Minorities and power, in liberal democracies


by Sunny
28th April, 2010 at 9:39 am    

I’ve always believed that Islamists living in liberal democracies eventually realise that their tub-thumping ways are no use, and end up joining the system. Of course, fringer nutters remain, but that general theory holds. A prime example is Inayat Bunglwala – from the Muslim Council of Britain – who eventually started writing articles and expressing views that most Guardian CIF readers found hard to diasgree with.

Yesterday Anas Altkriti, another tub-thumper of yesteryear, wrote this sensible article for CIF pointing out that Muslims have (shock horror!) quite ordinary concerns when it comes to making political decisions. It’s for this reason I’ve never bought the neo-con ‘Islamists-under-your-bed!‘ view that Islamists should be marginalised as much as possible. It assumes they can’t learn from us.

But I suspect many political Muslims get annoyed when such articles imply Muslims are just like anyone else, because in their minds that’s still not true.

The national tabloid press still regularly demonise and scare-monger about British Muslims and not many bat an eyelid. They still write furious articles in the national media complaining about how many babies these ethnics have because they’re scared their skin colour will be diluted.

I think there can only be one solution: have more babies. Have millions of black, brown and mixed-race babies. There comes a point when that demographic is so big that pissing them off means that the backlash is too high (I don’t mean violent backlash, but boycotts, losing votes etc).

Look at the controversy around the Pope’s visit. The Vatican has been responsible (I don’t know if the Pope himself has) for suppressing the molesting of thousands of children around the world. They directly helped destroy lives. Oh and let’s not forget that the Vatican’s stance on abortion, birth control and family planning has also destroyed millions of other lives around the world.

But the Vatican has too much political power for governments around the world to tell them to piss off. Well, I guess the Indian and Chinese governments could, and have done. But generally, no. In contrast if that were a Muslim religious leader the usual suspects would be writing furious articles about human rights.

This is hardly ever mentioned in the context of Amnesty’s work too. Amnesty has worked with the Catholic Church on various campaigns. Most feminists wouldn’t even come near endorsing the Vatican’s stance on women’s rights. But while the focus is on Muslims and how any association with them taints Amnesty, nothing is said about the Church.

The Hispanic example is actually better. Arizona has just passed a law that has Hispanics there thoroughly outraged. The Republicans don’t care that much – Latinos never voted for them much anyway, and they need to satisfy their anti-immigration base in the South. Democrats on the other hand can’t ignore Hispanics.

After a while the race and the religion doesn’t even matter: it comes down to numbers. If your numbers or clout is large enough then the establishment will pay lip service. Perhaps the mistake Latinos in the US made was to tilt too far towards the Democrats… removing the Republican incentive to avoid pissing them off. Although it looks like Republicans are paying the price already.

Perhaps what I’m trying to say is that the only way a minority can get over the bigotry is either by expanding in large numbers, or getting very close to the establishment.

That’s what current affairs tell us, right?

[caveat: I'm not saying all minorities should vote along ethnic lines, I'm merely pointing out that in extreme circumstances (draconian immigration laws for example, they have an incentive to]


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  1. sunny hundal

    Blog post:: Minorities and power, in liberal democracies http://bit.ly/9S7vZy


  2. owentuz

    RT @sunny_hundal: Blog post:: Minorities and power, in liberal democracies http://bit.ly/9S7vZy


  3. Rachel Woodlock

    Pickled Politics says breed more ;) http://tinyurl.com/2v53ueb RT @EricPagendarm: How do we defeat "The Narrative"


  4. earwicga

    RT @pickledpolitics Pickled Politics » Minorities and power, in liberal democracies http://bit.ly/dfDpJo


  5. Paige Goff

    Pickled Politics » Minorities and power, in liberal democracies: But the Vatican has too much p… http://bit.ly/aXM9qO http://bit.ly/NTnuK


  6. Lauolefiso Stibbie

    Pickled Politics » Minorities and power, in liberal democracies http://bit.ly/9owN9v




  1. cjcjc — on 28th April, 2010 at 9:46 am  

    Has Altikriti stopped thumping the Muslim Brotherhood tub then?

    And does Bungles write/say the same thing to the non-CiF audience?
    I wonder if he is quite so gay-friendly with his MAB pals?

  2. BenSix — on 28th April, 2010 at 10:01 am  

    I wonder if he is quite so gay-friendly with his MAB pals?

    It’s among the great mysteries. Me, I take a Thomistic view of the whole debate.

  3. MaidMarian — on 28th April, 2010 at 10:04 am  

    Sunny – Isn’t this all rather on the assumption that everyone from a certain ethnicity or identity group will have the same set of incentives?

    In Western Europe there have been a relatively small number of divides within states. Class (the UK being the best example), urban/rural (Scandinavia especially), language (Belgium, Spain) and regional (north/south Italy). The rise of postmaterialism in politics certainly challenged these traditional divides and allowed so called New Social Movements such as feminism and pacifism to take effect, but the traditional divides have held well into the new century.

    Religious identity politics, insofar as it exists, has much in common with postmaterialism. It is an academic exercise as much as anything else and whilst there is some de facto segregation (as opposed to de jure) the ongoing imperatives of politics beyond identity still hold sway. As the pacifists made single issue demands, they still voted on wider issues in society.

    Does religious identity affect voting preference? Possibly and certainly in places like Ireland and Poland there is a strong religious influence, but within the framework of the traditional social divides. Indeed, in the case of the UK there is a well established literature showing that immigrants from Asia vote strongly along class lines rather than on identity politics. It was not about ‘getting close to the establishment.’ It was because in the 1980s, small shop owners had more in common with Thatcher than with the miners.

    Islam is of course the higher profile case, strange given that about 3% of the UK population is Islamic. Of course there are some identity politics nastys – Sikhs at the Birmingham Playhouse spring to mind – but these tend to be issue protests rather than speaking to a broader electoral outlook. And – at the risk of falling into the Speak Your Branes trap – anyone uncomfortable with the UK is free to leave.

    In short Sunny, your assumption that, ‘a big demographic,’ will necessarily be a united one is misplaced. There were/are millions and millions of feminists but they don’t all agree.

    As to the Hispanics of America, well diddums. Do you not hold out the faint possibility that there were issues in that law beyond identity politics? That maybe, just maybe, illegal immigration is a problem? Granted, probably not all of the support for that law came from good sentiment, but the negative (and it has to be said) and positive impacts of illegal migration affect everyone regardless of skin colour.

    This all skates a bit close to brown people should vote tory. No, they should vote for the vision of society they feel is most appropriate.

  4. Sarah AB — on 28th April, 2010 at 10:11 am  

    I agree that Inayat Bunglwala has written some moderate pieces – but he has also written some pieces which are, to my mind, less appealing. For example I thought his response to the Dispatches programme was poor, and rather misrepresented the programme.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/belief/2010/mar/03/dispatches-islamic-forum-europe

    I agree with the first point in para 4 – i.e. that there is anti-Muslim bigotry and scaremongering at work in the tabloids – but I don’t think the explicitly *racist* views you go on to invoke always come from the same people/sources?

  5. MaidMarian — on 28th April, 2010 at 2:25 pm  

    Sarah AB – It is a bit dangerous to reduce that to anti-Muslim bigotry. There is anti-youth bigotry in the tabloids. Anti-East European, anti union, anti-bankers, anti-many things.

    It may, of course be the case that such anti agendas are compounded by religion, but equally they could be compounded by other factors (youth etc).

    This, of course, is before we get to the knottier question of whether one religious identity group will be anti-other religious identity groups and why.

  6. earwicga — on 28th April, 2010 at 3:47 pm  

    anyone uncomfortable with the UK is free to leave.

    Unless they have been deemed to be a terrorist by ‘intellegence’ and their passport/freedom has been removed.

    In short Sunny, your assumption that, ‘a big demographic,’ will necessarily be a united one is misplaced.
    There were/are millions and millions of feminists but they don’t all agree.

    There is much more agreement than disagreement within fundamental aspects of feminism.

  7. Arif — on 28th April, 2010 at 4:13 pm  

    Sunny, I guess you are being provocative on purpose. But just want to point out that breeding in large numbers or getting close to the political establishment as political strategies are alternatives to democratic involvement.

    By that I mean something like open discussion and changing people’s minds, including your own, in response to well informed and relevant arguments.

    Perhaps such a model of democratic politics is not suited to human nature, you seem to argue above that the problem is that open discussion isn’t strong enough to overcome bigotry, and I see your point! Especially when the mass media circulates the stereotypes and provide the main forums for discussion.

    The Muslim commentators who you see as moving more mainstream – do you see that as evidence of the positive impact of democratic involvement, or their growing awareness of the need to tailor their messages to get closer to the political/media establishment?

    If it is about being more media-savvy, it might not just be that they have given up on democratic methods (as I see them) to become courtiers to orthodoxies, perhaps they have internalised some positive norms of democratic debate (eg. open-mindedness rather than bigotry).

    So I think I agree with a lot of what you say, I just don’t know what you see as the place of what (I am maybe wrongly calling) democratic involvement in your political model. And how close your ideal model is from the actually existing one.

    What I do know now is how you want to get from where we are to your ideal: breeding lots of Sunnys and getting close to the establishment!

  8. MaidMarian — on 28th April, 2010 at 4:53 pm  

    earwicga – Thank you for your reply.

    There is indeed much agreement amongst feminists, but there was less agreement, much less so, about how that should reach its end point which is what the article talks about.

    Radical feminism was in many ways an academic exercise, see for example Women on the Edge of Time by Marge Piercy. But the postmaterialism the underpinned feminism still fitted into the traditional political divides of UK politics. Indeed, in feminism’s case it was weaker still than for pacifism where a national organisation was able to arrange political pressure (some would say entryism) on a major political party.

    My point was that just because someone has identity politics as a woman does not mean that that identity will be the defining outlook of their political life. Religion is much the same to my mind. A better argument might be about separation of church and state.

    Identity is not per se anything unusual in European politics, it is just wrong to assume that everyone in a given identity community will have the same interests.

  9. Rumbold — on 28th April, 2010 at 6:36 pm  

    Sunny:

    I think there can only be one solution: have more babies. Have millions of black, brown and mixed-race babies.

    Are you doing your bit?

    Perhaps what I’m trying to say is that the only way a minority can get over the bigotry is either by expanding in large numbers, or getting very close to the establishment.

    Both feed into one another, as parties have realised they have to seen to be pushing ethnic minorities forward, which impresses both non-white and (some) white voters.

    I long for the day when people vote as individuals first and foremost.

  10. Cpl. Jones — on 28th April, 2010 at 6:49 pm  

    Too late Rumbold, the genie of identity politics is out of the bottle and can’t be put back in.

    Once the Equality Act properly beds in people will be voting along the lines of their preferred ‘protected characteristic’. Those who don’t have one (guess who they are) will soon figure out what they need to do.

  11. Naadir Jeewa — on 28th April, 2010 at 8:07 pm  

    Projection

  12. Cpl. Jones — on 28th April, 2010 at 8:26 pm  

    Is it not the case that the mainstream parties, with their all-female shortlists and ethnic paratroopers – all-ethnic shortlists still being technically illegal, at least for the time-being – are already addressing their marketing efforts to at least two of the most prominent protected characteristics?

    It’s only a matter of time before one or another party comes to perceive an electoral advantage in fine-tuning its messaging to appeal to one or more of the other seven as well.

  13. earwicga — on 28th April, 2010 at 8:28 pm  

    MaidMarian -

    My point was that just because someone has identity politics as a woman does not mean that that identity will be the defining outlook of their political life.

    Good job too or else we would all slit our wrists.

    Cpl. Jones -
    I think you need to have a read of this post http://www.thefword.org.uk/blog/2010/03/freedom_of_reli which includes the following:

    Religious freedom means that you are free to hold whatever beliefs you like – whether that’s a belief in Yahweh, Allah, Zeus, The Force or anything else – and you are free to make life choices for yourself in accordance with those beliefs. … Equal rights legislation doesn’t threaten religious freedom one bit. What it does – or should – remove is religious privilege, and this is entirely different.

  14. Cpl. Jones — on 28th April, 2010 at 9:00 pm  

    All that your article demonstrates is that some characteristics enjoy more protection that others. In the present calculus the ‘gay’ identity trumps the ‘Christian’ one.

    But this is really at a tangent to the general theme of the inexorable rise and rise of identity politics.

  15. James — on 28th April, 2010 at 9:08 pm  

    If you want to see how minorities exercise power in liberal democracies just look at the US and the stranglehold AIPAC has over its middle east policy.

    Paul Findley’s “They dare to speak out” is an excellent expose of this

    http://www.ussliberty.org/findleybook.htm

  16. oh my — on 29th April, 2010 at 1:27 am  

    If you want to see how minorities exercise power in liberal democracies just look at the US and the stranglehold AIPAC has over its middle east policy.

    That’ll be AIPAC forcing Presidents of both political stripes to bend double over barrels of crude and kow-tow to misogynous Saudi monarchs then I take it?

    Jesus.

    And what sort of “minority” are you talking about here? Jewish Americans who overwhelmingly vote Democrat? Or some shady cabal? Time to lay off the Alex Jones fella.

    Incidentally, Sunny is right about Republicans not really caring about Hispanics. Bush alienated a ton of his fundy base by suggesting before the last election that illegal economic migrants ought to have at least some, y’know, rights and stuff… Weird one. But clearly an attempt to court the Hispanic vote. Didn’t turn out too well that one!

    And incidentally, Sunny is very wrong when he writes: “the focus is on Muslims and how any association with them taints Amnesty”.

    ANY?

    I thought the current row was over a fairly reactionary group called CagePrisoners. I hadn’t realised it had extended to one third of the planet!

  17. Naadir Jeewa — on 29th April, 2010 at 12:38 pm  

    Yeah, my “protected characteristic” is that I hate fascists.

  18. KJB — on 29th April, 2010 at 1:06 pm  

    But this is really at a tangent to the general theme of the inexorable rise and rise of identity politics.

    As famously employed by the BNP and other white racists, you mean?

  19. MaidMarian — on 29th April, 2010 at 3:22 pm  

    KJB – As famously exploited by the BNP et al.

    Identity politics feeds on itself.

  20. Shatterface — on 29th April, 2010 at 4:10 pm  

    ‘I think there can only be one solution: have more babies. Have millions of black, brown and mixed-race babies. There comes a point when that demographic is so big that pissing them off means that the backlash is too high (I don’t mean violent backlash, but boycotts, losing votes etc).’

    Or, if your understanding of the way religion and ideology are handed down isn’t rooted in the genetic theories of the 1930s, you could read Kenan Malik:

    http://www.kenanmalik.com/essays/bergens_eurabia.html

  21. douglas clark — on 29th April, 2010 at 4:29 pm  

    Shatterface @ 20,

    Thanks for bringing Kenan Maliks’ piece to my attention.

    I think he is completely right.

    It is also obvious that we are cutting across cultures and religions to get there.

    The last sentences of his piece was this:

    What is certain is that if they do, it will not be because secularists have been out-bred, but because they have been out-thought. The real challenge that secularists face is not in bed but in the public square. And it’s a challenge that comes as much from Eurabists as from Islamists.

  22. johnbarnes — on 30th April, 2010 at 10:05 pm  

    Sunny, I feel I have to take up a few points with your article

    “Oh and let’s not forget that the Vatican’s stance on abortion, birth control and family planning has also destroyed millions of other lives around the world.”

    I don’t think there is a country in the world where condoms are illegal. The Catholic Church prohibits the use of birth control for some deep rooted theological reasons. People however are free to ignore its teachings even those who profess to be Catholic, there is nothing the Church can legally do enforce its teachings. However, the Church would argue that when baptised Catholics use artificial birth control they are committing a sin, this appeal to conscience is the only real sanction that they have the power to put in place. You could argue that the liberal attitude towards sex, which removed sexual relations from the context of stable marriage between a male and female has done more to spread AIDS then any teaching of the Church. I would be hesitant to make such an assertion, its hard argument to back-up with any form of empirical evidence but I think it is as logical as the position you put forward.

    “But while the focus is on Muslims and how any association with them taints Amnesty, nothing is said about the Church.”

    I don’t think this is the case, Amnesty International (AI) has had a long standing historical connection with the Catholic Church that goes right back to its founding. AI’s recent venture into the sphere of reproductive rights has terminated this longstanding relationship.

    “They directly helped destroy lives.”

    No they didn’t, they indirectly helped destroy lives by failing to react in the correct manner to allegations of sexual abuse by putting the needs of the institution before the need to protect the most vulnerable members of society, no-one disagrees with this even the Pope but when you state that there was direct involvement you imply there was an actual systematic policy of sexually abusing children.

    “But generally, no. In contrast if that were a Muslim religious leader the usual suspects would be writing furious articles about human rights”

    Sunny, when the Saudi King visited the UK, there was barely a ripple in the media, yet this was the head of state of a state that denies women the right to vote, drive and dictates to them what they should wear.
    Just a few small points I felt I had to raise

    (Just one more, the Vatican is a state, I think in your post you are referring to the government of the Catholic Church which is known as the Holy See pedantic I know but I could resist!)

  23. Ravi.Nk — on 30th April, 2010 at 10:41 pm  

    You could argue that the liberal attitude towards sex, which removed sexual relations from the context of stable marriage between a male and female has done more to spread AIDS then any teaching of the Church.

    Yes, exactly right. The spread of AIDS is mainly because men are having sex with different women without condoms. Even if you argue that they are not using them because they are devout followers of the Church (as opposed to not like using them), there is the minor detail that the Church also says it is a sin to have sex outside marriage.

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