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.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.
[...]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.
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.