Sunday 4 December 2016

Multiculturalism and the culture of offence

Multiculturalism is inherently racist, argues Carol Hunt, with help from Kenan Malik and Maryam Namazie

Published 06/12/2015 | 02:30

A woman from Syria waits to cross the border with Croatia near the village of Berkasovo, Serbia. Namazie argues that even in the heart of the secular West “different laws and customs apply to women who have fled Islam stricken societies”
A woman from Syria waits to cross the border with Croatia near the village of Berkasovo, Serbia. Namazie argues that even in the heart of the secular West “different laws and customs apply to women who have fled Islam stricken societies”

'Each to their own", is the phrase we use when pointing out that as individuals we're all different, and therefore shouldn't judge each other's practices by our own standards. Difference is good, we're told. It could even be, as writer and broadcaster Kenan Malik put it in an essay on multiculturalism, "the motto of our times".

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And so, last week, the Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB) announced that Muslim women wearing head-scarves were entitled to privacy when applying for visas. There had been complaints, said Ebbas Ali of AFA Consultancy, (the company who bring students from the Gulf States to Ireland to study), from Saudi Arabian female students who objected to removing their face coverings in a public place. And so screens are now provided for those who require them. It's a simple solution to what may have become a bigger problem. Irish immigration law and Saudi cultural sympathies were both taken into account and happily a resolution was found where one didn't conflict with the other.

Tolerance, pluralism, respect for cultural diversity, multiculturalism - these are all good things, right? They show that we're part of a progressive, liberal society that doesn't tolerate bigotry or discrimination. Say that you think multiculturalism is a very bad idea and you'll automatically be labelled a racist - or worse. We saw this in the recent debate about the cultural rights of the Travelling community in the aftermath of that terrible fire. Anyone who suggested that formally labelling Travellers an ethnic minority may do more to alienate them from society than integrate them, was given short shift. Debate was effectively shut down - in the same way as debate on other sensitive cultural issues is being shut down - supposedly in the name of "tolerance".

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