Seminar "Muslim Minorities in Europe: Diversity Asset or Vulnerable Minorities?"

The Latvian Centre for Human Rights with the financial support of the Canadian Embassy in Riga is proceeding with the second of a series of the four seminar cycle “Mobilizing Civil Society against Intolerance”. This seminar relates to racism and intolerance based on religion.

The objective of the seminar series is to activate civil society against intolerance, provide in-depth information on specific issues and promote informal cooperation and exchange amongst NGOs regarding related issues. For this purpose the participation of a broad spectrum of NGOs, active in very different fields, is encouraged. Each of the four planned seminars will focus on issues relating to one of the most vulnerable groups to prejudice and intolerance presently in Latvia: 1) LGBT, 2) visible minorities (race/ethnicity), 3) religious minorities and 4) migrants, asylum seekers and refugees. The first seminar was held on 23 February and dealt with discrimination and intolerance on ground of sexual orientation.

This seminar relates to both racism and intolerance based on religion. While the struggle against anti-Semitism is as topical as ever, after 11 September 2001, the question of Islamophobia/anti-Muslim attitudes has also emerged as a priority. Although these issues are less known in Latvia, recent events concerning the cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed in the Danish newspaper Jyllandsposten and the discourse surrounding the social disturbances in France, place them at the top of the agenda.

There will be several foreign experts participating in the seminar. Mandana Zarrehparvar from the Danish Institute for Human Rights has extensive experience working for Danish independent state institutions dealing with intolerance and discrimination on ethnic and religious grounds. As an expert, Mandana Zarrehparvar has been taking an active part in the discussions on these issues at the EU level and, of course, she has been carefully following developments concerning the cartoon scandal in Denmark. David Matas is a senior Canadian legal expert on human rights and constitutional law, and is the author of many books, including Bloody Words: hate and Free Speech. Xavier Landes from France will present the rather different theoretical and practical approach in France to issues concerning the role of Muslims in secular society. It is against this international backdrop that we hope to develop also a discussion on the situation in Latvia.

The seminar “Muslim Minorities in Europe: Diversity Asset of Vulnerable Minorities?” will take place on Friday 24 March from 10.00 – 16.00 in the Riga Graduate School of Law, auditorium W42 (Alberta iela 13, entrance from Strelnieku iela).


Seminar Programe

9.45–10.00  - Registration

10.00–10.10 - Opening, H.E. Claire Poulain, Ambassador of Canada

10.10–10.25 - Introduction: European Context and Latvia, Ilze Brands Kehris, director of Latvian Centre for Human Rights

10.25–11.05 - Hate and free speech and the definition of hate speech, David Matas, B’nai Brith Canada and Amnesty International Canada legal counsel, human rights expert

11.05–11.30 - Denmark and cartoons of the prophet Mohammed: freedom of expression or hate speech? (PPT, 1.45 MB) Mandana Zarrehparvar, Danish Institute for Human Rights

11.30–12.30 - Questions and discussion

12.30–13.30 - Lunch

13.30-14.10 - Canada: hate speech and religious symbols, David Matas

14.10–14.45 - France: secularism and religious symbols (PPT, 481.50 KB), Xavier Landes, PhD. Cand. University of Montreal and University of Paris IV-Sorbonne

14.45–16.00 - Panel discussion, general discussion


Published: 2006-03-24