sábado, 28 de abril de 2007

Peter Tatchell: «Their Multiculturalism and Ours»

«Paralysed by the fear of being branded racist, imperialist or Islamophobic, large sections of liberal and left opinion have, in effect, gone soft on their commitment to universal human rights. They readily, and rightly, condemn the excesses of US and UK government policy, but rarely speak out against oppressors who are non-white or adherents of minority faiths. Why the double standard? The answer lies, in part, in a perverse interpretation of multiculturalism that has sundered the celebration of difference from universal human rights.
Race and religion now rule the roost in a tainted hierarchy of oppression. The rights of women and gay people are often deemed expendable for the sake of 'the greater good.' Misogyny and homophobia are increasingly tolerated in the name of 'maintaining harmonious community relations.' Indeed, the trend among many supposedly progressive people is to reject common standards of rights and responsibilities. They demand that we 'make allowances' and show 'cultural sensitivity' with regard to the prejudices of people within certain ethnic and faith communities. Isn't it patronising, even racist, to judge minority peoples by different standards?

London is proof of the plus-side of multiculturalism - the whole world in one city, a joyous rainbow of identities and cultures. The 'united nations' character of the capital is one reason I love living in London. I step out of my front door and, in a typical day, I will probably see people from nearly a hundred different national backgrounds. It is a great joy to savour the many good things that other cultures offer us: unique people with unique histories, music, art, cuisine, design and ideas.
In short, multiculturalism can sometimes foster a 'Balkanisation' of the humanitarian agenda, fragmenting people according to competing identities, values and traditions. These differences are too often prioritised over shared experiences and interests. Our common needs, and the universality of human rights, are sidelined in preference to an emphasis on racial and religious particularities.
Reactionary forms of multiculturalism merely replace the hegemony of the dominant culture with a form of 'diversity' that facilitates the hegemony of the dominant forces within minority communities. They involve a qualified degree of pluralism that is limited to giving a voice to minority elites; often strengthening these elites at the expense of grassroots and dissident voices. This restricted form of multiculturalism produces a significant degree of diversity vis-à-vis the relationship between majority and minority communities, but a near absence of diversity within minority communities, where an enforced, tradition-bound monoculturalism frequently still prevails. When the multicultural ethos of live-and-let-live is divorced from the principle of universal human rights minorities within minorities are invariably the losers.
Tragically, it is often this elitist, authoritarian strand of multiculturalism that is politically promoted. We see this in the way Ken Livingstone, the Mayor of London, has rightly defended Muslim communities against prejudice and discrimination, but wrongly allied himself, more-or-less exclusively, with the reactionary orthodox Islamist elite, such as the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) and the Muslim Association of Britain (MAB). Moreover, Ken seems to have gone out of his way to avoid supporting or engaging with liberal Muslims. They have had the doors of City Hall slammed in their face and, in some cases, have been subjected to vilification and intimidation by the Mayor's allies in the MCB and MAB. According to a poll of 1,000 British Muslims for Channel Four's Dispatches programme, What Muslims Want, broadcast on 7 August 2006, only 4% of Muslims say the MCB represents them, and only 1% regard the MAB as reflecting their views. Yet these are the organisations that the government, the Mayor of London, the Socialist Workers Party, Respect and the Stop the War Coalition consult and ally with – to the apparent deliberate exclusion of Muslim progressives. Whereas most Muslims in Britain do not support reactionary Islamism, much of the left acts as though they do.
Reactionary interpretations of multiculturalism ignore, tolerate or excuse prejudice and abuse in the name of pluralism and diversity. They foster social division, moral confusion and double-standards – often to the detriment of the most vulnerable: minorities within minority communities. Progressive multiculturalism is about respecting and celebrating difference, but within a framework of universal equality and human rights. It is premised on welcoming and embracing cultural diversity, providing it does not involve the oppression of other people. There can be no selective approach to freedom and justice. Human rights are universal and indivisible.»
(Peter Tatchell na Democratiya.)

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