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Cultural Encounters And Cultural Exemptions Philosophy Essay

‘Liberal philosophers should support cultural exemptions because cultural exemptions promote autonomy.’ Explain and evaluate this argument.

Liberalism is a belief system, a particular way of thinking which promotes equality and equal moral values to all human being and all human being have the right to live freely.“Liberals hold that every human being is of equal moral value, and that justice is a matter of treating people equally” (Pike, 2008 p.95). Liberalism is against certain kinds of discrimination like religious, ethnical or gender discrimination. It promotes tolerance and diversity in all aspects of life such as cultural, religious and human rights for freedom and equality. Liberal thinkers believe that liberalism gives the right to an individual to be free and equal and that all men are equal in the eyes of the law and they must be treated fairly and equally regardless to his or her skin colour, religion, cultural background, preferences, appearance or believes. For example; a man is convicted of murder, in this case the court or the judge cannot be influenced in his or her judgment or verdict because of the convict religion, ethnical background, cultural believes or simply his appearances are different to the judge or are disliked by the judge. The judge has to be fair in his or her judgment according to the law and the level of the crime then gives the verdict according to the evidences presented. This is treating people equally; it is also known as difference-blind liberalism.

The exception to this rule is when the autonomy of an individual is involved. “Autonomy means “self-rule”; an autonomous person is able to make his or her own choices about how to live life. To treat someone as autonomous involves respecting them as a rational being, with the right to make up his or her own mind as to how to live.”(Pike, 2008 p.106-107) Autonomy allows an individual to practice freely his or her believes and cultures. It also gives the individual the right to make their own choices about how to live life according to his or her culture, religion or preference. Liberal philosophers argue on “how far can we push an autonomy allowance of an individual or a group of people according to their culture, religion and preference”, in order for all to live and practice freely their choices and believes.

Arguments for the support of cultural exemption:

Supporting cultural exemption and promoting autonomy is important. It gives the right to people to express their unique individually. Great Britain is a country who provides accommodation to a number of people with different nationalities and believes and cultures from all around the world. In this situation, it’s important to satisfy the demand of the ethnical minorities as long as it doesn’t create problem for the rest of the population. In order for the people to feel free and autonomic, they have to be able to practice their cultural believes and ceremonies openly and freely, as long as these cultural believes and ceremonies have been approved by the ruling governmental system. Human being is unique, they are unique because of their unique identity and believe, if you take that identity away, it will bring anarchy into the society and freedom will disappear. Liberal philosophers should support cultural exemption and promote autonomy because it’s freedom to practice freely what an individual believes. By supporting cultural exemption and promoting autonomy, they are also promoting freedom of an individual and the right to express differently. A case in which cultural exemption should be supported as Bikhu Parekh says:” Liberalism is right in treating all human being equally, but wrong in equating equally with uniformly” (Bikhu Parekh, speaking in ‘Discussing Cultural Exemption-Cultural Encounter’, 2008, track 3).He also argues that differences have to be recognised within a society and he gives the example of three men in a court room; one is a Christian, one is a Muslim and the other is an Atheist. If these three men were asked to take an oath, the point of taking an oath is that these people are going to tell the true out of fear of God, and if they were made to take a secular oath, this will not motivate the Christian or the Muslim men. Because swearing a secular oath doesn’t have any values to these men. Here they are asking a difference to be recognised, the Christian man would like to swear on the Bible and the Muslim man on the Qur’an. In this case it is difficult to apply difference-blind liberalism and philosophers should promote autonomy and give right to cultural differences, in order to attain good result and to give value to an individual’s belief. It is important to take in account the culture and belief of others to achieve greatness in a multicultural society. Prof. Barry gives us the example of the Sikh school boy:”I do not see an issue with a Sikh school boy who is allowed to wear the turban instead of the school cap. It is not causing danger to him and others and the school didn’t have an objection with school uniform”. (Brian Barry, speaking in ‘Discussing Cultural Exemption-Cultural Encounter’ 2008, track 3). Prof. Barry says that cultural exemption is acceptable when that difference is not affecting the wider society or putting the individual and others in danger.

Arguments against the support of cultural exemption:

Liberal philosophers shouldn’t support all cultural exemption. It is not possible to support cultural difference in every situation. Cultural exemption can be overruled when the threat of safety or health care are concern. I will use Brian Barry’s argument to explain the point. Prof. Barry says:”Cultural exemption cannot be applied in all cases, for example giving the rights to Sikhs men to ride a motorcycle without a crash helmet; it is simply not practical to wear a turban and a crash helmet together. The law of physique and human anatomy overrule the cultural exemption. The helmet has to be worn in order to protect people from death and serious injuries”. (Brian Barry, speaking in ‘Discussing Cultural Exemption-Cultural Encounter’ 2008, track 3). In this case it is difficult for liberal philosophers to support cultural exemption and to promote autonomy and to give right to a group of individuals. When the life of an individual is in danger or by practicing his or her cultural differences the individual is putting himself or other in danger indicates that the cultural exemption has to be rejected. Prof. Parekh gives us the example of a teacher who wants to go pray in a mosque on Friday.” It is not acceptable for that person to go pray in a mosque if by him going to the mosque will have an effect on his pupils or his colleagues or simply the education system doesn’t have the ability to accommodate or satisfy his wish”. (Bikhu Parekh, speaking in ‘Discussing Cultural Exemption-Cultural Encounter’ 2008, track 5). According to Prof.Parekh, it’s not practical for a Muslim teacher to go pray in a mosque on Friday when no alternatives have been made to cover his absence.

Conclusion:

Liberalism is treating all human being equally, difference-blind liberalism is treating people uniformly, so it is not equally treating people who have a different believes, cultural identities or preferences, but liberalism is not rejecting the idea of cultural exemption and giving autonomy to an individual according to his or her cultural identities, believes or preferences as long as these cultural exemption are universally acceptable and agreeable. Looking at Prof. Parekh’s and Prof. Barry’s arguments, it is clear to say that all cases of cultural exemption have to be individually studied in order to give an answer for promoting autonomy. It is clear to say that a line has to be drawn on what is the limit of that autonomy. If the government impose a law that the motorway users should drive their vehicles at a limited speed and all exemption is rejected then people should abide to the rule of law, in this case the autonomy of an individual is overruled when lives of others are put in danger. The ruling governmental system has the right to either accept or reject the cultural exemption, and people regardless to their cultural identities have to abide and obey the rules of the country they are living in either they like it or not. Liberal philosophers should support cultural exemption and promote autonomy and not fail to recognise cultural identities and differences when that cultural exemption is not oppressing individual or having a negative impact on the wider society and also that it is not going against the law of safety and health. Liberal philosophers should not support cultural exemption and promote autonomy and not fail to recognise cultural identities and differences when that cultural exemption is oppressing individuals or a group of people and affecting the wider society and is going against the law of safety and health.

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