Pluralist Democracy or Scientistic Monocracy? Debating Ritual Slaughter
15 Pages Posted: 16 Nov 2012
Date Written: November 15, 2012
Many participants in the recent fierce debate on ritual slaughter in the Netherlands have understood this to be a conflict between religious and secular values, pitting religious freedom against animal welfare. The great variety in viewpoints among all groups involved, however – political parties, religious communities, scientists, the meat industry and engaged citizens – makes it impossible to describe any one standpoint as either religious or secular per se. Rather, the politicisation of this issue emerges out of politicisation of diversity in Dutch society more generally. Yet, another development is equally relevant: the growing, though still largely implicit, distinction being made between ‘involuntary’ minority identities based on biology (race, sex and sexuality) and ‘voluntary’ ones based on personal choice (religion and culture). This distinction is crucial for understanding the pressure being put today on the accommodation of religious difference when it is increasingly perceived as a form of voluntary difference from the norm. When this distinction between ‘congenital’ and ‘chosen’ minority difference is considered more closely, however, from the perspective of contemporary scientific research tracking religion in human neurology and evolution, it turns out to be largely untenable. Correspondingly, scientific expertise offers few, if any, solutions to the question of the place of religious truths in secular democracy, but only changes the terms under which they are politicised.
Keywords: Religion, politics, ritual slaughter, animal rights, secularism, Islam, minority rights
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