Human Rights

Not all cultures are equally valid and commendable

Yes, I know, we’ve had a lot of discussion about Peter Tatchell this week.

But I think what he had to say in a speech – presented at the Gallery of Modern Art, Glasgow, 28 October 2009 – defending universal human rights against charges of “cultural imperialism” by cultural relativists, is very important. And, in a perverse way, it goes some distance towards explaining the increasingly unhinged attacks on him from the idiot wing of the far-left.

The Independent has published an extract today.

He opens by saying:

A good, beneficial multicultural society is one in which everyone has the freedom to pursue their own different ethics and lifestyles, while in the public sphere all citizens are treated as equals and are bound together by a shared commitment to universal human rights, regardless of the differences in their personal morality and private lives. I do not, for example, insist that people of faith approve of homosexuality, but I do expect them to not discriminate on the grounds of sexual orientation.


Where some strands of multiculturalism have gone off the rails is in their institutionalisation of difference through initiatives like the state funding of faith schools, which factionalises pupils along religious lines.

Another big error by some multiculturalists has been to bow to demands for cultural sensitivity by tacitly accepting that some peoples and communities can be exempt from the norms of universal human rights.

He concludes:

All peoples possess a culture, but this does not mean all cultures are equally valid and commendable. Some values and ideas are better than others. The Enlightenment was better than the Dark Ages. Freedom is better than slavery. Democracy is better than fascism. Scientific knowledge is better than superstition.

While all human beings deserve human rights, not everyone’s beliefs and traditions deserve respect. Political and religious ideas based on racism, patriarchy and homophobia are unworthy of respect. They need to be challenged, not tolerated.

You can, if you wish, read the bit in-between at The Independent, or a more thorough exploration of this topic in his article for Democratiya: ‘Their Multiculturalism and Ours’.