The Left

Peter Tatchell on Multiculturalism

Read him in today’s Independent:

It would be a mistake to dump multiculturalism because of its sometimes oppressive interpretation. But we also need to recognise that by celebrating difference, multiculturalism can divide people, especially on racial and religious lines. This has resulted in conflict – such as the riots between Afro-Caribbean and Asian youths, and tensions between sections of the Muslim and Jewish communities.

Too much focus on difference can spill over into separateness, which subverts an appreciation of our common humanity and undermines notions of universal rights and equal citizenship. It can produce a new form of tribalism, where societies are fragmented into myriad communities, each loyal primarily to itself and with little interest in the common good of society as a whole.

The anti-racist struggle has been weakened by the excesses of the “diversity agenda”. In the 1960s and 1970s, all non-whites united together as “black people” to fight their common oppression: racism. Then black divided into Afro-Caribbean, African and Asian. More recently, part of the Asian community has split off to identify primarily as Muslim, distancing themselves from other Asians – Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists and atheists. This fragmentation has been endorsed by some on the left, who have colluded with communalism and the division of the Asian community on religious lines. These left-wingers have a great deal to say about the oppression of Muslims but little or nothing to say about the racism and disadvantage experienced by Asians of other faiths or of no faith at all.

Multiculturalism can thus foster a “Balkanisation” of the humanitarian agenda, fracturing communities according to their different cultural identities, values and traditions. When these differences are prioritised, our common interests get sidelined.

Progressive multiculturalism is about respecting and celebrating difference, but within a framework of equality and human rights. It is premised on embracing cultural diversity, providing it does not involve the oppression of other people. Human rights are universal and indivisible.

There’s more at Democratiya too.

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