or proselytism, the intervention of state authorities may be justified but the law cannot presuppose that the aforementioned situations are the prevailing ones. If it does so, the collateral damage at the expense of a basic human right of certain true believers is too high.

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