Headscarves in the policeforce and the court: does context matter?

S. Saharso, O. Verhaar

    Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


    In questions of tolerance to cultural minority practices, we usually follow a deductive approach, in which we first establish the limits of tolerance in principle and then determine whether or not a particular practice is consistent with them. The reason is that principles are considered 'fundamental' whereas other considerations are 'contingent'; hence the outcomes of reasoning on principle are considered more 'pure' and fair. Critics, however, claim that this deductive approach cannot adequately deal with the particularities of actual moral reasoning and therefore propose a 'contextual approach' to matters of tolerance. This paper explores the possibilities of that approach by discussing two cases from that perspective: the wearing of the 'Islamic' headscarf by teachers of public schools and by (uniformed) police officers in the Netherlands. We will concentrate on the claim that a contextual approach furthers social stability or 'peace' more than a deductive approach because it produces solutions that are more widely acceptable. We will also discuss possible disadvantages of a contextual approach, in particular the risk that it results in a form of 'moral casuistry'.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)68-86
    Number of pages19
    JournalActa Politica
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2006


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