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The purpose of the discussion in this chapter is to suggest some cardinal changes to the practice of male circumcision in order to make it more humane and less painful to its subjects. Balancing between group rights and the rights of the child, it is essential to avoid unnecessary suffering. It is one of the liberal state’s obligations to protect the best interests of vulnerable third parties. The chapter opens with some preliminary data about male circumcision and then explains its importance in Judaism and in Islam. It examines the medical reasons for male circumcision and the risks involved in the practice; subsequently, it discusses the critique of male circumcision. The discussion also highlights the points of agreement and disagreement between those supporting and opposing the ritual and insists that male circumcision should be performed by using anaesthesia. The final part of the discussion includes a proposal for humane male circumcision that considers religious sentiments and the rights of the child, aiming to strike a reasonable balance between competing interests. The hope is that the proposal will be debated in parliaments in the Western world.
Democracies are associations of free and equal persons. Such an association is structured by relations of mutual recognition in which each individual is respected as free and equal. The politics of recognition is a basic element of justice. In a multicultural society a basic level of recognition is required to enable political communication aimed at solving problems justly.
Debates over citizenship, immigration, colonial memory, the reform of the state, the historiography of modern France, terrorism and security, and the complicated relationship between state and church have been exploited by politicians and galvanized society. Many of these debates are around the political concepts of republicanism, neutrality, and the spirit of laïcité which structure the vocabulary of French political actors and of ordinary citizens. In France, majority rule infringes on the rights of minorities. This chapter probes the debates concerning cultural policies in France in the face of what its government perceives as a challenge to its national raison d’être, including those revolving around the burqa, the niqab and the burkini. Freedom of religion is restricted to the private sphere while secularism is celebrated in the public sphere. It is argued that the burqa and niqab ban is neither just nor reasonable in the eyes of these women and girls, their families and community, and that paternalism that holds that the ban is for the women’s own good is a poor, coercive excuse. Claims for paternalistic coercion to protect adult women from their own culture when they do not ask for protection are not sufficiently reasonable to receive vindication.
This chapter discusses interference in minority affairs when they engage in physical harm to others. Relevant considerations are the extent of harm, consent (or lack of) of those who are subjected to harm, parental care and responsibility, significance of religious and culture norms and values, and the extent to which a liberal society should intervene in group and individual affairs. It first analyses the practices of suttee, self-starvation, scarring, murder for family honour, female circumcision and female genital mutilation. It is argued that liberal intervention is justified in the case of gross and systematic violation of human rights, such as murder, slavery, expulsion or inflicting severe bodily harm on certain individuals or groups. Such norms are considered by liberal standards to be intrinsically wrong, wrong by their very nature. Physical harm includes cases of widow burning, female infanticide, murder for family honour, and harsh forms of female circumcision, deformation or alteration which are rightly termed female genital mutilation.
This chapter explains the concept of reasonable multiculturalism. Building on the Rawlsian notion of reasonableness, and on Kymlicka’s formulation of multiculturalism, the mechanisms for reconciliation between liberalism and multiculturalism are outlined. What are the boundaries of multiculturalism within the framework of liberal democracy? What are the boundaries of state interference in the business of minority cultures whose norms and practices are at odd with liberal democracy? Reasonability assumes acceptance of the underpinning shared principles. Cultures that do not adhere to these principles are perceived as less reasonable. The extent of reasonability varies. But lacking reasonability does not immediately entail that the liberal majority should intervene in the business of the subcultures. Interference is warranted to restore justice. The chapter discusses the concept of mutual respect, distinguishing between two forms of cultural pluralism – ‘multination’ and ‘polyethnic’ states – and between two kinds of rights that a group might claim: the first involves the right of a group against its own members, the second involves the right of a group against the larger society. Furthermore, the nature of liberal tolerance and the mechanisms of deliberative democracy are explained, the latter instrumental for resolving disputes in a liberal democracy in a civil, non-violent way.
This chapter is concerned with the concepts of compromise and deliberative democracy. When compromise takes place between two or more parties, reciprocity must be present; that is, the concessions are mutual. It is argued that compromise and deliberative democracy are important in facilitating a healthy discourse between the majority and minorities about group rights and the extent of state interference in minority affairs. With proponents of discourse ethics, public reason and deliberative democracy, such as Jürgen Habermas, Joshua Cohen, Seyla Benhabib, John Dryzek, Amy Gutmann and Dennis F. Thompson, it is argued that this is a desirable approach to negotiating and resolving conflicts. The chapter agrees with Monique Deveaux that deliberative democracy is an invaluable resource for thinking about how liberal democracies and minority cultural groups might mediate conflicts of culture.
Multiculturalism gives preference to group rights over individual rights. This may challenge democratic values. This chapter focuses on the Amish denial of education from their adolescents. Criticizing Wisconsin v. Yoder (1972), the analysis focuses on the power of the Amish community over its members. The main questions are: Is it reasonable to deny the Amish adolescents’ standard American education? What are the limits of state interference in norms of illiberal communities who invoke separatism as a mechanism of cultural and religious preservation? It questions the extent that the discussed court ruling has suggested reasonable compromises to accommodate multiculturalism and outline the limits of state interference in practices of illiberal communities that deny basic rights to children.
The opening chapter revolves around the questions: What does liberalism purport to include within the defence of neutrality? What scope is available for conceptions of the good to meet, to mingle and to rival each other? In order to answer these questions, we need to understand what liberal democracy is about, what its ground rules are and how we can distinguish liberal democracies from illiberal societies. To address these important questions, the chapter avails itself of the Rawlsian justice as fairness theory which greatly influenced the liberal discourse during the past century. The Rawlsian theory of justice is supplemented with Kantian and Millian ethics. The chapter elucidates two important concepts without which it is impossible to imagine any liberal democracy: respect for others, inspired by Kantian and Rawlsian philosophies, and the Harm Principle derived from J. S. Mill’s ethics. It is the Harm Principle that guides us in prescribing boundaries to conduct. The necessity in introducing boundaries is further explained by the concept of the ‘democratic catch’.
This chapter examines the limits of state interference in proscribing cultural norms by considering gender discrimination, the right of people to leave their community free of penalties, denying women appropriate education, and forced or arranged marriages for girls and young women. The discussion opens by reflecting on the discriminatory practices of the Pueblo tribes against their women and analysing an American court case, Santa Clara v. Martinez. It is argued that the severity of rights violations within the minority group, the insufficient dispute-resolution mechanisms and the inability of individuals to leave the community if they so desire without penalty justify state intervention to uphold the dissenters’ basic rights. Next, a Canadian case, Hofer v. Hofer, illustrates the problematics of denying reasonable exit right to members who may wish to leave their community. Subsequently, the discussion turns to the issue of arranged and forced marriages of girls and young women. While the latter is coercive the former is not. While forced marriages should be denounced as unjust, arranged marriages can be accepted. Finally, the chapter considers denying education to women, arguing that such a denial is unjust and discriminatory.
In 2008, British Prime Minister David Cameron said: ‘State multiculturalism is a wrong-headed doctrine that has had disastrous results. It has fostered difference between communities … it has stopped us from strengthening our collective identity. Indeed, it has deliberately weakened it.
Coercion involves two or more parties who are in conflict and whose relationships are complex and uneasy. Generally speaking, people resent coercion and, when possible, rebel against it. This chapter differentiates between circumstantial coercion and person-based coercion, between coercion and brute forms of oppression, and between benevolent and malevolent coercion. It discusses the coercer’s intentions and specifically addresses the issues of paternalistic coercion, coercion via a third party and self-coercion. Two further distinctions are offered: between internalised and designated coercion, and between coercion enforced by a minority versus coercion imposed by a majority.