07 April 2013

ARTICLE: Shah on Reasonable Accommodation in the Context of Religious Universalism

Asking About Reasonable Accommodation in the Context of Religious Universalism


Queen Mary University of London, School of Law

April 2, 2013

International Journal of Discrimination and Law, forthcoming

Abstract:  Interviews conducted with leading actors in England asking a range of questions about religious diversity and the legal framework and, in particular, about reasonable accommodation, helped identify a number of areas of concern. There was some doubt about whether specific legal provision should be brought in to guarantee reasonable accommodation. However, there was broad support for having the principle adopted in the practice of employers, while some preferred the current informality rather than the principle being enforced through litigation. None of the respondents came up with illustrations outside of Judaism, Christianity or Islam. The results are consistent with recent critical studies showing that the assumption in social sciences that religion is a universal has been imported from theology. Religion-based questions only pick out certain phenomena specific to some cultures and an inevitable skew is created when asking such questions because they only make sense within an Abrahamic religious framework. While enabling the identification of some aspects of culture considered to merit reasonable accommodation on grounds of religion, the results also pose questions about the adequacy of current, standard research methodologies which assume that religion is a universal.

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