Saturday, June 25 2016

Gary Younge on multiculturalism as fact and fiction

 Gary Younge's column in The Guardian this week is an excellent analysis and contribution to the debate on the so-called “failure of multiculturalism”.

Younge differentiates between the “multiculturalism of fact” and the “multiculturalism of fiction”. The former is a testament to the vivacity of subcultures in the UK that exist in harmony with one another and the national culture, “not [as] the product of our genius for tolerance as a nation but [because] of constant negotiation.”

Such multiculturalism is predicated on “The right to assert autonomy and cultural difference underpinned by an understanding that national identity is just one among many identities and may well not be the primary one: an affirmation of plurality against calls for assimilation that attempt to first invent and then enforce "British values" and other national orthodoxies.”

The latter, “multiculturalism of fiction” is one that “evokes a liberal, state-led policy of encouraging and supporting cultural difference at the expense of national cohesion. It champions practices, we are told, that have caused segregation, alienation and ghettoisation of racial and religious minorities. This, the argument continues, has laid the basis for an acceptance of abhorrent and barbaric practices, such as honour killings, forced marriages and female genital mutilation, that sacrifice the basic tenets of western, liberal civilisation and universalism at the altar cultural tolerance.

"In Britain, it is similarly difficult to discern precisely what critics are referring to beyond the activities of some local councils. In his most recent speech on the subject, David Cameron did not offer one concrete example.

“…who, with any credibility, on the left has ever supported the crimes described? Like "on-street grooming", "black-on-black violence" or the "down-low", such practices are specifically ethnic, racial or religious terms employed to pathologise a specific community in which every transgression is refracted through an ethnic or religious lens. Imagine we invented a term "toff bonking" to describe the infidelities of the upper classes, and then decried the epidemic every time Boris Johnson was caught in an indiscretion.

“That doesn't seek to understate these problems but to recast them. Forced marriages are kidnapping; honour killings are murder. We have laws for these that should be applied without fear or favour. I've yet to hear anyone on the left argue otherwise.

“These ostensible liberal dilemmas seek to pit opposition to Islamophobia against support for liberalism as though they are mutually exclusive. But in reality they pose no challenge at all. You don't give antisemitism a pass if it comes from a Muslim any more than one would give Islamophobia a pass if it came from a Jew. If a state forces women to wear a burqa, we should oppose that. And if the state bans women from wearing a burqa, we should oppose that too. Because as feminists and progressives we believe the state has no right to tell women what to wear.”

Read the article in full here.

Last Updated on Monday, 21 March 2011 11:47

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