Criticising Multiculturalism? You’re a Racist!

Martin Jacques is in the Guardian suggesting, amongst other things, that anyone who blames aspects of multiculturalism for the non-integration of elements of the Muslim population is merely a racist trying to invoke god-only-knows-what through the back door. Here’s the gist:

And what is to blame for this failure to integrate? Prejudice, perhaps? Discrimination? Racism? No, according to David Cameron, Ruth Kelly and many others, the cause would appear to be multiculturalism. Pause for a moment and spot the slippage in the argument. It is no longer only about Muslims but all our ethnic minorities.

What is? What is about all our ethnic minorities?

For enshrined in the principle of multiculturalism is the idea that the white community does not insist on the assimilation of ethnic minorities but recognises the importance of pluralism. It is not about separatism but a respect for difference – from colour and dress to customs and religion. The attack on multiculturalism is the thin end of the racism wedge. It seeks to narrow the acceptable boundaries of difference at a time when Britain is becoming ever more diverse and heterogeneous.

I’d have said that multiculturalism was more the idea that the no one cultural group should insist on the assimilation of any other rather than simply a safeguard against the cultural despotism Jacques implies is inherent in white people. But anyway, apparently, blaming the current model of multiculturalism for any of its perceived shortcomings means rejecting and opposing everything multiculturalism is about. There’s just no middle-ground; it’s simply not possible to criticise or blame it for anything without being an out-and-out bigot with a hidden yet unmistakably racist agenda. There he was waxing lyrical about rhetoric as well. And no, multiculturalism is not about “respect” for alternative customs and religions, it’s about toleration of them; but it’s not as if even that’s inherently a good thing. It would depend entirely upon the customs and forms of religion one is being inclined to tolerate. There are customs and certain elements of religion that simply don’t warrant much accommodation. Some of them, for instance, don’t much value equality; some aren’t very keen on democracy, science or progress and some teach adherents to distrust or to emphatically despise anyone different from them. In fact, some don’t think all that highly of respect for difference in customs and religion themselves. And perhaps the current model of multiculturalism affords these sorts of ideas too much shelter under the umbrella of well-intentioned acceptance and pluralism. So, it’s perfectly possible, despite what Jacques might imply, to criticise multiculturalism for what you perceive to be wrong with it and to lament what you perceive to be its regrettable side-effects without instantly metamorphing into a goose-stepping Nick Griffin.

[W]hile British foreign policy so profoundly discriminates against the Muslim world, and New Labour remains in denial about the connection between domestic Muslim attitudes and its foreign policy, there seems little prospect of making a new start.

Presumably Jacques must be referring to something of a selective account of British foreign policy. Perhaps the most vocal proponent of the NATO intervention in Kosovo was one Tony Blair. It was that intervention that prevented Serbian forces from continuing their genocide and displacement of the Muslim Albanian population. It’s hard to see how something like that could be considered profoundly discriminatory against the Muslim world.

Parts of item reminded me of Žižek’s Orwellian proclamations from last September and there’s much more to bemoan besides. But I can’t be bothered to address it all. He’s a wanker.

2 Responses to “Criticising Multiculturalism? You’re a Racist!”

  1. 1 totaltransformation February 16, 2007 at 7:35 pm

    How does multiculturalism handle non-western cultures that abhor other cultures? When Americans, British, French, etc. expect assimilation they are racists. But by what standards does the multiculturalist differentiate them from the muslim whose religion/culture despises the non-believer (K’far)?

    -J. Kaiser

  2. 2 Ed February 16, 2007 at 8:40 pm

    Well, indeed, that’s the thing. There really doesn’t seem to be any sensible reason to draw a distinction between the two. It just looks like a double-standard.

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