Are Canadians in trouble?


by Aparita
20th June, 2006 at 9:17 am    

In some ways, in Canada, this is the perfect time to think about one of the very core ideas that defines the country.

It is soccer – or football – World Cup season, which means hyphenated-Canadians are showing their true colours, quite literally, on the streets, in the subways and at pubs. Also, 17 men were recently arrested, and have been charged with allegedly plotting a conspiracy to bomb parts of Toronto. There have been claims to bombing the CN tower, seizing the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and beheading the Canadian PM Stephen Harper.

The World Cup and the arrests provide flip sides of the multiculturalism argument. And Canadians obsess over multiculturalism. It’s almost as big a national pastime – even if limited largely to major cities such as Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver – as cricket is in South Asia.
Multiculturalism is one of those sacrosanct Canadian ideals bequeathed to the country by its most inimitable (yes, in his case hyperboles are merited) heads of state – Pierre Elliot Trudeau.

As the Americans welcome the weary, hungry and sick immigrants, the Canadians welcome the same immigrants along with their cultural baggage. We positively revel in the notion. Not a day goes by when you do not hear the word diversity used at least once. Campaigns of inclusivity are positively rampant – even if they don’t result in as much as they hope to.

So, when the World Cup comes along, major Canadian cities such as Toronto go berserk with the notion of the global village. It is, for the most parts, a joyous celebration. As teams from across the world progress along in the divisions, relevant pockets of Toronto – the various ‘little’ neighbourhoods – burst with the pride of representing their origins.

Then, when 17 men, whose origins are multiple, but their faith – Islam – is singular, are brought into court, a question began to hover uncomfortably in the chilly Canadian air – does multiculturalism really work? Is Canada facing a similar crisis, as is Denmark or France?
(Interestingly enough, this is also a time that Canadians are battling with the question as to whether the Canadian army is to take on a combative approach, as opposed to its history as a peacekeeping force.)

Of course, many Canadians scoff at the idea that the country will erupt in race riots. We are not like them. The other, in this case, has been America, but has recently included some European countries in the same vein. In those countries, the nationalistic fervour precludes integration, Canadians argue. Most Canadians don’t use the word assimilate.

The charges against the young men have nothing to do with multiculturalism, these people assert. But some Canadians have begun to suspect whether Canada hasn’t become too comfortable in its belief that multiculturalism works, here.

Some opinions voiced at a recent event in New York are relevant. The event was called The Limits of Tolerance and the three speakers were asked to weigh in on whether “the Enlightenment ideal of tolerance [can] survive the pressures of profound cultural differences aggravated by religious extremism.”

Is culture a way to open yourself to the world, or is it prison in which you lock yourself into? If we consider our roots an absolute, we cannot communicate with another [an-other, emphasis mine] man, said Pascal Bruckner. Multiculturalism was a Canadian idea – with honourable intentions, as most Canadians ideas are, said Richard Rodriguez. He proposed that merging of cultures, rather than multiculturalism is appropriate.

What are Canadians to do? Canada is a country of immigrants, with perhaps an even greater claim at this title than its southern neighbour. One of the many reasons Canada is so appealing to immigrants is that it allows an immigrant to feel at home. This is despite Canada’s history of racism and some similar incidents today.

For the moment, we wait and watch. Most believe World Cup fever will win over the religious fervour. But there are some who think the core Canadian doctrine to be in danger, and with it the identity of many immigrants who call Canada home.


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  1. Chris Stiles — on 20th June, 2006 at 11:29 am  

    I don’t think the promise of multiculturalism is that there will never be any conflict whatsoever – no system guarentees that.

    These people are criminals – as are those who goad them on in their actions – and should be treated as such.

  2. j0nz — on 20th June, 2006 at 11:35 am  

    These Islamic extremists are ruining it for everybody. Those Muslims who feel so hard done by as community need to stop blaming others, and root out the extremists wherever possible.

    It’s not easy, but unless Muslims as a whole can unite – and actually take action – against extremists in their community, then things will continue to deteriorate.

    Those who say “Why should I?” are contributing to the problem.

  3. sonia — on 20th June, 2006 at 12:16 pm  

    any ‘integrated’ society has always had criminals and people who break the ‘law’ that they all allegedly accepted! just because there are people of ‘different’ cultures around there is no reason to imagine if and when some of them commit crimes it is due to the ‘difference’of their group vs. their individual interpretation of whatever. Christianity can be considered just as ‘foreign’ a culture as Islam is – it was exported just as much as anything else, albeit a LONG time ago and has since been ‘appropriated’. this question of ‘does multiculturalism’ actually work is only relevant if one accepts Huntington’s premise ( and others)that different ‘civilizations’ will automatically fight if placed next to each other. And that in itself comes back to how people define ‘difference’ which is always fluid and depends on what else people have in common. as some people pointed out – in muslim countries, being muslim is a commonality that people take as given, then they focus on whatever difference remains – e.g. tribal, ethnicity, sexuality etc. Regardless of how ‘similar’ people in a group are – they seem to then focus on the ‘difference’ that remains – one level down. so according to huntington’s thesis – no one would ever be able to live in peace because there is always someone out there who is a little bit different to you. hence ‘sub-cultures’ within ‘cultures’ – e.g. people who listen to different music/wear a particular style of clothes – goths etc. One day we might have local councils shouting about how our ‘multicultural’ policies of ‘integrating’ preppy types with goths have failed because goths only want to marry other goths and go to the same club nights and one goth hit a preppy type on the head cos he insulted his music.

    if we want to frame this debate in such terms – well then -we will always have someone say ‘oooh this isn’t working’. So what then? Throw these people out of the country? well if you have the luxury of being able to do so then maybe you can bring up the question ( e.g. related to immigration) what do you do when you can’t ‘deport’ people back – you have to live with different groups in one country – and is the premise that can’t happen/or be allowed to happen? If so what’s the solution given their are multiple groups of people in the world! One country for one culture? Is that the solution? Well obviously it’s not because a) there isn’t enough physical space in the world, and b) you’re not going to get people to agree very easily on who exactly constitutes one culture that isn’t going to have ‘sub-divisions’ who may also want a country of their own! That sort of thing can be never-ending and infinite. So we need to think about that – beyond the confines of just one nation-state. oh shove them out of this nation-state and the problem only goes somewhere else! Sorry but this kind of moving the buck along cannot work in a globalized world. People who ask questions about multiculturalism ( and there’s a hell of a lot of them about – im begining to think its a useless term in the context/s it keeps cropping up in) need to think about that.

  4. sonia — on 20th June, 2006 at 12:21 pm  

    Chris up above has a good point. ignoring this business of multi-culturalism, no society can guarantee ‘good citizenship’ in as much as that every ‘citizen’ will behave themselves well and in accordance to the rules of that society and do what’s best for the society. that’s obvious, history is testament to that. And whether people admit it or not, most societies have not been as homogenous as the ‘myths of purity’ would like us to believe. The problem with the so-called multiculturalism debate is that it is involves highly spurious discourse.

  5. Arif — on 20th June, 2006 at 12:22 pm  

    I kind of agree with the comments above.

    Multiculturalism is just the idea that cultures should not impose their values on one another by force.

    I don’t know what the motives of those planning terrorist actions are – whether they want to change another culture, or whether they wanted to make a statement of some kind against the policies of the Canadian Government.

    Whichever it is, the responsibility is both on Muslims and the Government to take action, but if they are motivated by a desire to impose Islam on others, then I would agree with j0nz that it is primarily an issue for Muslims to take responsibility to remove their frustrations. If the latter, then it is primarily an issue for the Government to take responsibility – after all, Muslims do not set Canadian Government policies.

  6. sonia — on 20th June, 2006 at 12:26 pm  

    “but their faith – Islam – is singular”

    Well that is up for debate – it’s all about nomenclature isn’t it – they may share the same faith in name as other Muslims but to imagine that everyone’s faith is ‘singular’ is actually another one of these myths. People interpret their religion in as many varied ways as they may interpret their ethnicity or any other set of philosophies – you take from them what you want and discard what you don’t. perhaps the problem with all this hoo-ha about religion vs. other forms of identity is for people to realize that – there isn’t actually any ‘singularity’ about it. One of the problems is that people are aware of that regarding themselves, but not when it comes to other people. this contributes to problem, in my opinion.

  7. Kismet Hardy — on 20th June, 2006 at 12:28 pm  

    I feel sorry for the poor Canadians. They must be looking at the proposed architectural and cultural wonder that is the great glass wall that will divide America and Mexico and wishing they’d spent more time on borritos and less on maple syrup, then they too could be completely cut off from their neighbours from hell

  8. Arif — on 20th June, 2006 at 12:43 pm  

    I think the point she is making by “faith is singular” is the aspect of their identity which they share, hence which might be a defining element of their subculture. There are a lot of Muslim subcultures, and I doubt Aparita is denying it.

    I think how cultures deal with subcultures is the question we might really be getting at when we make out there are problems with multiculturalism. Who takes responsibility for getting supremacist subcultures to accept multiculturalism.

    As I see it, supremacism is the element of ideology which is opposed to multiculturalism. We need to deal with supremacists in a consistent way to keep a sense of living in a just society. Maybe the consistent way has not been clearly enough agreed upon. One person’s hate speech becomes anothers’ free speech. One person’s hate crime becomes another person’s common assault.

    The rejection of supremacism has gone a long way, and I think we on PP are fairly united in not wanting to let suspicions turn to supremacism when people start to fear each other.

  9. sonia — on 20th June, 2006 at 12:52 pm  

    What exactly are these profound ‘cultural’ differences one always hears about? I’d like these folks to come out and actually list them – or analyze them in some depth. As far as i’ve ever been able to see individual humans are all different by virtue of individuality, and whilst a group may try to lay claim to some particular alue ( intellectual property style!)and eat some different food and dress differently, fundamentally human values are just that – human. and groups display the same social dynamics. Hence you don’t have ‘sociology of brown people’ or sociology of white people but sociology full stop – and psychology of not some group or other but psychology of humans – full stop. if more people actually grew up in different societies and communities instead of being inculcated with the idea their group is ‘different’ then perhaps we wouldn’t keep hearing such things.
    Again, ignoring the commonality and focusing on ‘differences’. So instead of seeing how similar groups are – power struggle, ordinary people trying to live their lives – being born, working, looking for love, sex, families etc. oh no we must needs focus on the ‘shallow’ differences. Also relevant here is what we define as culture and how we understand that. All too often the problem is we don’t see it as fluid and changing. We do seem to understand it a bit better when we talk about corporate culture or ‘organizational’ culture. so if you’re a member of that organization you may share in and contribute to that culture while you’re there – but there isn’t much immutability ascribed to it and you’re not expected to go the rest of your life with that ‘culture’ pinned to you. similarly, when the people in the organization change – the ‘culture’ also changes. Apply this kind of thinking to other ‘groups’ or forms of social organization and voila – some progress made in how things are as opposed to these grand over-generalizations and ‘fixed’ notions of culture.

    also – “in-group” variation is just as much as outside of the group.

    Again – the lack of a united HUMAN identity seems to be highly problematic. In the same way Sunny thinks asians in britain need to have identify as British, i think the major problem facing the world today is that we do NOT have a common identity. Perhaps only when the ‘Martians’ show up..

  10. sonia — on 20th June, 2006 at 12:57 pm  

    I don’t imagine Aparita was denying it – simply reporting on what a lot of people do think. i also think what Arif said about multiculturalism is absolutely critical – all too often we have a muddied ‘debate’ because no one actually either explains or has a notion of what they mean about multiculturalism. I would also add to it by saying that multiculturalism involves cosmopolitan ideals – all roads lead to rome and all that sort of thing – that cultures are not a) in competition with each other, because they aren’t hierarchical and competing – but rather, facets of a human whole. Of course lots of people don’t subscribe to this idea but that’s precisely why the usage has gotten complicated.

  11. sonia — on 20th June, 2006 at 1:03 pm  

    this business about faith being ‘singular’ – well my take on it would be that if one aspect of your identity is ‘much stronger’ than the others then you’ve got a ‘hierarchy’ going for yourself in which the faith/religion element is stronger than other facets – so by my definition and thinking, you wouldn’t really be multicultural. You may be existing in a society that’s multicultural! But in seeking to enforce your religious ideas on others you aren’t exactly being a pluralist or very tolerant. This sort of thing is much more similar to the dominant ideas of societies needing to be homogenous and not tolerant of whatever the dominant ideology may be. There are people like that everywhere, and we mustn’t let them make people think there is a problem with pluralism. The problem is more that enough people aren’t comfortable with the whole pluralist issue.

  12. sonia — on 20th June, 2006 at 1:07 pm  

    That’s why i’ve always thought Samuel Huntington has much more in common with the Islamist fundamentalists than either set probably realize. Both have a competing view of the world as seen from their vantage point, both denigrate other ‘cultures’ – and place value on homogeneity rather than heterogeneity – and both appear to be equally uninterested in ‘compromise’. Both view the world in terms of one great big power struggle between ‘civilizations’. ( and for them it’s just a question of who’s on top..with both wanting to be on top) Both also live in la-la land not realizing how diverse and complex the world really is.

  13. sonia — on 20th June, 2006 at 1:16 pm  

    “As I see it, supremacism is the element of ideology which is opposed to multiculturalism”

    Very eloquently put. Supremacism is key – it’s anti-liberal and when people say look at all these islamists who’ve taken advantage of our liberalism – yes that’s the point – there are supremacists who have a discourse of ‘my values are better than yours” who when positing such ideas in a multicultural space are exactly the same as people like the BNP with supremacist ideas of race. I find it ironic that given that there have always been ideas like this floating around, when there is a ‘backlash’ of such ideologies, people say oh well, it must be because of multiculturalism, instead of realizing there have always been competing ideologies and precisely because of such supremacists its obvious that pluralism is the way forward!

  14. Ted Matthews — on 20th June, 2006 at 1:27 pm  

    The idea of milticulturalism as a receipe for harmonious diversity with nationhood is a total no brainer. The spread of the human race throughout the globe has been driven by need or greed. When one of these desires predominates the other those affected begin to move for that reason.
    Unfortunately there is nowhere left on earth to move on to where there isn’t one or another culture already in occupation. Whenever those cultures engage there is inevitably an ‘opportunity’, to assimilate and there by be absorbed by the host culture or to by some superior force, assume eventual domination by whatever weaknesses are found wanting in the ‘other’.
    Dispute is the natural consequence and violence will be the ultimate response.
    This is how the human race has behaved and will always behave.
    We may as Westerners assumed we had fought ‘the war to end all wars’ and profoundly express the desire to live in peace with our neighbours, but obviously there will never be such an event.
    Non the less we have the creature comforts that are demographically denied but desired by three quaters of humanity.
    The main difference now is that where once, we in the west were recognised and recognisable by our language, dress, and national history and geographical boundaries; in other words our culture.
    Today however when we speak of ‘culture’ we are merely using the PC epithet for politicised Islamism. The desire of the West for oil and an oblique cultural sense of imperialist guilt for the actions of an historic elite that is blinding the common conciousness to what is in effect Islamist Imperialism.
    The demographic jihad fuelled by Arab ideology and petro dollars is using ordinary human beings conditioned by the excessess of religious teaching into believing that this life is worthless and death and the threatened hereafter is all that matters. Meanwhile, the Arabs get richer and lazier (just like the British, they don’t learn other cultures’ languages)but would rather impose their culture over the rest of the World. After all, why not sit back and count your money and let others take over the world on you behalf… it make more sense than going to war.

  15. j0nz — on 20th June, 2006 at 1:28 pm  

    Ahem. Some good points made. Supremacism, as a form of elitism should be comabated.

    However all cultures a patently not equal. Democracy that we experience in Britain is far removed from the totalitarian nature of living in North Korea, for example….

    Those cultures that accept repression and violence against women or against other groups, cultures where discrimination is rife, and fatalistic – these cultures are not on par with pluarlist democracies.

    Is this multi-cultralism is best not supremacism in itself? Of course it is.

    But there’s different ways to express your righteousness in your beliefs. Through the democratic process is the way. Believing your values are superior cannot be wrong in itself. That would mean that is there is no wrong. Not murdering people is inherently better than murdering people.

    Rather it’s the way you choose to express your values. It be a pretty confused invidual if you thought all value systems are equally important, with no wrong and no right.

  16. j0nz — on 20th June, 2006 at 1:34 pm  

    Petro-dollars fuel (forgive the pun) the jihad and ideology from the Arab lands – particularly Saudi Arabia. With all this wealth coming in, they have no need for political or social reform or liberalisation.

    Imagine if the demand for oil from Saudi Arabia were to dry up? They would have to liberalise and reform in order to survive the globalised jungle. It keeps parts of the arab world in an unnatural state of paralysis.

  17. sonia — on 20th June, 2006 at 1:52 pm  

    Who said multiculturalism ‘was best’ – no-one. You simply don’t really have much choice seeing as there are multiple cultures around – end of story. Of course we haven’t really got to a situation in much of the world where one group or other isn’t asserting itself as supreme. ( example – everyone always talks about ‘multicultural’ malaysia – yeah they’re are 3 main groups – and only Malays are ‘first -class’ citizens – the other two groups aren’t. And that causes a helluva lot of resentment) Also no-one ever said it would lead to harmony – that’s simply the flip side of ‘cultures fight if next to each other’ huntington thesis. both are extremely simplistic – the world is far too complex for any such theory to hold.

  18. Amir — on 20th June, 2006 at 2:30 pm  

    Dear Ms. Apartia

    Welcome to the blog! And thank you for such an enlightening piece. :-)

    First of all, it must be borne in mind that multicultural policies vary from country to country: in your own beloved Canada, its policies are geared primarily toward bilingualism. ‘Multi’ is also misleading because the French language and Francophone community is an indigenous part of Canada’s history; so it is, roughly speaking, Canadian – not multi-cultural (Welsh in Wales is a point of comparison). However, you are correct to point out that multiculturalism, as a normative theory, originated from Canada’s universities, NGOs and trade unions. Will Kymlicka is its intellectual grandfather.

    Religious pluralism, on the other hand, is a completely different ball game – especially when you’re dealing with another civilisation. Without proper border controls, a sensible quota on immigration and a reasonable program of cultural assimilation, you’re inviting an ugly clash of communities – a clash of ideas, values, ceremonies, God(s), attire, sexual ethics, cooking, art, music, sculpture, architecture, politics, etiquette, language, history and even humour.

    And therein lies the problem: there is an in-built clash between social solidarity and cultural diversity. Without traditions to share in common (and increasingly we are without them), vital things die: trust, camaraderie, charity, kindness, political participation and language. Inter-communal relations are very fragile things. Diversity should only be encouraged within unity.

    Multiculturalism is one the most pernicious and misleading ideologies of modern times. I hope it dies a quick and painful death.

  19. j0nz — on 20th June, 2006 at 2:46 pm  

    Wow good comment Amir.

  20. sonia — on 20th June, 2006 at 2:47 pm  

    well i’m sure people will disagree what is or isn’t ‘indigenous’ in the context of North America – given the fact that there was a specific point in time when the French themselves arrived in Canada.

    “.. is an indigenous part of Canada’s history”

  21. sonia — on 20th June, 2006 at 2:50 pm  

    Diversity should only be encouraged within unity. well who said that multiculturalism didn’t embrace that!! Besides as i’ve said many times before, there’s nothing to stop humans as viewing themselves united as a group if that’s what they want to do! we have being human as a common ‘tradition..’

    Goodness!

  22. sonia — on 20th June, 2006 at 2:51 pm  

    United in Diversity – you should really check this out

    http://uniteddiversity.com

  23. sonia — on 20th June, 2006 at 2:54 pm  

    And perhaps amir you ought to expound on what you view as a pernicious ideology – multiculturalism, and whether you’re viewing it in the context of a nation-state or what.

  24. j0nz — on 20th June, 2006 at 3:03 pm  

    Sonia, the whole point is it’s post-60′s free love, it’s even post ’90s multi-cultural embracement.

    We’re talking about a world where, going back to the original post, we have 17 Muslim men conspiring to behead the PM and attack security services of a healthy democratic nation that no sane person would attack.

    Can you not see the multi-culturalism is dying in it’s present form? What are you trying to cling on to? I’m not sure what your culture is so I’m having difficult putting your words in to context.

  25. Kismet Hardy — on 20th June, 2006 at 3:07 pm  

    “I’m not sure what your culture is”

    Good.

    Let’s have some multi-individualism, shall we?

  26. j0nz — on 20th June, 2006 at 3:10 pm  

    You can’t have “multi-invidualism” it’s tautology. What do you think on multi-culturalism Kismet?

  27. Kismet Hardy — on 20th June, 2006 at 3:21 pm  

    Jonz, I’m pretty dumb when it comes to terminologies (I thought tautology was an excercise women do to make their fannies tighter), but what I understand from multi-culturalism is ‘I live in your country, let me be but do take some of what I have to offer, and while we’re at it, let’s have some of yours and integrate under a multi-coloured rainbow of harmony.’

    If, however, it means: ‘I’m in your country, I represent not myself but my countrymen who came with me, be like us’… then that’s just big hairy smelly bollocks

    Call me a hippy, call me a fat virgin, but I want to live in a country where people take me for who I am and I can take people for who they are

  28. Sid — on 20th June, 2006 at 3:27 pm  

    there is an in-built clash between social solidarity and cultural diversity. Without traditions to share in common (and increasingly we are without them), vital things die: trust, camaraderie, charity, kindness, political participation and language.

    Why should that clash be in-built? I can see that it can be a pressure point that will see the likes of the BNP to do their best to propagate these fissures, real or perceived. But what can be more natural than discrete cultural components of a multicultural societycelebrating its cultural tradiions and all components taking part in secular traditions. Case in point: all cultures in the UK can and should be supporting its football team in the World Cup. And that doesn’t take much encouragement in any case and which by its nature instils the virtues you’ve listed.

    Multiculturalism is one the most pernicious and misleading ideologies of modern times.

    Only if you are incapable of multi-tasking your cultural and secular identities. And the only people who have problems with that are, broadly speaking, trapped in a mono-cultural bind of their own creation.

    Either we are yet to find a common definition of multi-culturalism, and so Sonia’s point about nomenclature. Or, you’re confusing multi-cultural to mean a form of multi-nationalism. And that, I agree, cannot work.

  29. Sunny — on 20th June, 2006 at 3:34 pm  

    Once again we’re back to the multi-culturalism straw man. And as ever, there are so many smug assumptions here that one is always amused.

    1) j0nz says no culture is equal. Mate, how many times do I have to say this to you? No one really believes their culture is equal to other people’s. They live it and they like it. Some accept it, some revel in it, and others reject it. Either way though, they’re not sitting around comparing what is superior and what isn’t. And they are certainly not saying “my culture is inferior than theirs”.

    In fact, the very people you accuse of having a primitive culture are saying the same about yours. In both your worlds there is no middle ground.

    2) Amir is back with this smug commandments that multi-culturalism is destroying society without actually laying out what specifically he is talking about.

    It’s the same rubbbish: Without proper border controls, a sensible quota on immigration and a reasonable program of cultural assimilation, you’re inviting an ugly clash of communities – a clash of ideas, values, ceremonies, God(s), attire, sexual ethics, cooking, art, music, sculpture, architecture, politics, etiquette, language, history and even humour.

    This, in case you haven’t noticed, is standard across socities anyway. There is always clash between sub-cultures and people. Whereas previously there used to be moral panics abou mods and rockers, and hippies and Jews and Catholics – depending on how far you want to go back – now it is Muslims and other Asians. It’s not even worth dignifying such naivety.

    The real problem here isn’t a mixture of cultures, it is a lack of respect for each other. It is a breakdown of communities and crime spiralling out of control. This is not an immigration issue as the rest of England shows – it is a problem across the board.

    It is undeniable that some of the ethnic communities have also fallen into the trap of looking down on each other, but generally beating Muslims or Asians generally, or asylum seekers, or multi-culturalism is a a strawman attack. It will still not erase a problem that some people have a problem with anyone who is slightly different.

    The idea that I pose a threat to society just because I listen to my own music, have a different brand of humour or pray to different gods is laughable. Not only that, it doesn’t deal with the deeper malaise.

  30. sonia — on 20th June, 2006 at 3:34 pm  

    well j0nz let me put it to you – culture is an abstract notion – a concept – that individuals may or may not subscribe to. i don’t subscribe to One culture – as an anarchist i take issue with the notion of a fixed immutable culture for one group – and in any case i don’t belong to One group – but many. if i want to play devil’s advocate and take you up on what you said about some cultures being superior than others – fine – say i see myself as an intellectual, therefore i could say, as a non-intellectual ( yes i could ascribe a culture to you in the way that most people do for others) I am superior to you. therefore – what? i have more rights than you?

    erm… what am i clinging on to? well im not ‘clinging’ to anything because there is nothing to ‘hold’ on to. i am putting forth an idea – a normative one of course – that monoculturalism or the notion that one culture is better than another culture – is wrong. For two reasons – one you cannot define culture in a fixed way – to do so abrogates individual liberties – and two – it’s pretty dangerous particularly for the same reasons you’re so suspicious of militant islam, or islam full stop.

    :-)

  31. Aparita — on 20th June, 2006 at 3:42 pm  

    Thanks all for this vigorous debate. It’s really quite neat – although I must confess I have not read half of the ideas posted here. (Sonia – wow, loads to read, so I will return and actually take time with your posts, as opposed to skimming them.)

    As a recent immigrant to Canada, I am speaking of the multiculturalism sign that recent immigrants are greeted with at the airport. (We don’t have any literature or videotapes about Canadian ideals. Yet.) I am not really reading into the ideology, sociology, politics, etc. behind it.

    The idea is that Canada – unlike its neighbour down South – is a cultural mosaic, not a melting pot. It’s one of those Canadian cliches that never dies down, but boy is it handy.

    So, when you come into this country, you come with your pickles in your baggage – on a more metaphoric level. (It’s way harder to get the achaar through customs these days.) And you’re welcome to place the pickle in your home, share it with others, even bottle and sell it.

    Canadians LOVE it that Toronto is counted as one of the most diverse cities in the world. They love the food festivals, the Caribana parade that closes down Yonge Street just like the Santa Claus parade. Come to think of it – so does the annual Sikh baisakhi celebrations and Pride parade.

    Canadian’s are also very politically correct when talking about race. Racial discrimination is abhorred by most people. (Although, a racist Canadian isn’t entirely a misnomer.)

    So, when the arrests happened, it was interesting to see the reactions. Until now, the concept of an Islamist was more of an American, or more recently, a British, problem. (Yes, we came up with a new term for those who take Islam to the extreme, just to differentiate between them and the rest of the Muslim population who is benign. Just to give an idea of Canadian sensitivities around othering an other.)

    In fact, it was interesting to see the reports around the arrests. Most media were very conscious in not naming the race of the alleged terrorists. Rather, they were described first as Muslim – which is why I used their faith is singular line in the article – and now just as 17 men.

    The arrests may not have anything directly to do with the Canadian idea/l of multiculturalism. But I think it’s woken up Canadians up from their sense of complacency of the cultural collage.

    Many react with the notion that the world is a changed place since 9/11. And certainly, the recent Islamic extremism has given people pause to think about such ideas and ideals. But really, these questions have been around for a long time. When the Chinese-Canadians got an apology for Canada’s racist past. When the Ukranians demanded a similar apology. When the victims of the Air India bomb continue to ask for an inquiry. (These are just a few examples I can think off the top of my head.)

    Does multiculturalism work? Well, I would argue that India is multicultural. At least, that was the idea of India that I grew up with. So, yes, in many ways it works. However, it’s also true that over time, differences that were simmering in a pressure cooker, burst out in a giant whistle. But, unlike the natural process of cooking daal, everyone is shocked and awed when the pressure releases.

    There are many more arguments that could be made. I could go deeper, dredge up assorted theories and make them all relevant. It could be, as Arif pointed out, the clash of a culture and subculture – supremacist or not. We could take Ted Matthews’ points of the Arab monoculture/monofaith futher. And although I think Amir and I are on completely different pages of the same book, we could talk about the ideology of multiculturalism and its flaws.

    However, this was just article one to give a Canadian spin on things. I hope future pieces will generate as much response.

  32. Kismet Hardy — on 20th June, 2006 at 3:42 pm  

    Yeah Jonz, what sonia said

  33. sonia — on 20th June, 2006 at 3:42 pm  

    “The real problem here isn’t a mixture of cultures, it is a lack of respect for each other.”

    thank you sunny – there you go – which for me tallies with the concept of free speech for all, and democracy, universal human rights etc. so j0nz what am i ‘trying to cling to’ – simply that – respect for each other in an open, non-hierarchical, non-pissing contest type of way.

  34. Aparita — on 20th June, 2006 at 3:45 pm  

    Oh, and it’s not quite as bad as the editor in Sunny has made it sound. Don’t you love it when editors write screaming headlines?!?!?

    Canadians don’t think they are in trouble. Not yet, at least. But they are thinking things through, holding various panel discussions and devoting loads of airtime and ink to the various angles of the argument – all of which is so Canadian.

  35. Sunny — on 20th June, 2006 at 3:48 pm  

    Haha! It’s my job as an editor to draw in the punters with tabloid headlines. Stop complaining – you know it makes sense :D

  36. sonia — on 20th June, 2006 at 3:49 pm  

    In any case – all belonging;group identity and culture is socially constructed – so there’s no reason why we can’t construct things differently!

    Aparita – you’ve a good point about India. too often everyone leaves india out – and despite all the fuss about HIndu nationalism, at the end of the day, no-one is about to dispute that you’re less Indian if you’re Gujarati than if you’re Punjabi or Bengali. they may well do one day! but people have an ‘ethnic’ identity alongside the national identity.

  37. sonia — on 20th June, 2006 at 3:51 pm  

    Aparita – it’s great to have the Canadian perspective of things – if only to contrast with the American perspective of things. :-)

  38. sonia — on 20th June, 2006 at 4:03 pm  

    Kismet Hardy – #27 – Spot on. :-) i think we can safely say that when people say ‘ooh multiculturalism is ‘not working’ or whatever else it is they say..they’re referring to not being happy with the second of the two scenarios you’ve outlined..

  39. sonia — on 20th June, 2006 at 4:15 pm  

    Well all this is very interesting – still one thing remains as an underlying factor – various competing conceptualizations of culture. (this is a hot hot hot area of academic debate.) if one views culture as something fixed which doesn’t change (or ought not to change)as membership of the group changes – then you’re going to sit on one particular place in this sort of debate. (Orthodox Muslims for example who don’t want any change in what is viewed as ‘islamic’ culture and insisting on keeping a ‘monopoly’ stronghold) (or Traditionalists in any group or sphere who don’t want to ‘let go’)

    or if you see culture as an abstract notion/expression of shared interests/norms which changes over time and certainly as the membership of the group changes – and which is also negotiated between dominant and not so dominant influences within the group..

  40. Amir — on 20th June, 2006 at 4:16 pm  

    Sonia ;-)

    (I) Christianity can be considered just as ‘foreign’ a culture as Islam is – it was exported just as much as anything else

    What… so Islam can be considered just as ‘foreign’ a culture in Saudi Arabia? Anyone with the most rudimentary knowledge of British history will tell you that Christianity has occupied a central role in shaping the politics, moral values, architecture, economy and language of British society. To draw some sort of qualitative parallel with Islam is misleading in the extreme.

    (II) this question of ‘does multiculturalism’ actually work is only relevant if one accepts Huntington’s premise ( and others)that different ‘civilizations’ will automatically fight if placed next to each other.

    Have you actually read any of Huntington’s work? I get the distinct impression that you’re regurgitating soundbites from left-wing polemics against him (Sen? Edward Said? Cockburn?). The auto-critique against the Clash of Civilisations is to say that it presents a simplistic, racist, Manichean view of the world. This, I can assure you, is a nasty lie. Huntington isn’t trying to portray the world as a never-ending fistfight between Popeye and Pluto. On the contrary, the ‘clash’ he refers to is a consciousness without cohesion thesis. The ‘Umma’ isn’t a united or homogeneous entity (not by a long shot), but the consciousness of being ‘Moslem’ is having serious repercussions in various parts of the world. If we ignore tribal warfare in sub-Saharan Africa (notably in Nigeria and Somalia as well as the Sudan), the Islamic factor has been prominently involved. ‘Civilisations’ is just a euphemism for Eastern Islam and Western Christianity and their demographics, politics, symbols, language and respective histories.

    (III) and whether you’re viewing it in the context of a nation-state or what.

    Trying to abolish the nation-state is like trying to saw off both legs and then attempting to walk afterwards. It won’t work. And never will. Democracy isn’t just a system of rights and obligations. It’s a culture too. Without the latter, the former loses its legitimacy. The idea that human beings will adopt a global identity and only a global identity is so absurd that it requires no further comment from me. Human beings interact and empathise, first and foremost, on a micro basis.

    Amir [thanks the eco-link! x x :-) ]

  41. Sid — on 20th June, 2006 at 4:25 pm  

    What… so Islam can be considered just as ‘foreign’ a culture in Saudi Arabia?

    Interesting that you should mention Saudi Arabia. Anyone who’s visited there can see that it puts into practice exactly what you’re suggesting Amir, although in an Islamic form. Judge for yourself the results.

  42. sonia — on 20th June, 2006 at 4:26 pm  

    j0nz – just picking up on what you said about wrong and right – well actually this fits into this thinking about ethics and morality in a global, humanist discourse. if i think something is wrong and say ‘you must all agree with me because im a Klingon and as everyone knows klingons are a superior culture’ – well then – it ain’t gonna work is it! no one is going to really pay much attention, and i run the risk of making klingons look a rather supremacist bunch. It’s problematic. replace klingon with ‘muslim’ or ‘British’ or ‘American’ and you have the same sort of thing. yes?

    now if i tried to situate right and wrong in a universalist context of human rights etc. and using a rational argument – that’s different isn’t it. You should take my argument on its own merit – ( or you might not!) not because i am a ‘representative’ of x or y or z ‘culture’ or group or whatever.

  43. sonia — on 20th June, 2006 at 4:28 pm  

    amir –

    anything can be considered foreign! do you really imagine the Quraish tribe didn’t consider Islam ‘foreign’ back at the time of Muhammad. Goodness!

    “Anyone with the most rudimentary knowledge of British history will tell you that Christianity has occupied a central role in shaping the politics, moral values, architecture, economy and language of British society.”

    that certainly is true! but there was a time when Britain wasn’t Christian. anyone with basic rudimentary knowledge will tell you that. :-)

  44. sonia — on 20th June, 2006 at 4:31 pm  

    it’s not for no good reason Muhammad had to go to Medina is it now …Amir? ‘Islam’ wasn’t exactly ‘accepted’ was it – it was considered highly detrimental and dangerous to pagan society that existed at the time – just think – change! shock horror..

  45. sonia — on 20th June, 2006 at 4:44 pm  

    Amir – “Have you actually read any of Huntington’s work?”

    !
    :-) yes i have actually – The Clash of Civilizations – quite a long time ago – have you? i plan to write a piece one of these days on what i thinks are the problems with it. it also formed quite a large part of my Masters – both of them. It is an incredibly powerful thesis and certainly is on most academic reading lists. of course one of the most interesting things about it for sociologists- anyway – is the way it ‘normalizes’ social boundary construction and doesn’t look at those dynamics – but presents it as a given.

    and i’d ask you – have you ever read any history?

  46. sonia — on 20th June, 2006 at 4:52 pm  

    If you’re at all interested in what i actually think about Huntington’s work Amir – as opposed to just suggesting i don’t form my own opinions – quite a below the belt statement and completely unnecessary – i shall keep you posted. what you’ve mentioned above in that context doesn’t fit into it at all – quite the opposite. I personally – would use the fourth crusade of 1204 as an empirical example of how S.H’s thesis is flawed – and i’d use his own rhetoric to show that. Of course there’s also the usual well conceptual disagreements between what constitutes a civilization etc. but given we accept what Huntington posits in the book – the fourth crusade is a brilliant example of his faulty logic.

    And in terms of methodological biases in the text – what can i say?…

  47. soru — on 20th June, 2006 at 5:19 pm  

    I think ‘multiculturalism’ as a word manages to achieve the rather remarkable trick of having less information content than ‘liberal’.

    I think you could start a useful discussion from a set of concrete questions, say ‘is it best if different communities organise their own’:

    1. worship ceremonies?

    2. social centers?

    3. newspapers?

    4. schools?

    5. professional bodies?

    6. political parties?

    7. marriage and divorce courts?

    8. criminal courts?

    9. militias?

    10. foreign policy?

    That gives you a scale with monocultural (apart from walled enclaves) Saudi Arabia at one end and an ongoing civil war at the other. I guess most people would prefer something in between, the question is exactly where.

  48. Amir — on 20th June, 2006 at 5:50 pm  

    Sunny [and everyone else – I want to clear up a few things]
    Oh, hear we go again…

    (I) Amir is back with this smug commandments that multi-culturalism is destroying society without actually laying out what specifically he is talking about… It’s the same rubbbish

    Do I have to define multiculturalism again for the millionth time? *yawn* *yawn* Okay, now listen… multiculturalism is not a description (although most people incorrectly use it as a euphemism for ‘pluralism’ and ‘diversity’). Multiculturalism is a policy. Let me repeat that for you Sunny… a policy. Get it? A policy. Not a description! The policy stipulates that minority groups and immigrants should be compensated for their unequal access to culture (‘special’ laws, illiberal exemptions, state funding, positive discrimination, etc). I think this is wrong. And for many reasons.

    (II) There is always clash between sub-cultures and people.

    Wow, you flabbergast me! I never twigged on to that Sunny… how perceptive of you. Gosh, if it weren’t for your wit and erudition and insight I’d never have known that [gasp] cultures conflict! Conflicting cultures? Wow, I never knew that… To say “cultural tension exists everywhere full-stop” is about as insightful as saying “violence, rape and murder exist everywhere.” No one is refuting their existence or their commonality. Nor I am suggesting that we could ever eliminate conflict and achieve a perfectly harmonious society. Such an ideal would be doomed to failure. What I am saying, however, is that multiculturalism, as a policy, makes things a lot worse.

    (III) The real problem here isn’t a mixture of cultures, it is a lack of respect for each other. It is a breakdown of communities and crime spiralling out of control.

    Yes, precisely!! I totally agree. A multicultural policy – which basically prefers to abolish national identities and replace them with a rainbow of tribes living in close proximity – is blind to the lessons of multiethnic states in which the overarching solidarity is too weak to sustain even a civil society: just look at Afghanistan, Angola, Kashmir, Mozambique, Burma, Rwanda, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Kosovo and many more. What we need is a stronger national identity which promotes common bonds of citizenship. The emphasis here should be on ‘encouragement rather than compulsion’. Minorities can take it or leave it. The hope is that enough will take it, and, the process, feel more internal solidarity. Simple as.

    (IV) The idea that I pose a threat to society just because I listen to my own music, have a different brand of humour or pray to different gods is laughable.

    Where, oh where, do I intimate that you pose a unique threat to society? Stop putting words into my mouth. It’s so bleeding irritating. I don’t know if you’re just a pea-brain or intentionally trying to mislead people, but in any case it pisses me off. The reference to foreign music and religion and art and humour is a general observation about culture – and how, in everyday situations, they conflict (the conflicts are usually accumulative, however). Immigrants from non-European cultures are more likely to (a) feel alienated in our country; and (b) alienate others around them. Let me direct you to Ted Cantle’s report.

    Amir

  49. Sunny — on 20th June, 2006 at 6:11 pm  

    The policy stipulates that minority groups and immigrants should be compensated for their unequal access to culture (‘special’ laws, illiberal exemptions, state funding, positive discrimination, etc). I think this is wrong.

    Well in that case you can stop right there Amir because we’re not really talking about the stupid Labour party’s constant kowtowing to religious groups.

  50. Bijna — on 20th June, 2006 at 6:17 pm  

    To me the problem is crime.

    70% Of the French prisoners is Muslim. Also high crime rates in the Netherlands (where I live) and Belgium.

    I am often scared to go outside, because of Maroccan street violence. They seem to like violence. Maybe its jihad.

  51. Sunny — on 20th June, 2006 at 6:17 pm  

    And to add:

    Where, oh where, do I intimate that you pose a unique threat to society? Stop putting words into my mouth. It’s so bleeding irritating. I don’t know if you’re just a pea-brain or intentionally trying to mislead people, but in any case it pisses me off.

    That references comes from this pile of dogshit you wrote above.

    you’re inviting an ugly clash of communities – a clash of ideas, values, ceremonies, God(s), attire, sexual ethics, cooking, art, music, sculpture, architecture, politics, etiquette, language, history and even humour.

    I didn’t say it was unique, it was just a lazy throwaway comment that somehow that having differences in the above topics listed would lead to clashes etc and a breakdown of society.

    Anyway, you’re boring me with constant references to situations neither of us are talking about. The government does not have an active policy of multi-culturalism in the way you describe it. We don’t have special laws or considerations for ethnic minorities, and neither do they get positive discrimination. But keep punching that strawman if it helps you feel intellectually important.

  52. Bikhair aka Taqiyyah — on 20th June, 2006 at 6:20 pm  

    jOnz,

    “Petro-dollars fuel (forgive the pun) the jihad and ideology from the Arab lands – particularly Saudi Arabia.”

    I assume you mean Wahhabism which in its history has never been expansionist. Wahhab always kept his business within the peninsula. Pretty lazy analysis and standard for people who dont know anything about Saudi Arabia or its official religion.

  53. Amir — on 20th June, 2006 at 6:23 pm  

    Well, then, you’re ‘anti-multicultural’.

    If you believe in a shared identity of ‘Britishness’ and a strong (inclusive) national culture, then you’re also anti-multicultural.

    If you believe that British schools have an obligation to teach British traditions and culture and history in class, then you’re anti-multicultural.

    If you believe in ‘citizenship ceremonies’ for immigrants and a basic level of assimilation, then you’re against multiculturalism.

    If you believe in the rule-of-law and the axiom of ‘no exceptions’, then you’re against multiculturalism.

    ‘Multiculturalism’ is a policy. Not a catch-all phrase for pluralism and diversity.

  54. Arif — on 20th June, 2006 at 6:28 pm  

    Soru, I think you put the question in an interesting way. I would still say that multiculturalism is clearer as an ideal than liberalism is as an ideology, in that it is the ideal of a society where different cultural groups recognise they have no right to dominate any other.

    Within such a boundary, I would have no problem in any of 1-10. I would argue within my own communities against organising in particular ways, but there is nothing wrong with any of that in principle. In fact, number 10 (independent foreign policy) is probably a very good idea, and I certainly feel much better represented and engaged to express my values through Amnesty International than through the UK Government. If I relied on the UK Government to represent me I would be completely alienated.

    I think that you are assuming the very thing which needs to be proved by saying that there is a sliding scale from monoculturalism and civil war. For me, cultural diversity is not the issue causing conflict, perceptions of injustice matter more.

    I think your own example of a monocultural society reflects this. Saudi Arabia has a huge amount of civil strife (reflected both by the terrorist activities against the Government and the immense repression used by the Government to try and keep a lid on it) yet if imposing a single culture were the answer it should be in absolute peace.

    Given the terrible inhumanity I perceive in the UK Government’s foreign policy, the level of domestic democracy and justice that there is domestically has been fantastically effective in persuading people not to violently resist. We should value the mutual respect that makes this possible. On this I believe we should build humane and respectful foreign policies as well. Justice and peace can be mutually reinforcing in this way. Removing the ideals of multiculturalism would mean to me that I no longer have value in the eyes of the culture which decides my culture should not exist here. Then the inhumane foreign policies would also seem distinctly more sinister as well. Its not a good way to go, for me at least.

  55. IC — on 20th June, 2006 at 6:36 pm  

    The moment anyone talks of trouble, one immediately thinks that this has something to do with Islam! This is the sad extent to which this religion has now fallen. But it will be wrong to blame Islam for that has gone wrong with the practitioners of this religion.

    The main culprit is Petroleum. The dictators of Middle East want to keep controlling the petro wealth and so they have brainwashed their populations into believing that all their ills emanate from the West. Only way to solve the problem of Islamic terrorism is to privatize Middle Eastern oil. The ghost of terrorism can only be exorcized by a heavy dose of capitalism.

  56. Sunny — on 20th June, 2006 at 6:41 pm  

    Multiculturalism’ is a policy. Not a catch-all phrase for pluralism and diversity.

    I agree with some of them, disagree with some of them. Nothing is as clear-cut as you hope.

  57. Amir — on 20th June, 2006 at 6:44 pm  

    Sunny,
    (I) The government does not have an active policy of multi-culturalism in the way you describe it.

    Yes it does. What flippin’ country do you live in? Read about their policies

    (II) But keep punching that strawman if it helps you feel intellectually important.

    So long as that strawman exists, I’ll keep punching it down like Mike Tyson on crystal meth. At any rate, this sounds awfully familiar to the Ismaeel/Faisal Bodi accusation of ‘egotism’ against your dear self. It’s nice to know that you’d never sink to their level. :-)

    (III) That references comes from this pile of dogshit you wrote above.

    How is this ‘dogshit’ Sunny? Are you denying that immigrants’ cultures will never ever clash with British traditions and norms and practices and hobbies and public space? Human nature makes these conflicts inevitable. But, of course, in the Marxist world of ‘political correctness’ peoples of all stripes and persuasions get along smashingly with one another in some ring-a-ring-a-roses hippie paradise, don’t they?

    Amir

  58. Arif — on 20th June, 2006 at 6:50 pm  

    Amir, your definition of multiculturalism is interesting, and maybe it is more accurate than mine (I don’t know).

    I think the way you put it, it is more of a principle which can be expressed through a number of different policies and practices, rather than a policy in itself. And as a principle I guess it is one I adopt in my own way of facilitating discussions or developing policies. But when I adopt it, I am also aware that it can feel exhausting when there are a large number of groups and individuals who have difficulty participating and so I sympathise with the idea that such a principle of multiculturalism can just lead to a bottomless pit of demands. If people see this as a right which they loudly demand, then they would also come across as quite spoilt.

    Unlike my understanding of multiculturalism which requires merely a degree of respect which can be expressed quite passively and minimally, your understanding of a claim for compensation for unequal access to the dominant culture can require a lot of Government activism and resources. I think it is fine in specific contexts where it is particularly important for successful policy development or to remove oppressive practices, that people articulate minority points of view.

    But as a general principle compensation for unequal access is something which should inform our practice in cross-cultural communication, not give us rights and entitlements. I think that this is what respect entails for me.

  59. Amir — on 20th June, 2006 at 7:14 pm  

    Sonia

    quite a below the belt statement

    Below the belt… I sincerely hope so babe. Grrrrrr! 8) That’s the area I specialise in da’ most

    […slapping myself across the face]

    Hey, come on, one double entendre never hurt anyone? At least it gets me off debating multiculturalism.

  60. Sunny — on 20th June, 2006 at 7:36 pm  

    Stop providing me links to books I don’t have the time to read. Mention specific laws or practices and then we’re getting somewhere.

    Human nature makes these conflicts inevitable
    Sure, and that was exactly my point. There is no evidence to suggest that in the absence of multi-culturalism there would be less conflict.

  61. mirax — on 20th June, 2006 at 8:11 pm  

    Soru, I think you list of questions does provide a good starting point for discussion.

    “is it best if different communities organise their own”:

    1. worship ceremonies? Yes.

    2. social centers? Yes

    3. newspapers? Ok

    4. schools? NO! Ethnically or religiously segregated schools are divisive. Provision may be made for the teaching of minority languages in state schools but that’s that.

    5. professional bodies? Inclined to a NO but would not want to legislate against such, just strongly discourage. What does the one’s profession really have to do with her ethnic or religious origins? Unless it was a profession such as being a halal butcher or a hindu priest! I notice that in the UK you have a ‘black/asian’ police officers’ grouping. I understand it may have formed in response to institutional racism (and the need for group support and lobbying) but the very existence of such a group is an admission of defeat.

    6. political parties? Tend to a strong no. Malaysia, one of the most racist countries possible, has had such ethnic and religious-based parties for the last 60 years. Would you want narrow sectarian interests interests to be relentlessly entrenched as part of the national discourse with all the corruption and backroom power deals that entails?

    7. marriage and divorce courts? No, one civil law for all.

    8. criminal courts? NO.

    9. militias? NO

    10. foreign policy? NO. Again in the UK, you had the (thankfully short-lived) Muslim Parliament in the wake of the Rushdie affair. If that body had been encouraged to thrive and articulate its ‘foreign policy’, ethnic relations in the UK would be far more dire than they are now.

    So what does all this make me? An anti-multiculturalist? Or that new breed scoffed at by some of the guardianistas at CiF, a “secularnazi”?

  62. Sunny — on 20th June, 2006 at 8:24 pm  

    I think you misunderstood the Muslim Parliament, or atleast its aims. I don’t know if his views have now changed the Ghayasudin Siddiqui, who runs it, is a very open minded and fairly liberal person. He is also part of that Muslims for Secular Democracy group.

  63. Don — on 20th June, 2006 at 9:44 pm  

    Mirax,

    Secularnazi? I missed that one, although the straws have been in the wind for some time now. Whoever coined the term is a tosser of the first order.

    My check list mirrors yours.

    Amir,

    Your definition of multiculturalism is a valid one, but it is far from the only one. In fact, by characterising it so harshly you seem to be attacking multiple monocultures, which I’m sure most of us oppose as strongly as you do.

    In theory, I favour the idea of cultures retaining their character – subject to natural evolution – within an over-arching national concensus. Unfortunately, the practice is not so easy. The attempt to define ‘British values’ raised a few smiles but was always a doomed exercise. Better to define the core rights and responsibilities that the citizen has within the public sphere and ensure that where these clash with a cultural belief system, that belief system takes second place.

    The system of rights and responsibilities that has developed in the UK is not perfect, but is fundamentally bloody good. We might argue about where the margins lie, but freedom of speech and conscience, equality before and equal access to the law, access to education and social benefits, no discrimination on the grounds of gender, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation… The basics. The few who cannot accommodate these within their belief system should not expect the rest of us to give ground.

    But I see no problem with judicious help from the public purse for groups who have specific difficulties. People who arrive here from violent and chaotic states, with no experience or understanding of what a liberal democracy is, may well need targeted aid and will probably cluster together from fear and suspicion. It’s a slow process.

    Feel free to punch holes in this; it’s not a finished philosophy, just a poit of view.

  64. mirax — on 20th June, 2006 at 9:54 pm  

    I think not Sunny. I refer to the Muslim Parliament (MP)post-Rushdie as it was envisaged by Kalim Siddiqui: both as “minority political system” and a “non-territorial Islamic State”, not the warm fuzzy liberal MP that exists today under Ghayasuddin S.

    http://www.islamicthought.org/mp-is3.html

    “Dr Kalim Siddiqui referred to the Muslim Parliament as both “a minority political system for Muslims in Britain” and a “non-territorial Islamic State.”

    …When Dr Siddiqui spoke of the Muslim Parliament as a “minority political system”, he was talking about it as an internal community mechanism for determining and measuring the concerns, opinions and priorities of Muslims, and expressing their common views on key issues. A political system, in this sense, is primarily an instrument of communication. Its role is to listen to the community, think collectively for the community, and speak on its behalf.

    …An Islamic State, on the other hand (territorial or non-territorial), is far more than that. It is the executive arm of the community, empowered and authorized to act on their behalf. The key word here is ‘power’ – the State is the instrument by which a community can exercise its collective power in action. It is this concept of power which is central to understanding Dr Siddiqui’s vision of the Muslim Parliament of Great Britain.

    …Dr Siddiqui had emerged as a British Muslim community leader during the Rushdie controversy, and it was at this time that his ideas and thinking on the Muslim Parliament of Great Britain crystallized. What the Rushdie affair did, Dr Siddiqui believed, was demonstrate the lack of power of Muslims in Britain.

    ..Power is a key element of Dr Siddiqui’s thought at every level. From his analyses of Muslim history — particularly Muslim decline — to his understanding of the global Islamic movement, the importance he placed

    …While he did not expect that the British system would change its principles to those of Islam, he felt that British Muslims could draw on traditional Islamic thinking on the position of minorities to learn lessons on how they should think, act and organize. While continuing to relate to the British establishment as individuals, and playing a full part in British social affairs, Muslims should also be able to think and act collectively in order to exercise community power.

    …Defined in Islamic terms, this would make them a “non-territorial Islamic State”. In the British context, meanwhile, they would operate as a self-helping community in social terms, and a pressure group or lobby in political terms, seeking to influence political matters from outside the mainstream system.

    …This would enable them to exercise the moral and social power of Islam even as a minority community in Britain. It would also enable them to pursue their particular goals and objectives as Muslims in Britain. And it would enable them as Muslim Britons to benefit British society as a whole by their demonstration, from a position of power and strength, of Islamic principles, values and ideas in the British context. “

  65. Katy Newton — on 20th June, 2006 at 10:25 pm  

    I think that Kismet Hardy summed up the difference between “good” multiculturalism and “bad” multiculturalism very neatly in his comment at #27. Multiculturalism ought to carry the first meaning he offers, but there are people on both sides who think that it carries the second meaning, and that’s where the problem starts.

    I will now pause, to give Kismet an opportunity to hide his embarrassment at being praised with a lewd double entendre.

    Also, can we please all stop using the word “indigenous” to describe people who already live in the host country? It is a meaningless word in the context of cultural melting pots like Canada and Britain. No one is properly indigenous to this country these days, apart from my boyfriend at university, all of whose ancestors were British. In fact if the BNP were allowed to implement their humane repatriation scheme he and his parents would probably be the only people left in the country.

  66. soru — on 20th June, 2006 at 11:15 pm  

    ‘For me, cultural diversity is not the issue causing conflict, perceptions of injustice matter more.’

    Sadly, perceptions of injustice have a strong tendency to vary along cultural/ethnic lines.

    Serbs and Kosovans, Hutsis and Tutu, Sunni and Shi’a, Protestants and Catholics, Palestinians and Israelis, all tell very different stories about who unjustly did what to who. Cultural differences follow, more than lead, that.

  67. Johnny — on 21st June, 2006 at 12:28 am  

    Katy:

    “Also, can we please all stop using the word “indigenous” to describe people who already live in the host country? It is a meaningless word in the context of cultural melting pots like Canada and Britain. No one is properly indigenous to this country these days”

    Don’t you think you’re taking things a little out of context here? Of course there are indigenous British people. The fact that immigrants (first, second, third) generation are rapidly increasing, does not do away with the fact that more than 80% of this country’s population’s ancestors have been in this country for more than a thousand years — and in Europe for many thousands. What you are saying is insulting to the native people.

  68. Douglas Clark — on 21st June, 2006 at 12:35 am  

    Sunny and Cher,

    Cher wrote:

    “And therein lies the problem: there is an in-built clash between social solidarity and cultural diversity. Without traditions to share in common (and increasingly we are without them), vital things die: trust, camaraderie, charity, kindness, political participation and language. Inter-communal relations are very fragile things. Diversity should only be encouraged within unity.”

    A damn fine call to arms, if I might say so. Could I point out that the factionalism of white society between those of us that think that, for instance that God is dog spelt backwards is a greater schizm? And that that is quite a big deal. A massive cultural change, perhaps?

    What I am trying to suggest to you is that there is not a target to aim at. Western culture is going through one of it’s spasms, it’s belief systems are in turmoil. It is not a united front.

    So,I would suggest, you are supporting something that doesn’t exist. White guys have more disparate views, from Apocalyptic lunatics to sane folk like me, who do not believe in any God. Where are you going to point your cursor on that range of diversity? Who are you going to ally with? I, for instance am an atheist, but due to tolerance, I’m not dead yet.

    Personally, as a white guy, I think I believe more in what Sunny says than what you do.

  69. Douglas Clark — on 21st June, 2006 at 12:40 am  

    Oh,

    And Aparita, damn interesting post. Thanks.

  70. Sharyn — on 21st June, 2006 at 2:51 am  

    Amir

    I have to say – after all I have read here today – it is your Post #53 that resonates most strongly with the way I feel.

    Perhaps I’m becoming less accepting in my sad and cynical old age, but I wonder why it is that people move to another country with “a strong (inclusive) national culture” and then procede to attack that culture; whether in the form of bombs or more subtle behaviours.

    Why shouldn’t people integrate into the cultures of their adopted countries? I know that’s what my family did on it’s arrival in this country, without going through all the angst that seems so prevalent these days.

    Seriously people – if you don’t like the culture of a country – don’t move there! However if you do quite like the look of us – by all means – come in! I welcome you wholeheartedly – the way my family was welcomed.

  71. Arif — on 21st June, 2006 at 9:37 am  

    Soru, I think perceptions of injustice vary along many lines. And we should be sensitive to injustice regardless.

    You list a few ethnic conflicts, apparently as an argument that cultures cannot easily live side by side (although others may use it as an argument that “races” need to be separated). But that is a very selective list. We do not ban multi-party democracy because of the experiences of political parties supporting the liquidation of their opponents. We do not ban religious affiliations because of the history of religious conflicts.

    What I hope we try to do when issues arise, is to provide a framework to settle them justly. If the solution offered by one side is simply “my way or the highway” then I think that they aren’t making an attempt at a just solution. And then conflict is more likely.

    So I think it is the absence of will to be just (whether by a linguistic, ideological, cultural, religious, ethnic, economic class or imagined majority or by minorities) rather than the existence of such dffferences in a single society that lead to polarised violence.

  72. Arif — on 21st June, 2006 at 9:47 am  

    Amir, Sharyn,

    Post 53 did not resonate with me, except to clarify to me that I am in favour of multiculturalism.

    I would say that if you have no problem with other cultures existing next to yours as long as they don’t try to impose themselves on you forcibly, then you are pro-multicultural.

    If you want to be able to develop your cultural interests with like-minded people, and don’t see why it should be interfered with if they do not impact on other people, then you are pro-multicultural.

    If you have beliefs which are different from the majority and want to be able to live according to your own beliefs without affecting other people, you are pro-multicultural.

    If you have no desire to force other people to live according to your own beliefs of what makes a good life, then you are pro-multicultural.

  73. Refresh — on 21st June, 2006 at 11:09 am  

    Aparita,

    Welcome to PP. I would be very interested in understanding what is actually going on with this particular case. Here in the UK, the raids and intelligence driving them have been disastrous. To the extent that in one recent known incident intelligence passed to Swedish authorities ended up with a raid with the target Swedish citizens being released without any charges.

    How do the Canadians feel about how this particular case has been handled and whether there is genuinely a case to answer?

  74. soru — on 21st June, 2006 at 11:40 am  

    ‘We do not ban multi-party democracy because of the experiences of political parties supporting the liquidation of their opponents.’

    Arguing about what to ban is uninteresting. Discussing what we should wish to exist, what we should give time, word and money to support is.

    Look at the actions of the Zionists that ultimately led to the creation of the state of Israel. They moved from point 1 to point 10 pretty much in order. If you disagree with their actions, at which point do you think they went wrong?

  75. sonia — on 21st June, 2006 at 12:56 pm  

    i always found it funny how people whose families came here and were for the most part tolerated and allowed to build their mosques etc. and what have you, then slag off that tolerance. britain has been wonderful to immigrants generally, you wouldn’t find such niceness in plenty of asian countries, ( instead plenty of racism..my goodness..) You see it all over the place – no wonder some people are fed up of being so tolerant! as mr. cynical said above – sure why do people go somewhere if they don’t like it – fair enough. similarly – if they are welcomed, they don’t seem to be able to appreciate it very much!

    Anyhow I think all this is being taken out of context. the vast majority of immigrants in this country haven’t been ‘resisting’ british culture whatever that may be – perhaps a small minority. multiculturalism hasn’t for the most part meant a separation between immigrant and and British culture – certainly there’s been a nice resultant mix..which is still being changed constantly. I mean look at how the importance of the Curry, the vindaloo football songs, Carnival, and a whole bunch of other things! and also british asian culture has developed in interesting ways that mark it out from stuff happening in the indian sub-continent. another thing worth noting – even though people here may emphasize how they’re british and something else – when they’re overseas they’re much more keen on emphasizing how they’re british – possibly more than when they’re at home.

  76. sonia — on 21st June, 2006 at 1:23 pm  

    Arif – post no. 71 and 54- brilliant.

    johnny re: what katy said – well she has a point, and you have in as much as people have been around for longer obviously feel they have more claim to the term ‘indigenous’ – it’s obviously a ‘scale’ rather than a matter of absolute yes or no.

  77. Arif — on 21st June, 2006 at 2:25 pm  

    Soru (post 74), I think that the relevant point at which some Zionists have gone wrong is in being willing to expropriate from others. This is not a principle which they would like applied to themselves, so they should not apply it to others.

    What is wrong now (from my point of view this also applies to some on the Palestinian side) is the unwillingness to live in a single multinational State, for all the nations that feel a connection to that land or wish to move there.

    Israel is in many ways, despite some group conflicts, a multicultural society for Jewish people from different cultures (including Palestinian Jews). However it is also perceived to be a supremacist society in relation to non-Jewish Palestinians, particularly those who have been driven out of their land into refugee camps.

    Where the will to be just appears to be lacking, there is a loss of legitimacy of the State. If the will was there, then none of the cultural institutions you suggest would be problematic. Even militias would not be problematic if they are not used for ethnic cleansing or other human rights abuses.

  78. soru — on 21st June, 2006 at 3:28 pm  

    ‘Even militias would not be problematic if they are not used for ethnic cleansing or other human rights abuses. ‘

    Even falling is not dangerous if you never hit the ground.

    To put it another way, look at the mathematics. Worldwide, maybe 1 state in 3, 33%, have serious problems with internal injustice.

    So if a country has 5 sets of ethnic militia, the chances of them all being just is 7%, 12 to 1 against. Not good odds.

    And of course if one is unjust, makes unprovoked attacks, burns villages, the others are likely eventually to reply in kind, to a greater or lesser degree.

    You can make the same argument about courts.

  79. Arif — on 21st June, 2006 at 6:02 pm  

    soru, in your list of 10 cultural freedoms, you did not mention any human rights abuses. That’s why you didn’t get to my hard edges, which I don’t think are too different from yours. Just like you I would oppose militias in my community – unless there was a very very radical change in the way this society was organised generally.

    But it is human rights we have to protect. At least, that is my goal. And while we can try to persuade people not to do things we believe make human rights abuses more likely, we have to be careful not to use our fears as a justification for selective interference.

    Some of us fear book-burning because of what it might lead to. Some of us fear hate-speech, censorship, language differences, young people hanging on street corners, militias and weapons of mass destruction being launched at any time. When we take action on your fears, I would say that we should make sure we do it in a consistent way which is the same for all cultures, including any dominant culture. That seems the fairest way to proceed to me.

  80. Katy Newton — on 21st June, 2006 at 7:41 pm  

    Johnny, your use of the word “insulting to the native people” rather illustrates my point. Which native people are you talking about? How far back do your roots in this country have to go before you can be considered a native? Through one of my great-grandfathers I can trace my ancestors in this country – in Cheshire, to be precise – back to the Conquest. All of my other ancestors are either Jewish East European or Irish/Scots, and only came to this country in the last 100-150 years. Am I a native person or not? And if I have British citizenship why does it make a difference anyway?

  81. sonia — on 22nd June, 2006 at 1:18 pm  

    Well said Katy!

  82. Aparita — on 23rd June, 2006 at 2:31 am  

    Refresh,

    Well, the raid itself hasn’t come under much question. It has become apparent that this was a very well planned raid, that various intelligence agencies had been keeping an eye on the boys, even warning their parents about their sons’ possible involvements with radical Islamic groups.

    We are still waiting to hear about the charges and what happens in courts. There has been a publication, especially with regards to the minors…

    However, the arrests have led to some interesting developments.

    The Muslim community is duking it out in an attempt to figure out who speaks for the Muslims community – the extremists (on either end), the moderates, the progressives, the Communists – labels are being tossed left, right and centre.

    As well, a British imam with suspect ideology – according to news reports he warns his congregation againts Jews and idolators (read Hindus) – has been dropped from a panel of speakers at an Islamic conference. So, it looks like the imam – who has come to Canada in the past and spoken his mind – will not be heard in Toronto…

  83. Refresh — on 23rd June, 2006 at 2:36 am  

    Aparita thanks, please keep us posted.

  84. onegirl — on 23rd June, 2006 at 4:44 am  

    Hello,

    I am a Canadian, born and raised in Canada — but not from Toronto – from Vancouver. I have just found this website and read the original post, as well as the various comments following.

    I spent 2 years living the UK, and was there when the terrible bombings took place (I worked very close to Euston). So I do see alot of differences in the 2 countries.

    Yes Canada is a multicultural society, and yes it is one of the ideals that most people appreciate. However more and more, it seems that alot of new immigrants don’t fully comprehend these ideals – rather sticking to the ways of their homeland, and chosing or refusing to integrate with the mainstream society. Not to say that immigrants are to blame, but the government seems to make it quite easy.

    The case of the 17 men who were brought to court, made alot of people wake up and realize that more and more, we are all the same — that we are not immune to acts such as those allegedly planned.

    Canada was built by immigrants, hence why the multiculturalism and diveristy is so great – but when acts of terrorism/violence occure by a group of one ethnicity, people question the validity of it.

    We (Canadains) are not like Americans or British. We have our own sense of pride and culture. However with a new government (who seems to be in bed with the American government) things are changing. Once Canada was a peacemaking country (ie.. sending only peace keepers to war torn areas) this new goverment has decided (unwisely) to put more troops to fight in areas such as Afganistan – without reason or the support of it’s people. That is why the incident of these 17 people happened.

  85. Dinesh Patel — on 23rd June, 2006 at 10:27 am  

    Once again, due to the actions of Muslims, ALL immigrants have been branded the same.

    It is important that people realise that many immigrants are not muslims and many may come from countries that have been fighting Islamic terrorism before many of us were even born!!

    The Koran states, “do not have friends who are Christians or Jews or you become one of them.” This is why many muslims have no desire to Intergrate, but remember, not all immigrants are muslim.

    Muslims contantly hide under the name of immigrants or Asians and the goods deads they have done. If it was not for the non-muslim immigrants you would find little to sing and dance about the muslim community.

  86. sonia — on 23rd June, 2006 at 11:08 am  

    Oh dinesh you show the same kind of prejudice you claim all immigrants face.

  87. sonia — on 23rd June, 2006 at 11:14 am  

    really calling a blog a ‘progressive’ place is a good way to get all the racists, ethnicists, religionists out of the woodwork.

  88. Arif — on 23rd June, 2006 at 11:33 am  

    Dinesh, maybe all immigrants get a bad name because of me and people like me. But I think it is more complicated than that.

    Not all European or American people are responsible for invasions, support for violent occupations and dictatorships and so on. That is just a foreign policy embarked upon by a few politicians who people vote for without considering too much the vicious impacts on others. And we should remember the policies of non-western countries are no better either.

    Not all Muslims are responsible for acts of terrorism or their planning. That is just an activity embarked on by a few people who claim to fight for some of those oppressed by the foreign policies of the countries they attack. And we should remember that terror is practiced by non-Muslims and by States too.

    It is not my doing that the UK has an evil foreign policy sometimes pursued using bombs. It is not my doing that people want to fight it also using bombs. I am trying to live my life without harming others as far as I can manage. I assume most other people do the same. It just seems that because this means I am not lining up along with either the politicians or the bombers, I no longer have a place in the dramatised worldview of their supporters. I become their enemy by default.

    Fair enough if you see me as an enemy too. But don’t try to convince yourself that you are rejecting me for anything I have done or might do. I am rejected because I do not share your hatreds.

  89. sonia — on 23rd June, 2006 at 12:10 pm  

    “It just seems that because this means I am not lining up along with either the politicians or the bombers, I no longer have a place in the dramatised worldview of their supporters. I become their enemy by default.”

    Touche! it strikes me that post 9/11 all subtlety flew out the window. You’re with us or you’re against us! is the rallying cry and i find it disheartening the no. of individuals who seem to be taking it to heart.

  90. Refresh — on 23rd June, 2006 at 1:28 pm  

    Onegirl,

    Thank you for your post. We will certainly be following the case with great care – as it has become harder to believe your own eyes in the current climate.

    Of course its a tricky line – for us to feel comfortable with our chosen lifestyle and society, we cannot accept isolationism whether self-defined or enforced out of poorly executed security operations and the behaviour of the media.

    Dinesh mentions he is not one of us – he is one of them. That is fine. But even today looking at opinion polls in the UK, there is a lot of sympathy for the British Muslim population from Britons. I do not expect that to change unless the Dineshes of the world get to work on openly and unjustly pointing fingers. It may serve the purpose of removing the whole argument of racism from public debate. However Dinesh is badly mistaken if that, once it takes hold, will not come back and bite him.

  91. onegirl — on 23rd June, 2006 at 3:30 pm  

    Dinesh, your bitterness is not good. I did not imply that all immigrants are muslims.. if you have ever been to Canada, you would see that we are more diverse then the UK — when I say immigrants I mean people from all over the WORLD!!!! There are many differences!

    When you say “The Koran states, “do not have friends who are Christians or Jews or you become one of them.” This is why many muslims have no desire to Intergrate, but remember, not all immigrants are muslim.”, that leaves a bad taste in the mouth for all others who are trying to believe and hope that ALL muslims do not feel the same. Also – is that your interpertation of what is written in the Koran? or is that undisputed by millions?

    I have spoken to some muslims, who beleive that this anti – everyone stance is making the muslim/islamic community look bad. They say that it is soo mis interpruted by those who are against ‘the west’ or whatnot, that those who don’t know, are listening to these rants and raves with out reading the real meaning. Is that true?

  92. Jason Paul — on 23rd June, 2006 at 4:05 pm  

    Refresh

    You need to spend more time working on the other side of the poll – that shows a large proportion of Muslims in Britain who subscribe to racist and intolerant theories of persecution and work on the hate mongering carried out by Muslim ‘leaders’ and ask why Muslims more than any other group are so susceptible to extremism and hatred. This is of course in contrast to the majority or British people who in spite of this hatefulness in their midst remain tolerant and open. So, why is there so much hate mongering and intolerance amongst Muslims? That is the big question Refresh, and it needs to be dealt with, emanating as it does from hateful elements within the Muslim community.

  93. Refresh — on 23rd June, 2006 at 4:09 pm  

    “You need to spend more time working on the other side of the poll – that shows a large proportion of Muslims in Britain who subscribe to racist and intolerant theories of persecution and work on the hate mongering carried out by Muslim ‘leaders’ and ask why Muslims more than any other group are so susceptible to extremism and hatred.”

    Jason, not sure I understood the paragraph. Are you subscribing to the Dinesh worldview? That there are too many who are hatefull etc.?

  94. Jason Paul — on 23rd June, 2006 at 4:12 pm  

    The poll basically shows that Jew hatred is rampant amongst British Muslims, as is belief in conspiracy theories, hatred of the West, hatred for non Muslims, and that this is in contrast to Muslims in France and Germany for example, where they are much more integrated and less bigoted. Muslims in Britain need to introspect and investigate why this is so – why is hatred and intolerance so embedded amongst some sections of the Muslim community? The root cause is the hate mongering and victimhood fostered by Muslim leaders and the pandering to the self pity and extremist views that are disseminated and the ghetto mentality of some Muslims.

    These are difficult questions that Muslims have to face up to but unless they begin to ask them, we will never get answers, and the hatred and intolerance and fundamentalism will fester.

    But it has to be faced up to, now.

  95. Jason Paul — on 23rd June, 2006 at 4:15 pm  

    Refresh

    Here is the poll I am referring to:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/religion/Story/0,,1804078,00.html

    Rather than worry about what the Dinesh’s of the world are saying, lets concentrate on the hatred and extremism amongst Muslims in Britain – after all there is a certain urgency in this given that this hatred is actively murderous and seeks to kill people by suicide bombing.

    The old excuses dont wash, we need to get into the root causes of the internal failures and politics of Muslims that have incubated and perpetuated this hatred and intolerance.

  96. Refresh — on 23rd June, 2006 at 4:16 pm  

    Onegirl

    That sort of propaganda, sadly, is designed to create divisions.

    The number of hate sites dedicated to spreading malevolence vis-a-vis Islam is absolutely astounding. To the point where muslims not only fear what the state may do but whether the local nutter will decide to attack individuals on the street.

    Many posters will generally pick up their knowledge from sites like JihadWatch and then swarm other blogsites seeking to hijack genuine debate.

    There is no doubt there is a well-resourced effort to denigrate Islam, and muslims.

    As such I find it hard to blame individuals whose only starting point is hate.

  97. Refresh — on 23rd June, 2006 at 4:20 pm  

    Jason

    I don’t need to give excuses to you.

    Nor is there an appetite to tackle everyone who discovers this blog – expecting to exercise their intellect (being optimistic here), or vent their spleen on muslims.

  98. sonia — on 23rd June, 2006 at 4:31 pm  

    people are always pointing at polls. its pretty obvious there’s hatred all round, on plenty of sides. ‘excuses’ indeed. well obviously people don’t like to feel generalized about do they! more generalizing is hardly going to make anyone feel better.

  99. sonia — on 23rd June, 2006 at 4:35 pm  

    a dash of reflexivity would be helpful all around. just as i meet hindus denigrating muslims, i meet muslims denigrating hindus, some one denigrating jewish people, and so on and so forth. people don’t want to be the focus of anyone else’s prejudices but are happy to hand them around. if anyone really wants to look at a way forward instead of blaming next man, then figuring out social dynamics would go a long way. anything else falls into the same category of theorizing as ‘conspiracy theories’ – “oh that community is bad, they’re ALL out to get us – they’re so organized and united it’s incredible…”

  100. Arif — on 23rd June, 2006 at 5:44 pm  

    Sonia, however reflexive we become, the dynamics our perceptions generate will always be just beyond our grasp.

    For example, the way that people generalise about Muslims, make Muslims feel besieged (and has another effect on Muslims who are afraid of being mistaken as Muslims). By being besieged we draw attention to the madness of the generalisations. By making this point, people aren’t satisfied and they bait us to also draw attention to the generalisations made by many Muslims. By insisting this is a human trait, people will deny that others do it in the same way. And so it goes on. We can never prove our humanity, because the goalposts keep moving.

    You will ask us to be reflexive about why we want to believe badly of the group x. And they will ask why you want to believe well of group x. These become indicators to one another of our unreliability.

    You can ask us to be reflexive of how both sides want to believe the other unreliable, but actually maybe we have simply had experiences (or been exposed to ideas) which give us different assumptions. And then we fight over whose experiences are more valid.

    You can ask us to be reflexive of how everyone’s experiences are valid, so we can all learn from one another, and then you will be condemned as a relativist, an apologist for terror and what-not and you have to start all over again trying to reclaim your humanity in the eyes of someone who just can’t bring themselves to see it.

    I’m not saying it is hopeless, just that there are habits in the ways we are reflexive. Breaking out of it seems to require an uncommon generosity by both sides, or something.

  101. John Palubiski — on 23rd June, 2006 at 7:41 pm  

    As someone born and raised in Canada ( Québec) I find Onegirl’s take on the situation curious, to say the least.

    “Once Canada was a peacemaking country (ie.. sending only peace keepers to war torn areas) this new goverment has decided (unwisely) to put more troops to fight in areas such as Afganistan – without reason or the support of it’s people. That is why the incident of these 17 people happened.”

    It appears our foreign policy is to blame.

    The causes, of course, would have nothing to do with ideologies promulgated in the mosques and prayer centres these men attended.

    All seventeen, according to our press, were from various backgrounds and shared nothing in common.

    Nothing in common, absolutely nothing.

    Within hours of the arrests windows at a Toronto mosque were smashed (no one still knows by whom, but I’d like to know) and these windows, thus, became the focus of the media’s attention and the public’s indignation.

    The 17 were immediately transformed, transposed and transfigured, because of a broken window, from aggressors intent on killing hundreds (1000s?) into victims of anti-moslem racism.

    Their actions, thus, were merely a failed pre-emtive protest designed to draw attention to hate-crimes that had yet to take place.

    Makes perfect sense to me!

    They have nothing in common, you see, when it comes to delineating motivation for their attempted aggression, but then suddenly have everything in common when it comes to their portrayal as “victim”.

    Multiculturalism is turbo-capitalism’s sucker-punch, destroying unions and bidding down wage-structures. It is the Left’s sacred cow, providing a docile constituency of aggreived victims that need catering and mollycoddling. And it is radical Islam’s meal-ticket, affording plenty of dense cover for the dissemination of hate-filled tracts and ideas under the rubrique of “diversity”.

  102. Refresh — on 23rd June, 2006 at 10:31 pm  

    Oh joy -

  103. sayit aint so — on 25th June, 2006 at 5:07 am  

    okay..sarcasim isn’t really necessary is it??

    Those 17 did have something in common — they were Islamic/Muslims…

    When you say “Multiculturalism is turbo-capitalism’s sucker-punch, destroying unions and bidding down wage-structures. It is the Left’s sacred cow, providing a docile constituency of aggreived victims that need catering and mollycoddling. And it is radical Islam’s meal-ticket, affording plenty of dense cover for the dissemination of hate-filled tracts and ideas under the rubrique of “diversity”. “, you sound like a racist bigot.. sorry but that’s how it comes across.. like you’re a bitter white man, blaming multiculturalim on everything.

    WEll let me ask you – where are you from?? where are you’re ancestorial roots?? Don’t say you’re “Canadian” unless your roots are truly aboriginal Canadian!!

    I do think that immigration in Canada has gone slightly out of control, however I am not going to go so far as to blame it on things like unions!

  104. John Palubiski — on 26th June, 2006 at 7:24 pm  

    I wasn’t asking questions, sayit-ain’t-so. I was merely pointing out the dynamics of multiculturalism vis-a-vis money, immigration, business, unions and radical Islam. It’s obvious what’s happening in this whole domain, and it’s equally obvious how powerful interest now act through The Left because the latter has abandoned any and all class pretensions in favour of advocacy for ethno/religious minorities….the coal that fuels our economics.

    Do you seriously think that The West’s business elites have imported 10,000,000s of cheap labourers merely for their ethnic food?

    Do you not find it odd that both Bush and kennedy, two men who can never agree on the time of day, suddenly see eye to eye on immigration matters? Whose interests are they representing when they champion such outragous courses of action?

    And the “amen” chorus to Bush/Kennedy found in Unions and virtually all leftist groups; whose interests are they looking out for?

    I might just point out, sayit-ain’t-so, that you havn’t directly addressed a single thing I’ve said.

    As for the bitter white man syndrome; I plead guilty.

    My dad fought to liberate Europe from nazismm – something we “bigots” sometimes do – but it is an exploit neither my children nor my grandchildren will repeat.

    Next time ( and there will be a next time) ask Sunny He’s got what it takes to land on the beaches of Normandy.

    And speaking of Sunny, sayit-ain’t-so, is he a British “aboriginal”?

    Or is he merely the “bitter white man” to Great Britian’s Iroquois Confederacy?

  105. sonia — on 26th June, 2006 at 8:08 pm  

    by golly.

  106. Jai — on 26th June, 2006 at 8:31 pm  

    =>”Next time ( and there will be a next time) ask Sunny He’s got what it takes to land on the beaches of Normandy.”

    Not sure exactly what is being implied by this statement, but for the record Indian soldiers were also present during the invasion to liberate the European mainland. WW2 wasn’t fought just by “white men” — Indians comprised the biggest volunteer military force in history and were significantly involved in fighting against the Axis powers.

    So again, for the record, many Indians’ fathers (and/or grandfathers) also fought to “liberate Europe from Nazism”.

  107. Refresh — on 26th June, 2006 at 9:10 pm  

    The Indian Army started at 189,000 (Oct 1939) and by the end of the war it was 2,500,000.

  108. Refresh — on 26th June, 2006 at 9:11 pm  

    I shouldn’t have to but better to clarify that they fought the Axis powers. On the side of the British.

  109. Sunny — on 27th June, 2006 at 1:11 am  

    My dad fought to liberate Europe from nazismm – something we “bigots” sometimes do – but it is an exploit neither my children nor my grandchildren will repeat.

    John, I suggest you do some research on the amount of South Asian, Arab, Gurkhas and other non-Brit people who played a part in the WW2. Do it quick before I’m forced to expose your stupidity. Save you some embarassment etc.

  110. Desi Italiana — on 27th June, 2006 at 11:35 am  

    America has its fair share of multicultural critics too, and I think the same criticisms apply in this case. These are my thoughts:

    I am a bit puzzled by the assertion that somehow the conspiracy to bomb sites is directly connected and attributed to multiculturalism. True, there are pitfalls of multiculturalism as a concept:

    1. production and reification of an “authentic” socio-cultural and religious identity for display in the public sphere

    2. tendency of inclusiveness to self and exclusion of others

    3. demand for a presence in the public sphere, and equal distribution of political, civil, and social rights as a group

    None of these things are inherently negative, per se. They DO become problematic and dangerous when people start manipulating this concept for their own agendas. I don’t know if any of you know about the California textbook debacle, but this Indian American group called the Hindu American Foundation (HAF) is comprised of a bunch of whackos who have a biopolar vision of Hinduism, ie Hinduism is tolerant, plural, and inclusive, but dammit, we need to have a say on how Hinduism is portrayed in the US and this is where we Hindus will be as intolerant as possible. It is fair and entirely acceptable to critique textbooks and their representations of a particular group, religion, country, etc. But these idiots are REWRITING the books in accordance with a specific ideology. So in these terms, I can see how group rights, multiculturalism, and the First Amendment (freedom of religion) can give ammunition to people of a particular social and religious leaning.

    But carrying out acts of violence is not easily attributable to multiculturalism. There are plenty of individuals who plot and execute such acts. Look at Tim McVeigh. Not a Muslim. Not an immigrant. He was a homegrown product. Is multiculturalism at fault?

    The dangerous possible implication of drawing a direct cause and effect relationship with immigrants and their children, multiculturalism and acts of violence is that immigrants and their kids are now by definition suspect. I was in Italy at the time of 7/7, and as I watched the coverage, I remember thinking how much the British press placed an emphasis on the fact that the presumed culpable individuals were 2nd generation South Asians; and I remember thinking that now, everytime one sees a South Asian youth, regardless of whether he/she was born and raised there and a citizen, they are now seen as outsiders, foreigners, and aliens who are naturally inclined to commit illegal acts.

    My question to all of you poo poohing multiculturalism is this: should we backtrack and impose a uniform religion, place restrictions on plurality and differences, and enact a singular code of social, civil, and political practices?

  111. sonia — on 27th June, 2006 at 11:42 am  

    good points desi italiana. p.s. nice blog.

  112. Desi Italiana — on 27th June, 2006 at 11:46 am  

    Also, regarding my post #110, I forgot to add, that in countries where multiculturalism hasn’t taken root yet, there are still acts of violence. There are actually very few countries, compared to the rest of the globe, that have implemented multicultural politics ie US, UK, Canada, Australia, Denmark (?) and probably a few others I know I’m missing.

    Sonia: thanks :)

  113. sonia — on 27th June, 2006 at 11:57 am  

    “Do you seriously think that The West’s business elites have imported 10,000,000s of cheap labourers merely for their ethnic food?”

    was anyone suggesting that? interesting point that – next time someone complains about immigration we’ll roll that one out.

  114. Jai — on 27th June, 2006 at 12:09 pm  

    Desi Italiana,

    =>”and I remember thinking that now, everytime one sees a South Asian youth, regardless of whether he/she was born and raised there and a citizen, they are now seen as outsiders, foreigners, and aliens who are naturally inclined to commit illegal acts.”

    Well there are plenty of nice “local” Brits still around and it’s nowhere near as bad as it could be, but yes you are correct to some extent. Many people do automatically assume that all South Asians here are Muslims (the two terms are often used interchangeably in some quarters of the British media), and correspondingly make erroneous assumptions about their views on Western life, level of integration into British society, along with more nefarious issues such as support for jihadi terrorism etc.

  115. John Palubiski — on 27th June, 2006 at 6:31 pm  

    Look everyone, I’ve worked in the food industry for over twenty years, have supervised hundreds of food industry plants, talked to and/or interviewed thousdands of employees, and if this area if activity is any indication of a general tendancy, then we are getting into deep fucking trouble.

    Since the begining of the 90s union plants have disappeared and in their place I’ve witnessed the development of what can only be described as “sweat-shops”.

    I’ve witnessed how employers have colluded in playing off recently arrived cheap-labour immigrants against the older more established unionised workers.

    I seen the arrival (big time) of private “employment agencies” that from from providing work opportunities, actually traffic in human beings. Illegals are sent to the various inner city companies, the “agency” arranges the proper “documents” and then skims off a very large percentage of that illgal’s take-home wage.

    If the illegal complains he/she risks expulsion.

    And I’ve seen gov’t turn a blind eye to this.

    You’ve got labour intensive plants abusing human beings on a scale not seen since Dickens, you’ve got the erosion of any pretense of benefits or worker safety and in exchange industry has actually jacked up prices of most food items.

    This is the reality behind the rainbow coloured window-dressing of “diversity” of multiculturalism.

    One gets a clueless academic or group of academics with no foundation in the real work-a-day world and, over the years as the need is felt, these “sensitive” souls spin out a tear-jerking refrain covering refugees, asylum seekers and dissidents.

    And these academics are, we should remember, the spiritual heirs of those old 19th century protestant do-gooders; with every intervention things get worse…..even as they righteously chaulk up points to get into politically-correct heaven

    “Refugee”, “asylum-seeker”, “dissident” are OFTEN just just code for fast-buck, quick-buck, big-buck.

    And since little or no care is taken when selecting newcomers because of the immediacy and the demands of the labout market (greed actually), a few of the recently arrived turn out to be religious fanatics intent on harming as many inocents as possible.

    So think of the various attacks in western capitals lately as the “hidden cost” of a good, immigrant-made, ready-to-eat ham sandwich.

    Please read my initial statement again:

    “Multiculturalism is turbo-capitalism’s sucker-punch, destroying unions and bidding down wage-structures. It is the Left’s sacred cow, providing a docile constituency of aggreived victims that need catering and mollycoddling. And it is radical Islam’s meal-ticket, affording plenty of dense cover for the dissemination of hate-filled tracts and ideas under the rubrique of “diversity”.”

  116. Aparita — on 27th June, 2006 at 6:44 pm  

    Interesting spins. I just thought I would throw in another essay by some academics at Simon Fraser University. I saw the word hegemonic a few times – so I have given fair warning…

    http://www.peak.sfu.ca/the-peak/2006-2/issue7/fe-mus.html

  117. Arif — on 27th June, 2006 at 7:00 pm  

    John, I think I agree with you that there is a price-cutting agenda behind economic globalisation including free movement of labour and that this has the consequences you describe. But it is not the only agenda and it is not the primary motive for supporting multiculturalism, at least not for me or anyone I know as far as I can tell.

    Those do-gooding lefties have made documentaries about the very issue you are raising, so it isn’t like everyone is a sucker or hiding this because this is somehow their real agenda. But if those in power can be selective in how they implement policies to achieve different goals, and can use rhetorical resources to effects which shock the original campaigners who developed them. Those lefty do-gooders also campaign for fair trade because they dislike exploitation and union-busting. They campaign for union recognition and so on.

    But in the end, I think you have a very strong point that if we join things up, if we really want to be egalitarian, then competing national governments will race each other to the bottom unless either there is at least some international labour regulation or even greater compromises on sovereignty. This will happen regardless of whether or not there is free movement of labour. It is convenient for the rich to have the poor come to them to serve them, but it doesn’t take that much longer to export capital, outsource and remove welfare benefits in order to remain competitive.

    I think that, unless the sacred cow of free movement of capital is sacrificed or the sacred cow of sovereign States, our commitment or opposition to multiculturalism isn’t going to save hard-won labour rights.

  118. Refresh — on 28th June, 2006 at 12:30 am  

    Aparita – do you have any more on the Toronto 17 news blackout?

    Just picked this up:

    http://leninology.blogspot.com/

    Also questions over the Sears Tower ‘threat’.

  119. Sunny — on 28th June, 2006 at 12:59 am  

    John – So think of the various attacks in western capitals lately as the “hidden cost” of a good, immigrant-made, ready-to-eat ham sandwich.

    Thanks for a great piece of comedy. No really, I was quite amused even if you may not be.

    Capitalism leads to more terrorism shock! I’ll try and remember that if someone asks me for the most bizarre explanation to anything ever. I’m not even going to bother taking that apart.

  120. sayit aint so — on 28th June, 2006 at 2:19 am  

    This thread is pointless… people are ranting and raving and not making clear points. Ie.. just going from one topic to another .. .not addressing the original statment.

  121. Dinesh Patel — on 5th July, 2006 at 5:12 pm  

    I really feel bad for you lot. Most of you believe that just cause someone decides to blow themselves up, they must have a more valid reason then those who do NOT choose violence.

    For example, more media coverage has been given to the supposed “back lash” against the muslim community since 7/7 then to the actual victims!!

    It’s strange that we can accept that they have a valid reason to bomb tubes cause our stupid goverment bombed Iraq. But these people were from Pakistan, Jamica and Somalia, not one originally from Iraq! So, you say they are supporting their muslim brothers, isn’t that reverse discrimination. Our goverment did not discrimate against their religion when it gave them housing and benefits and Asylum into this country.

    What if a white man now says they are supporting their white brothers? Would this be acceptable?

    Muslims are only looking out for their own. To me ALL lives are worth the same, if muslim or not. Most muslim fanatics would no sooner cut your throat and your families without a 2nd thought and don’t think your opinion will make the slightest difference, at the end of the day, you will simply be a non-believer, a infidel, a worthless life.

    If the muslims were so affected by 7/7, they had a funny way of showing it when the cartoons came out. If a Christian or other religion had done the same, there would be a public outcry. Instead, we find it easier to justify their ways. The Da Vinci code was probably more offence to Christians, but I didn’t see anyone take any notice of them.

    I just believe, it about time that people took ALL religions the same and stop making accuses for the Muslims. The media are too scared to be worried about offending the muslims community out of fear of violence (yes violence) they are more careful what they write about muslims then another other religion.

    It’s about time people brought back equality.

    Arif – your thoughts, if truly genuine, are good. But even you are too scared to stand against your “muslim brothers” and tell them what you think.

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