Positive Secularism and the Protection of the Rights of Ethnic Minorities in Europe
September 28,2016   By:chinahumanrights.org
ZHANG Xian  (photo: Zhao Yifan)

Positive Secularism and the Protection of the Rights of Ethnic Minorities in Europe

Associate Professor of Central China Normal University
Abstract: As one of the most ethnically diverse regions of the world, Europe also faces some of the most complicated ethnical issues. As a typical “normative” power in international relations, the European Union has always been dedicated to promoting the protection of all human rights, including those of ethnic minorities, and woven such dedication into its domestic and diplomatic policies. While Europe has a fairly long tradition when it comes to the protection of the rights of ethnic minorities, having put in place reasonably developed institution and measures, France, one of the economic engines of Europe and the main force behind the political integration of the EU, as well as one of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, has been advocating positive secularism and even adopted it as part of the foundation on which the country rests. France has caused controversies with its unique tactics in the protection of ethnic minorities’ rights, especially religious and cultural rights, the most typical of which is the issue surrounding the “niqabs” worn by Muslim women. The tension brought about by the “niqabs” issue between public security on the one hand and protecting the religious rights of ethnic minorities embodies “positive secularism”, which has had an impact on the traditional values and codes of conduct of Europe as a whole. Starting from the year 2015, the refugee crisis in Europe has been escalating and has brought about an enormous political impact on many countries, pushing Europe, which has long been committed to liberty, tolerance and human rights, to a historic crossroad, as it were. In the context that the “positive secularism” of French are steadily spreading to other European countries, it is necessary to reshape not only the policies and conducts of European governments, but also the deep-rooted values and cultural mentality of Europeans. 
Keywords: Protection of the Rights of Ethnic Minorities; Positive Secularism; the Niqab Issue; the Refugee Crisis