24 November 2016. Strange Bedfellows? Attitudes toward religious minority symbols in Quebec

Time : 1pm – 2.30pm

Location: Project Room, 50 George Square, Edinburgh

Speaker: Luc Turgeon (University of Ottowa)

Over the last decades, in both Europe and North America, debates have multiplied over the place of minority religious symbols in public spaces. A number of European studies have explored the sources of support for a ban on minority religious symbols. In this study, conducted with Antoine Bilodeau (Concordia University), Ailsa Henderson (University of Edinburgh) and Stephen White (Carleton University), we argue that to understand the sources of such support, it is essential to distinguish those who would ban minority religious symbols from those who would forbid all religious symbols, including those of the majority. While these two groups might share some similar motivations, their opposition to minority religious symbols might also be rooted in different impulses, and as such they might constitute “strange bedfellows”. Echoing European debates, we test this argument by drawing on a survey conducted in the province of Quebec in Canada. In 2013, the provincial government proposed a ban on the wearing of religious symbols, including the headscarf, by public employees. While the legislation would have banned the wearing of all religious symbols, public debates focused overwhelmingly on the wearing of headscarves by Muslim women. However, this debate coincided with another one on the removal of the crucifix from the province’s legislative body. As such, the Quebec case allows us to test the potentially distinct motivations of those who would ban only minority religious symbols and those who would ban all religious symbols.

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