Saturday, April 03, 2010

Freedom - a cultural dimension

Some of what we consider freedom is culturally-determined.

E.g., in India, banning the burqa or asking Sikhs to abandon the turban if they want to serve would be seen as an unthinkable imposition on liberty. And likewise with minarets on mosques. On the other hand, India suffers excoriation by evangelists because it places curbs on proselytization - this is supposedly an outrage against religious liberty.

The Army in 1984 eliminated an exemption that had previously allowed Sikhs to maintain their articles of faith while serving, but officials can issue individual waivers to the uniform policy after considering the effects on safety and discipline, said Army spokesman George Wright. Only a handful of such individual religious exemptions are ever granted....Capt. Tejdeep Singh ... wore a full beard and black turban, the first Sikh in a generation allowed to complete U.S. Army basic officer training without sacrificing the articles of his faith.

Yahoo/Time story
Belgium ... parliamentarians backed a draft law that would ban Muslim women from wearing the burqa in public places....French President Nicolas Sarkozy is pushing for a ban on the burqa to follow a 2004 French law prohibiting students and staff from wearing headscarves and any other "conspicuous" religious symbols in state schools. Headscarves have also been outlawed in schools in the Netherlands, Britain and in many German states, and the Italian government has just started a debate on whether to ban them. The European pushback against Islam has gone even further in Switzerland, where the public last year approved a referendum making it illegal to build minarets on mosques....