Chapter 3: Multiculturalism


Ayelet Shachar, “Faith in Law? Diffusing Tensions between Diversity and Equality”

Understanding

  1. What is the difference between public and privatized diversity?
  2. Shachar says “religious personal laws . . . have come to serve an important role in regulating membership boundaries.” How do they do this?
  3. According to Shachar, both the public approach to religious diversity and the privatized diversity approach fail to meet the needs of observant women. What is her argument for this claim? Why are women in particular affected?
  4. What was the issue in Bruker v. Marcovitz? According to Shachar, the Supreme Court’s decision is an example of an “intersectionist” or “joint governance” remedy. What does she mean by this? What is her argument for this claim?
  5. What does Shachar mean by “regulated interaction”?
  6. Sharchar distinguishes between the demarcating and distributive aspects of marriage. What are the demarcating aspects? What are the distributive aspects?

Evaluation

  1. Why does Shachar think religious tribunals ought to be able to have jurisdiction over the demarcating aspects of marriage, if both parties agree? Do you agree with her? Why or why not?
  2. Ontario used to permit religiously-based tribunal to decide matters in family law, if both parties agreed. When a conservative Muslim group petitioned to set up a tribunal that would operate according to Shari’a law, the government decided to ban all religiously-based tribunals. Shachar describes the decision as “heavy-handed.” Why does she say this? Do you agree with her? Why or why not?

Benjamin Berger, “The Cultural Limits of Legal Tolerance”

R. v. Big M Drug Mart Ltd: The Lord’s Day Act of 1906 forbade selling goods on Sundays. In 1982 Big M Drug Mart was charged with violating this law. In 1985 the Supreme Court unanimously declared the Lord’s Day Act unconstitutional, saying it could not have a secular purpose. It was based on a Christian norm which “gives the appearance of discrimination against non-Christian Canadians,” they said.


Understanding

  1. What does Berger mean by “legal multiculturalism”? How does it conflict with religious difference, in his view?
  2. Berger criticizes legal tolerance. Why?
  3. What does Berger mean by “the conversionary mode of legal tolerance”? Why is he critical of it?
  4. Berger thinks Multani and B.R. are examples of the same point about legal tolerance of religion. What does he think these two cases show?
  5. Berger argues that legal tolerance generally means that citizens and the state are indifferent to religion. Why does he think this view is problematic?
  6. Berger says law and religion are “homologous.” What does he mean by this?

Evaluation

  1. Do you agree with the Supreme Court’s decision in Multani? Why or why not?
  2. Do you agree with the Supreme Court’s decision in B.R.? Why or why not?
  3. Why does Berger criticize legal indifference to religion? Do you agree with his criticisms? Why or why not?
  4. Berger argues that we should view the relationship between law and religion as a cross-cultural encounter rather than as an exercise in tolerating the limits of legal tolerance. Why does he mean by this? Why does he think it would be preferable to the current situation? Do you agree? Why or why not?

Joseph H. Carens and Melissa S. Williams, “Islam, Immigration and Group Recognition”

Understanding

  1. The first issue Carens and Williams address is the claim that Islam is incompatible with democracy and liberalism. What do proponents of this view claim? Why do Carens and Williams reject it?
  2. The second issue they discuss is the claim that Islam opposes gender equality. What do proponents of this view say? Why do Carens and Williams reject this claim?
  3. The third argument Carens and Williams discuss is whether Muslim communities should receive multicultural accommodation similar to, but less substantial than, accommodation of Aboriginal peoples and Quebec. What do proponents of this view say? Why do Carens and Williams accept it?

Evaluation

  1. Why do Carens and Williams reject the view that Islam is opposed to women’s equality? Do you agree with them? Why or why not?
  2. Will Kymlicka rejects multicultural accommodation for Muslims. What are his reasons, according to Carens and Williams? Why do they reject his view? What do you think, and why?

Comparisons

  1. Shachar suggests that the law use “regulated interaction” in conflicts between religious and secular interpretations of family law. Would Berger agree? Why or why not? What do you think, and why?
  2. Carens and Williams argue that Muslim communities should receive multicultural accommodation similar to, but less substantial than, accommodation of Aboriginal peoples and Quebec. Do you think Shachar would agree? Would Berger? Tully? What do you think, and why?
  3. Carens and Williams argue that neither liberalism nor democracy should require that citizens suspend or distance themselves from their religious commitments when they are in the public sphere. Would Shachar agree? Would Berger? What do you think, and why?
  4. The issue of Muslim women wearing the hijab or niqab has been prominent in Canada in recent years. Many critics say the hijab and especially the niqab (which covers the woman’s face) are symbols of women’s inequality that have no place in a secular democracy. Many Muslim women and most feminists, Muslim or not, reject this view. Why do some people criticize the hijab and niqab? Why do most feminists, who we expect to support women’s equality, reject these criticisms? Why do Carens and Williams reject them? What is your view, and why?
  5. In 2013, the former Parti Québécois government in Quebec proposed a Charter of Values that would have prohibited obvious religious symbols in publicly-funded institutions, such as the civil service, schools, hospitals, and daycare centres. The Charter would have forbidden Christians wearing large crosses, Jews wearing yarmulkes, Sikhs wearing turbans, and Muslim women wearing hijabs or niqabs. Do you think Taylor would view the Charter of Values as a form of substantive liberalism? Why? Do you think Berger would support the Charter of Values? Why or why not? What do you think, and why?
  6. Prime Minister Harper opposes women wearing the niqab (which covers the face, not just the hair) at citizenship ceremonies. Why does he think this? Do you think Berger, Shachar, or Carens and Williams would agree? What about men whose mouths are obscured by their bushy beards—should they be forced to shave? Why? What is your view, and why?