Term Definition

Boris Bílek

The term "minority" refers to a group of people that is usually (but not necessarily) numerically smaller than a dominant group (or dominant groups) in terms of ethnic origin, language, religion, culture, sexual orientation or social status and is endangered because it suffers from prejudice, discrimination or exclusion from social life. There is no generally accepted definition of the term “minority” and this term may have different meanings in different countries and for different institutions and individuals.

Liberals believe that groups have a right to choose their identity and that their choice must be protected. Although minority rights are considered a domain of collective rights, they cannot be considered separately from individual rights. Individual rights allow one to identify with a minority – but they also protect the individual’s right to disassociate himself/herself from a minority (abrogation).

Minority rights and one’s cultural, ethnic or other status are a more important concern of contemporary liberalism than it is usually and explicitly recognised. The right to be a member of a cultural, religious or other group per se justifies giving more attention to minority rights within liberalism. It is individual freedom which is at stake when members of minority groups face discrimination and exclusion.

Compiled and edited by Dr. Stefan Melnik, a senior advisor to the Friedrich Naumann Foundation as well as political communication trainer, editor and author of many books on liberalism. Names of outside contributors are respectively mentioned under the terms.

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