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Multiculturalism - a racism in disguise

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  • Multiculturalism - a racism in disguise

    Enlightenment fundamentalism or racism of the anti-racists?

    Pascal Bruckner defends Ayaan Hirsi Ali against Ian Buruma and Timothy Garton Ash, condemning their idea of multiculturalism for chaining people to their roots

    "What to say to a man who tells you he prefers to obey God than to obey men, and who is consequently sure of entering the gates of Heaven by slitting your throat?" - Voltaire

    "Colonisation and slavery have created a sentiment of culpability in the West that leads people to adulate foreign traditions. This is a lazy, even racist attitude." Ayaan Hirsi Ali

    There's no denying that the enemies of freedom come from free societies, from a slice of the enlightened elite who deny the benefits of democratic rights to the rest of humanity, and more specifically to their compatriots, if they're unfortunate enough to belong to another religion or ethnic group. To be convinced of this one need only glance through two recent texts: "Murder in Amsterdam" by the British-Dutch author Ian Buruma on the murder of Theo Van Gogh (1) and the review of this book by English journalist and academic Timothy Garton Ash in the New York Review of Books (2). Buruma's reportage, executed in the Anglo-Saxon style, is fascinating in that it gives voice to all of the protagonists of the drama, the murderer as well as his victim, with apparent impartiality. The author, nevertheless, cannot hide his annoyance at the former Dutch member of parliament of Somali origin, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a friend of Van Gogh's and also the subject of death threats. Buruma is embarrassed by her critique of the Koran.

    Garton Ash is even harder on her. For him, the apostle of multiculturalism, Hirsi Ali's attitude is both irresponsible and counter-productive. His verdict is implacable: "Ayaan Hirsi Ali is now a brave, outspoken, slightly simplistic Enlightenment fundamentalist." (3). He backs up his argument with the fact that this outspoken young woman belonged in her youth to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. For Garton Ash, she has merely exchanged one credo for another, fanaticism for the prophet for that of reason.

    This argument of equivalence is not new. It was used throughout the 19th century by the Catholic Church to block reforms, and more recently in France at the time of the "Islamic Headscarf Affair" by those opposed to the law. In the case of Hirsi Ali, herself subject to female circumcision and forced marriage, who escaped Africa to the Netherlands, the accusation is simply false. The difference between her and Muhammad Bouyeri, the killer of Theo Van Gogh, is that she never advocated murder to further her ideas.

    "The Koran is the work of man and not of God," she writes. "Consequently we should feel free to interpret and adapt it to modern times, rather than bending over backwards to live as the first believers did in a distant, terrible time." (4) One searches this sentence in vain for the least hint of sectarianism. Hirsi Ali's sole weapons are persuasion, refutation and discourse. Far from the pathology of proselytism, she never transgresses the domain of reason. Her hope of pushing back tyranny and superstition does not seem to result from unsound or unhealthy exaltation. But in the eyes of our genteel professors, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, like the dissenting Muslims Taslima Nasreen, Wafa Sultan, (see her interview on al Jazeera), Irshad Manji, Seyran Ates and Necla Kelek, has committed an unpardonable offence: she has taken democratic principles seriously.


    It's not enough that Ayaan Hirsi Ali has to live like a recluse, threatened with having her throat slit by radicals and surrounded by bodyguards. She - like the French philosophy professor Robert Redeker who has also been issued death threats on Islamicist websites - has to endure the ridicule of the high-minded idealists and armchair philosophers. She has even been called a Nazi in the Netherlands. (6) Thus the defenders of liberty are styled as fascists, while the fanatics are portrayed as victims!

    This vicious mechanism is well known. Those who revolt against barbarism are themselves accused of being barbarians. In politics as in philosophy, the equals sign is always an abdication. If thinking involves weighing one's words to name the world well, drawing comparisons in other words, then levelling distinctions testifies to intellectual bankruptcy. Shouting CRS = SS as in May '68, making Bush = Bin Laden or equating Voltaire to Savonarola is giving cheap satisfaction to questionable approximations.

    Similarly, the Enlightenment is often depicted as nothing but another religion, as mad and intransigent as the Catholicism of the Inquisition or radical Islam. After Heidegger, a whole run of thinkers from Gadamer to Derrida have contested the claims of the Enlightenment to embody a new age of self-conscious history. On the contrary, they say, all the evils of our epoch were spawned by this philosophical and literary episode: capitalism, colonialism, totalitarianism. For them, criticism of prejudices is nothing but a prejudice itself, proving that humanity is incapable of self-reflection. For them, the chimeras of certain men of letters who were keen to make a clean slate of God and revelation, were responsible for plunging Europe into darkness.


    Today we are heirs to both movements, and understand how to reconcile the particularity of national, linguistic and cultural ties with the universality of the human race. Modernity has been self-critical and suspicious of its own ideals for a long time now, denouncing the sacralisation of an insane reason that was blind to its own zeal. In a word, it acquired a certain wisdom and an understanding of its limits. The Enlightenment, in turn, showed itself capable of reviewing its mistakes.


    Today we combine two concepts of liberty: one has its origins in the 18th century, founded on emancipation from tradition and authority. The other, originating in anti-imperialist anthropology, is based on the equal dignity of cultures which could not be evaluated merely on the basis of our criteria. Relativism demands that we see our values simply as the beliefs of the particular tribe we call the West. Multiculturalism is the result of this process. Born in Canada in 1971, it's principle aim is to assure the peaceful cohabitation of populations of different ethnic or racial origins on the same territory. In multiculturalism, every human group has a singularity and legitimacy that form the basis of its right to exist, conditioning its interaction with others. The criteria of just and unjust, criminal and barbarian, disappear before the absolute criterion of respect for difference. There is no longer any eternal truth: the belief in this stems from nave ethnocentrism.

    Anyone with a mind to contend timidly that liberty is indivisible, that the life of a human being has the same value everywhere, that amputating a thief's hand or stoning an adulteress is intolerable everywhere, is duly arraigned in the name of the necessary equality of cultures. As a result, we can turn a blind eye to how others live and suffer once they've been parked in the ghetto of their particularity. Enthusing about their inviolable differentness alleviates us from having to worry about their condition. However it is one thing to recognise the convictions and rites of fellow citizens of different origins, and another to give one's blessing to hostile insular communities that throw up ramparts between themselves and the rest of society. How can we bless this difference if it excludes humanity instead of welcoming it? This is the paradox of multiculturalism: it accords the same treatment to all communities, but not to the people who form them, denying them the freedom to liberate themselves from their own traditions. Instead: recognition of the group, oppression of the individual. The past is valued over the wills of those who wish to leave custom and the family behind and - for example - love in the manner they see fit.


    One tends to forget the outright despotism of minorities who are resistant to assimilation if it isn't accompanied by a status of extraterritoriality and special dispensations. The result is that nations are created within nations, which, for example, feel Muslim before they feel English, Canadian or Dutch. Here identity wins out over nationality. Worse yet: under the guise of respecting specificity, individuals are imprisoned in an ethnic or racial definition, and plunged back into the restrictive mould from which they were supposedly in the process of being freed. Black people, Arabs, Pakistanis and Muslims are imprisoned in their history and assigned, as in the colonial era, to residence in their epidermis, their beliefs.

    Thus they are refused what has always been our privilege: passing from one world to another, from tradition to modernity, from blind obedience to rational decision making. "I left the world of faith, of genital cutting (7) and marriage for the world of reason and sexual emancipation. After making this voyage I know that one of these two worlds is simply better than the other. Not for its gaudy gadgetry, but for its fundamental values", Ayaan Hirsi Ali wrote in her autobiography (8).


    Out of consideration for all the abuses they may have suffered, ethnic, sexual, religious and regional minorities are often set up as small nations, in which the most outrageous chauvinism is passed off as nothing more than the expression of legitimate self-esteem. Instead of celebrating freedom as the power to escape determinism, the repetition of the past is being encouraged, reinforcing the power of collective coercion over private individuals. Marginal groups now form a sort of ethos-police, a flag-waving micro-nationalism which certain countries of Europe unfortunately see fit to publicly support. Under the guise of celebrating diversity, veritable ethnic or confessional prisons are established, where one group of citizens is denied the advantages accorded to others.

    It is her wilful, short-fused, enthusiastic, impervious side to which Ian Buruma and Timothy Garton Ash object, in the spirit of the inquisitors who saw devil-possessed witches in every woman too flamboyant for their tastes. Reading their utterly condescending words, it becomes clear that the war against Muslim fundamentalism will have to be won first on a symbolic level, and by women. Because they represent the pivot of the family and social order. Liberating them, guaranteeing them equal rights in all fields, is the first condition of progress in Arab Muslim societies. Incidentally, each time a Western country has wanted to codify minority rights, it is the members of these minorities, mostly women, who have risen up in protest. The generous desire to be accomodating - like that of the Canadian province of Ontario which sought to judge Muslims according to the Sharia, at least for litigations of succession and family - or the proposition of a former German constitutional judge, Jutta Limbach, to create a minority status in the German Basic Law excusing Muslim girls from gym class, is experienced as a regression, a new imprisonment (10).

    The Enlightenment belongs to the entire human race, not just to a few privileged individuals in Europe or North America who have taken it upon themselves to kick it to bits like spoiled brats, to prevent others from having a go. Anglo-Saxon multiculturalism is perhaps nothing other than a legal apartheid, accompanied - as is so often the case - by the saccarine cajolery of the rich who explain to the poor that money doesn't guarantee happiness. We bear the burdens of liberty, of self-invention, of sexual equality; you have the joys of archaism, of abuse as ancestral custom, of sacred prescriptions, forced marriage, the headscarf and polygamy. The members of these minorities are put under a preservation order, protected from the fanaticism of the Enlightenment and the "calamities" of progress.


    Multiculturalism is a racism of the anti-racists: it chains people to their roots. Thus Job Cohen, mayor of Amsterdam and one of the mainstays of the Dutch state, demands that one accept "the conscious discrimination of women by certain groups of orthodox Muslims" on the basis that we need a "new glue" to "hold society together." In the name of social cohesion, we are invited to give our roaring applause for the intolerance that these groups show for our laws. The coexistence of hermetic little societies is cherished, each of which follows a different norm. If we abandon a collective criterion for discriminating between just and unjust, we sabotage the very idea of national community. A French, British or Dutch citizen will be prosecuted for beating his wife, for example. But should the crime go unpunished if it turns out that the perpetrator is a Sunni or Shiite? Should his faith give him the right to transgress the law of the land? This is the glorification in others of what we have always beaten ourselves up about: outrageous protectionism, cultural narcissism and inveterate ethnocentrism!

    This tolerance harbours contempt, because it assumes that certain communities are incapable of modernising. Could it be that the dissidence of British Muslims is not only a function of the retrograde rigorism of their leaders, but also stems from a vague suspicion that all the consideration show to them by the state is little more than a subtle form of disdain, basically telling them that they are just too backward for modern civilisation ? Several communes in Italy are planning to reserve certain beaches for Muslim women, so they may bathe unexposed to male eyes. And within a few years the first "Islamic hospital," complying in all points with the prescriptions of the Koran, may open in Rotterdam. Anyone would think we are reliving the days of segregation in the southern United States. Yet this segregation has the full backing of Europe's most prominent progressives!


    How did Europe and France become secular societies? Through an unrelenting struggle against the Church, and its hold on the right to regiment people's minds, punish recalcitrants, block reforms and maintain the people - primarily the poorest - in the stranglehold of resignation and fear. The fight was extraordinarily violent on both sides, but it brought about incontestable progress and eventually led to the law of the separation of Church and state being passed in 1905.

    The superiority of the French model (copied by the Turkey of Mustafa Kemal) is a result of the victory over obscurantism and events like the St. Bartholomew's Day massacre. How could we tolerate in Islam that which we no longer tolerate in Catholicism? Secularism, which incidentally is written into the Gospels, is based on a few simple principles: freedom of religious affiliation, peaceful coexistence, neutrality of the public space, respect of the social contract, and the common acceptance that religious laws are not above civil ones but reside in the hearts of believers. France, said the philosopher Hannah Arendt, treated its colonies both as brothers and subjects. Happily, the time of colonies is over. But the republican egalitarian ideal postulates that all human beings have the same rights, independently of their race, sex and confession. This ideal is far from being realised. It is even in crisis, as the riots of November 2005 proved. Nevertheless it seems to be a better guiding light than the questionable worship of diversity. Against the right to difference, it is necessary to ceaselessly reaffirm the right to resemblance. What unites us is stronger than what divides us.


    Yesterday the Cold War was caught up in a global combat against communism, where the confrontation of ideas, the cultural struggle in cinema, music and literature played a key role. Today we observe with consternation as the British government and its circle of Muslim "advisers" flirts with the credo: better fundamentalism than terrorism - unable to see that the two go hand in hand, and that given a chance, fundamentalism will forever prevent the Muslims of Europe from engaging in reform.

    Yet fostering an enlightened European Islam is capital: Europe may become a model, a shining example for reform which will hopefully take place along the lines of Vatican II, opening the way to self-criticism and soul-searching. However we must be sure not to speak to the wrong audience, styling the fundamentalists as friends of tolerance, while in fact they practise dissimulation and use the left or the intelligentsia to make their moves for them, sparing themselves the challenge of secularism (15).

    It is time to extend our solidarity to all the rebels of the Islamic world, non-believers, atheist libertines, dissenters, sentinels of liberty, as we supported Eastern European dissidents in former times. Europe should encourage these diverse voices and give them financial, moral and political support. Today there is no cause more sacred, more serious, or more pressing for the harmony of future generations. Yet our continent kneels before God's madmen, muzzling and libelling free thinkers with suicidal heedlessness. Blessed are the sceptics and non-believers if they can calm the murderous ardour of faith!

    It is astonishing that 62 years after the fall of the Third Reich and 16 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, an important segment Europe's intelligentsia is engaged in slandering the friends of democracy. They maintain it is best to cede and retreat, and pay mere lip-service to the ideals of the Enlightenment. Yet we are a long way off the dramatic circumstances of the 1930s, when the best minds threw themselves into the arms of Berlin or Moscow in the name of race, class or the Revolution. Today the threat is more diffuse and fragmented. There is nothing that resembles the formidable peril of the Third Reich. Even the government of Mullahs in Tehran is a paper tiger that could be brought to its knees with a minimum dose of rigour. Nevertheless the preachers of panic abound. Kant defined the Enlightenment with the motto: Sapere aude - dare to know. A culture of courage is perhaps what is most lacking among today's directors of conscience. They are the symptoms of a fatigued, self-doubting Europe, one that is only too ready to acquiesce at the slightest alarm. Yet their good-willed rhetorical molasses covers a different tune: that of capitulation!

  • #2
    Muslims in India wanted (as in, want WANT WANT) their own separate personal law, so we gave it to them. Thanks to that, they're now the most backward community. Funnily enough, it's the so-called "Hindu nationalist" party which believes in treating them as equals, and in creating a common code for all citizens.


    • #3
      Yeah, the "Hindu nationalists" wants to make everybody a good hindu, or get out of India. Several small Christian and Muslim communities know that very well...
      Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God.-Isaiah 41:10
      I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made - Psalms 139.14a
      Also active on WePlayCiv.


      • #4
        Those who revolt against barbarism are themselves accused of being barbarians.

        This sums up the problem.


        • #5
          WTF Pekka? I started reading the article and it just went off on some literary tangent very quickly and is too long. So I am going to request a summary, OK?
          Speaking of Erith:

          "It's not twinned with anywhere, but it does have a suicide pact with Dagenham" - Linda Smith


          • #6
            If there is a Hell I hope all the Postmodernist idiots who spew such anti-enlightenment crap burn in it.


            • #7
              I feel the author has a seriously twisted view of what multiculturalism necessarily entails.
              (")_(") This is Bunny. Copy and paste bunny into your signature to help him gain world domination.


              • #8
                I agree with PH that the auther tends to really go on some unrelated tangents into lots of detail to prove a miniscule point.

                I bolded the important bits in my opinion.


                • #9
                  So if multiculturism is bad, does this mean that Canadian Jews should forget their roots and become Christian? Or is it just Canadian Muslims who should forget their roots?
                  Last edited by Tingkai; February 3, 2007, 22:49.
                  Golfing since 67


                  • #10
                    The title says it all:

                    To counter the claim of fundamentalistic Enlightenment the author claims racism in his opponents.

                    Not surprisingly, it becomes an incoherent rubuttal .

                    It'll be interesting to see if the debate can progress beyond this point now that Ayaan has left for the US. In the Netherlands it didn't.

                    (BTW, I lost track who called who names first when this 'debate' raged here)
                    "post reported"Winston, on the barricades for freedom of speech
                    "I don't like laws all over the world. Doesn't mean I am going to do anything but post about it."Jon Miller


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Nikolai
                      Yeah, the "Hindu nationalists" wants to make everybody a good hindu, or get out of India. Several small Christian and Muslim communities know that very well...
                      OK, what?

                      150+ million people is a "small community"? WTF are you smoking?

                      And you think it is not unjust that a Muslim husband can have four wives, divorce them on a whim by saying "Talaq" thrice, and then never pay alimony? You think it is not unjust that a woman raped by her father-in-law is declared as "forbidden" to her husband and married to the man who raped her? You think it is not unjust that this triple divorce can be done over SMS? You think it is not unjust that in the absence of a will, property is divided absolutely unequally between sons, daughters, and wives (the men getting an advantage)?

                      These people you decry are actually trying to make everyone equal under the law! And you oppose that!

                      Have you ever bothered to actually hear what these people are saying? From their own spokespeople? There is a big difference between what they say and what the media says they say. Check out the speeches these people make. They were the ones who appointed a Muslim president and a Christian Defence Minister. Yes, they put the defence of the country in the hands of a Christian, and they made the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces (the President) a Muslim. Not exactly what you'd expect them to do, given their image, eh?


                      • #12
                        I wasn't born with enough middle fingers.
                        [Brandon Roderick? You mean Brock's Toadie?][Hanged from Yggdrasil]


                        • #13
                          aneeshm: It's not like they are big everywhere. But you "forgot" the Christian communities, the ones who's life often are in serious danger in some states where the hindu extremists are in power. Those are the ones I'm talking about.
                          Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God.-Isaiah 41:10
                          I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made - Psalms 139.14a
                          Also active on WePlayCiv.


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Nikolai
                            aneeshm: It's not like they are big everywhere. But you "forgot" the Christian communities, the ones who's life often are in serious danger in some states where the hindu extremists are in power. Those are the ones I'm talking about.
                            I've never understood this. Where exactly are Hindi extremists in power? The only people who fit this stereotype are the Shiv Sena, which is a sort of Marathi chauvinist party which has adopted Hindutva because they wanted to expand their political base, and they're not really in power anywhere, except at the municipal level.

                            What incidents do you refer to? Where is their life in danger? I've personally checked every common reference to some alleged atrocity, and every single time, it turns out it was either a distortion or an allegation without any proof, which was blown up beyond all proportion by the media, which for some reason heartily dislikes Hinduism and everything to do with it (it goes to the extent that when some Dalit pseudo-"intellectual" calls Hinduism an enemy, the host of the programme calls it a "fair point").

                            For instance, there is the campaign to somehow make the colour saffron denote something bad or evil. This is patently ridiculous. Do we call Muslim fundamentalists or terrorists "greenisers"? Do we call the introduction of fundamentalism and intolerance in Pakistani textbooks since its conversion into an Islamic republic a "greening"? Then why is there this attempt to degrade the Hindu colour of purity?

                            Take another case. A bunch of communists attacked a Sanskrit-teaching camp organised by Samskrita Bharati. They hurt some people. IIRC, this was in a state under the rule of communists. They claimed that it was actually an arms training and indoctrination camp, saying that it was linked to the RSS. WTF? I know these people, as in I personally know one of the high-level officials of this organisation, and I know that it is IMPOSSIBLE that it be an arms training camp. It's just..... bizzare. But the media never says "RSS camp attacked", or anything like that. Oh, no, never can the "Hindutva" forces ever be a victim of anything, EVER! They're "teh evil pigdog oppressors", and anything which does not fit this image has to be somehow toned down or simply ignored.

                            Why is it that there are no accounts of atrocities perpetrated on Hindus? Why do I have to rely on foreign news sources on the internet for that?

                            Anyway - long rant. I got carried away.

                            But I'd request you to cite specific instances of such problems Christians have faced. The only genuine instance I can remember is that of the killing of Graham Staines, and that was by some guy who was not involved in any Hindu group, so that rather rules that one out.


                            • #15
                              It seems quite a few people here have no problem with Sharia Law.