Women, the state and religious dissent in the European Union

Abstract

This paper considers a particular instance in which a liberal state –Germany -makes a claim for the limitation of tolerance of religious expression on the grounds of harm. I examine this claim with reference to three basic positions: Firstly,I examine Denise Meyerson’s argument that the domain of religion constitutes an area of intractable dispute and that the state is not entitled to limit liberty in this domain because it cannot justify limitations in a neutrally acceptable way. I argue that Ludin is entitled to wear the Kopftuch on grounds of her right to religious freedom and that the attempt to deny her this entitlement constitutes a breach of individual rights. Meyerson’s arguments rest on the acceptability of Rawls’s idea of public reason. I therefore, secondly, examine Jeremy Waldron’s objections to the use of the deliberative discipline of public reason in cultural disputes as well as his objections to the use of the politics of identity which, he claims, distort our ability to engage in reasoned public debate. I argue that bracketing identity claims eliminates what is peculiar about Ludin’s case.This I bring out, thirdly, by drawing on the views of Melissa Williams, who advances the idea of sensitivity to others’ reasons as reasons, which defines a position midway between Meyerson and Waldron. It is apparent that Ludin’s dilemma is twofold: her status as ‘metic’-as member of a minority at the margins of mainstream German culture, and her status as ‘Muslimin’-as one believed to be suffering sexual discrimination in her own culture, form a double-bind of oppression. They are connected in a way that challenges the integration policies of the German state.

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