Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Multiculturalism after Cronulla

Amartya Sen wrote a considered and thought-provoking article on Multiculturalism, originally for the FT last month, which can be found here.

Multiculturalism with an emphasis on freedom and reasoning has to be distinguished from “plural monoculturalism” with single-focus priorities and a rigid cementing of divisions. Multicultural education is certainly important, but it should not be about bundling children into preordained faith schools. Awareness of world civilisation and history is necessary. Religious madrasas may take little interest in the fact that when a modern mathematician invokes an “algorithm” to solve a difficult computational problem, she helps to commemorate the secular contributions of Al-Khwarizmi, the great ninth-century Muslim mathematician, from whose name the term algorithm is derived (“algebra” comes from his book, Al Jabr wa-al-Muqabilah). There is no reason at all why old Brits as well as new Brits should not celebrate those grand connections. The world isnot a federation of religious ethnicities. Nor, one hopes, is Britain.
Now take a look at this piece by Andrew West, writing for the Sydney Morning Herald, in the aftermath of the Cronulla Beach riots. If the Ozzie press is anything to go by, there is little in the way of soul-searching for the white riots and more angry ejaculation along the predictable tack of 'Islam is the enemy':
I do not embrace multiculturalism, as such, because I do not believe all cultures are compatible with non-discriminatory liberalism. I prefer a multi-ethnic, non-racial society, which has at its core a canon of valuesthat include racial and gender equality.


Some multicultural theorists will squawk and say that I prefer only a soft multiculturalism (if they insist on calling it that) that does not offend western liberal values. They would be spot on. My acceptance ends when theassault on the liberality of society itself begins.
Is Andrew West protesting about Islam taking the form of a monoculture in a pool of other monocultures in Sydney, or, in fact, any other community? Or does the "core culture" that he languor's for nothing more than shorthand for White, Australian and dominant as expressed here by Sharon Verghis, a Malaysian-Indian who lives in the Shire, wrote in The Sydney Morning Herald saying that the locals need to take some responsibility.
Live long enough in Sutherland Shire and you soon become familiar with the codes and rules, unwritten but understood, that govern the area's most famous attraction, Cronulla Beach. If you're a white local, it's your beach. If you're wog/Leb/in any way "ethnic", you go to nearby Brighton-le-Sands, or try your luck elsewhere. Geographically, the two beaches are neighbours. Racially andculturally, they may as well be on different planets.


At December 13, 2005 5:36 pm, Blogger Salam Dhaka said...

Thanks for coming by my blog. I am really concerned about this whole Hizbut Tahrir situation in private universities.

I dont know about Farhad Mazhar, but I'll look into it. Scary stuff.

At December 13, 2005 6:04 pm, Blogger Vol-in-Law said...

Andrew West's article seemed well-reasoned to me and probably indicative of mainstream Australian opinion - liberal but worried. He seemed to treat "ethnicity" and "culture" as two different things, as far as I can tell they mean essentially the same thing, but his general point - "Your freedom ends where my nose begins" - has been the standard liberal stance for 300 years.

At December 13, 2005 6:09 pm, Blogger Vol-in-Law said...

"I'm sorry to admit to myself that this whole sorry tale confirms a suspicion I've always had of Australia: Its a deeply racist country sport."

I was wondering if you could tell me what your definition of racism is?

At December 13, 2005 7:39 pm, Blogger A Christian Prophet said...

Only racists see racism in everything. The Holy Spirit's message today on The Christian Prophet blog is that Muslims create a backlash against themselves by insisting on feeling separate and different.

At December 13, 2005 11:11 pm, Blogger Siddhartha said...

My definition of racism would be in line with this definition:

Discrimination or prejudice based on race.

And I say White Australians are more racist relative to White Brits, in the same way that the American South is more racist relative to the West Coast. Both are generalisations which are largely true from anecdotal experience.

At December 13, 2005 11:14 pm, Blogger Siddhartha said...

Christian Prophet: Thats as good a justification of racist rioting on Cronulla Beach as you are going to be allowed to get away with - if you're for racist rioting.

At December 15, 2005 10:54 am, Blogger Vol-in-Law said...

I thought this article from a retired Sydney police officer from November 2003 was very interesting. It looks to me like the police's long-term abdication of their duty to maintain law and order laid the seeds of the ethnic strife, just as in France. See: http://www.quadrant.org.au/php/archive_details_list.php?article_id=581

At December 15, 2005 10:58 am, Blogger Vol-in-Law said...

"Only racists see racism in everything. The Holy Spirit's message today on The Christian Prophet blog is that Muslims create a backlash against themselves by insisting on feeling separate and different."

I disagree - I don't think "feeling separate & different" creates a backlash. Few people care if Arab-Australians or Vietnamese Australians feel separate and different if they're peaceful about it. I'd say it was the gangs of Muslim-Lebanese thugs attacking Anglo-Australians that created the backlash.

At December 15, 2005 11:03 am, Blogger Vol-in-Law said...

"Or does the "core culture" that he languor's for nothing more than shorthand for White, Australian and dominant"

Yes - he sees the core culture of Australia as 1. "white" - more specifically Anglo-Celtic European - 2. Australian (obviously), and 3. dominant - or else it's not the 'core' culture at all. It's the European secular liberal democratic culture that allows groups to live peacefully side by side without minorities being persecuted. Destroying this core culture is unlikely to create a multicultural Nirvana IMO, more likely is racial/ethnic strife until another stronger culture becomes dominant.

At December 15, 2005 11:40 am, Blogger Siddhartha said...

No one is saying that the Australian culture should be "destroyed". Thats a bit reactionry to say the least. Nor am I saying that it should be displaced.

What I am saying is that in a Multicultural society, it should not be regarded as any better or dominant that any of the other cultures that inform the society. Otherwise it simply ends up being a dominant mono-culture in a sea of minority cultures. And thats the danger that Australia finds itself in if it cannot successfully deal with this race problem.

At December 15, 2005 3:48 pm, Blogger Vol-in-Law said...

Hi - when I said "destroyed" I meant destroyed as the dominant/core culture of Australia, which is what you seem to advocate.

At December 15, 2005 4:17 pm, Blogger Siddhartha said...

I'm not advocating the destruction of the dominant culture. And to suggest that I am is a misunderstanding of my post which compared Sen's correct analysis with West's opinion that Multiculturalism is to blame. What West is reacting to (in a knee jerk fashion) is exactly what Sen is saying is the danger - the danger of plural Monocultures. If anything, it is Andrew West who is advocating destruction of some culture - but never mentions it.

At December 15, 2005 7:17 pm, Blogger Vol-in-Law said...

" I'm not advocating the destruction of the dominant culture."

You're saying that Anglo-Australian culture's role as the dominant culture in Australia should cease. That its status should be equal to that of other minority cultures. What I'm saying is that were this to be achieved the result IMO would not be a multicultural utopia but rather constant ethnic strife as seen in my homeland of Northern Ireland. I think all peaceful societies have a dominant culture whose role as such is recognised by members of minority cultures within those societies, who in turn are allowed to participate (preferably fully) in the civic life of the society.

At December 16, 2005 1:52 am, Blogger Siddhartha said...

You're saying that Anglo-Australian culture's role as the dominant culture in Australia should cease.

No I'm saying that it should be more prepared to absorb elements of the minority cultures and vice versa, but this is not exclusive to Australia. Anglo-Western is loathe to appear to absorb cultures from the minorities but certainly Australia has been especially guilty of that during Howard's watch.

At December 16, 2005 10:16 am, Anonymous Vol-in-Law said...

OK; I don't think this is the problem though. The rioters weren't attacking Chinese-Australians or other ethnic minorities, they were attacking a specific group who were seen as attacking Anglo-Australians, harrassing women, beating up men, most recently the attack on the lifeguards, attempting to ethnically cleanse the beach of Anglos. According to news reports Lebanese-Muslim reprisal attacks have been conducted against various Christian churches, including a Tongan church that happened to be convenient.

At December 16, 2005 11:15 am, Blogger Vol Abroad said...

I think this article is interesting too - http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/common/story_page/0,5744,17580509%255E7583,00.html

Again there seems to be a particular problem with the post-1970 Lebanese-Muslim ethnic group in Sydney, rather than generalised racial hostility, and this is as much due to multicultural policies as to inherent characteristics of this group.

At December 16, 2005 11:16 am, Anonymous Vol-in-Law said...

Sorry that was me (Vol-in-Law) not my wife Vol Abroad.

At December 16, 2005 11:48 am, Blogger Siddhartha said...

So Vol-In-Law, you're saying the solution is rioting? Are you condoning the race riots or just apologising for them? You're taking the tone that rioting and racism is bad, but the real victims are White Australians.

At December 16, 2005 5:19 pm, Blogger Vol-in-Law said...

I'm not sure what happened. I don't condone attacking random people whatever their ethnicity. I think it was legitimate for the non-Muslim Australians to demonstrate against the Lebanese Muslim gangs (and even drive them from the beach if necessary), but I don't think it was ok for them to attack people just for being Lebanese. I have only seen one example of this on TV, a blonde woman appeared to be attacking a woman in a burka. The burka is a symbol of Islamism and has been banned in several countries, but I don't condone attacking someone for wearing a burka anymore than for wearing any other political symbol, especially as the burka-wearer may not have much choice in the matter.

At December 18, 2005 1:33 pm, Blogger Siddhartha said...

The burka is a symbol of Islamism and has been banned in several countries

Good grief. Is that official or your own personal gut reaction? The burkha has not been banned anywhere where a universal ban on all religious symbols as garments have been banned. Do you know of anywhere specific that bans the burkha alone?

Furthermore, when Sikhs assassinated Indira Gandhi in 1984, did Indians consider a ban of the turban because it was a sign of "Sikhism"?

I think your last comments says more about your position and your personal views about race and views on Islam/Muslims than you are willing to let on. I would like to quote this sentence from one of the Harry's Place writers in response to your last post:

Those who took part in the sickening attacks on random “non-whites” are racist thugs and those who make excuses for them are apologists for racism.

See full thread


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