A Plural Society

By contrast, in a plural society the various ethnic and faith communities live separate lives. They may share geographical space, but not much more. Take Israel/Palestine as an example and this example pre-dates current hostilities.

Israel took over from the British the millet system which the British had themselves inherited from the Ottoman Empire. Under this system, family law is a matter for each religious community.

So questions about marriage, divorce, adoption are different if a person is Jewish or Muslim or Catholic or Protestant Christian or Druze and of course children are educated in faith schools. Linguistic divisions add to the separation and isolation of different communities. Is each community free to do what it chooses?

A British government White paper, Secure Borders, Safe Haven says

‘While embracing the diverse nature of our society, there are certain norms in relation to marriage in this country which we recognise as acceptable. For example, a marital partnership should be formed of only one man and one woman – we do not recognise polygamous households. Neither will we tolerate forced marriages.’

There was a news item recently about female circumcision. Quite a number of refugees from Somalia are allowed into the USA, but the news item was that the USA had announced that if under age females in the family had been circumcised, the families would not be admitted – this was to stop such circumcisions being carried out before they left Africa for the USA. There was also an interview with the MP who chairs the relevant British Parliamentary committee. She said parents thought they were doing the best for their daughters by getting them circumcised, otherwise they might not get a husband when they grew up.

Do you agree with American or British approaches?

Do you respect the right of different groups to continue their traditional pattern of behaviour or do you expect them to attune themselves to the mores of a new society?

Are there indeed universal human rights – or are they themselves culturally conditioned?