What’s wrong with multiculturalism

Kenan Malik has yet another brilliant essay on multiculturalism. He says:

Part of the problem in discussions about multiculturalism is that the term has, in recent years, come to have two meanings that are all too rarely distinguished. The first is what I call the lived experience of diversity. The second is multiculturalism as a political process, the aim of which is to manage that diversity. The experience of living in a society that is less insular, more vibrant and more cosmopolitan is something to welcome and cherish. It is a case for cultural diversity, mass immigration, open borders and open minds.

As a political process, however, multiculturalism means something very different. It describes a set of policies, the aim of which is to manage and institutionalize diversity by putting people into ethnic and cultural boxes, defining individual needs and rights by virtue of the boxes into which people are put, and using those boxes to shape public policy. It is a case, not for open borders and minds, but for the policing of borders, whether physical, cultural or imaginative.

The conflation of lived experience and political policy has proved highly invidious. On the one hand, it has allowed many on the right – and not just on the right – to blame mass immigration for the failures of social policy and to turn minorities into the problem. On the other hand, it has forced many traditional liberals and radicals to abandon classical notions of liberty, such as an attachment to free speech, in the name of defending diversity. That is why it is critical to separate these two notions of multiculturalism, to defend diversity as lived experience – and all that goes with it, such as mass immigration and cultural openness – but to oppose multiculturalism as a political process.

You must read this now: PART 1 and PART 2.

By the way, have I ever mentioned that I can’t get enough of Kenan’s writings?

 

Bangladesh Genocide: What Human Rights, Anti-racist and Peace Organisations won’t tell you

Tonight, the Centre for Secular Space is hosting a conversation on the Bangladesh Genocide: What Human Rights, Anti-racist and Peace Organisations won’t tell you.

Gita Sahgal, co-founder of the Centre for Secular Space talks to Dr Ghayasuddin Siddiqui (former Islamist, now Muslim reformer) and Asif Munier (pro-Jonmo 71, children of the Martyrs of the Liberation War) about the survivors’ campaign for justice, genocide denial and the promotion of the Jamaat-e -Islami in Britain to the detriment of secular Muslims and ex-Muslims.

Here is more information on the event:

Date: 27 November 2012
Time: 7:00 PM- 9:00pm
Venue: SOAS, Russell Square College Buildings
Room: Khalili Lecture Theatre

To register please email Gita@centreforsecularspace.org

I’ll be in Texas this weekend

I will be in Houston, Texas during 30 November – 2 December 2012 for a two-day symposium organised by the Institute of Humanist Studies entitled ‘Does theism have an impact on public policy and, if it does, what is it and how should humanists respond to this situation?’ held on the Rice University campus.

My talk will be “Rethinking Islam in Public Policy: A Secular Response”.

Not one more execution

Don’t forget that today is the international day of protest against executions and for the release of political prisoners in Iran. Join this day of protest to bring attention to and stop the state-sponsored killings. Write protest letters, join actions and rallies in your city of residence, or carry out acts of solidarity… anything that will help raise our voices in unison against the executions and torture. They must be stopped now.

You can find a list of events taking place here and here (in English).

Here’s more on why the day is important from Mina Ahadi:

In another tsunami of executions, the Islamic regime of Iran has executed 57 people in the last two weeks.

On 11 November, we received news that 35 people had been executed in Vakilabad Prison in Mashad, including a 21 year old and 4 Afghans (one of whom was a human rights campaigner). On 13 November, 8 were executed in Gohardasht prison. On 14 November, 3 were publicly executed in Arak and 1 was executed in Rejaee Shahr Prison. Currently, 3,000 people, many young, are on death row in Iran. The pretext for these killings is often drug trafficking or similar offences. [Read more…]

Not anti-Semitism or Islamophobia

The Right-wing are in overdrive trying to prove how the children killed by Israeli forces in Gaza are fakes.

Their crocodile tears for ‘Muslim’ women and children are only for when and if they are murdered by Islamists; then (and only then), are these part-time ‘champions of women’s rights’ outraged. But if they are killed by US-led militarism or Israeli forces, well they must be fakes!

It’s like those who side with Islamism. They’ll be outraged about the Palestinians killed by Israeli forces but if those very Palestinians, Iranians or Syrians are killed by Hamas, Asad, the Islamic regime of Iran and their brethren, it’s  just propaganda and ‘so-called massacres’…

This is politics devoid of humanity; it’s only concerned with the human being if it suits its interests…

Oh and by the way, criticising the Israeli occupation or attacks on Gaza are not anti-Semitism and bigotry any more than criticising Islamism is Islamophobia and racism against Muslims.

But then again, they are not really concerned with bigotry – just with pursuing their inhuman politics.

Doing the Taliban proud

The bad news is that a Pakistani court has sentenced 25 year old Hazrat Ali Shah to death for blaspheming against Mohammed and the Koran during a quarrel in his village in northern Pakistan in March 2011. Mother of five Asia Bibi also remains in prison whilst appealing her death sentence for ‘derogatory’ comments about Mohammad.

At least Pakistan has dropped blasphemy charges against 14 year old Rimsha for allegedly burning verses of the Koran (most likely only because the imam in question has tampered with the evidence).

Now all that the government needs to do (in this matter) is to rescind the blasphemy legislation altogether and immediately free all those imprisoned on blasphemy charges.

Isn’t it ironic how the Pakistani government tries to give itself a more humane portrayal by defending Malala Yousefzai vis-a-vis the Taliban whilst simultaneously issuing blasphemy rulings that would make the Taliban proud? If the Taliban and their Islamist brethren could, they would easily and LEGALLY sentence Malala to death for blasphemy.

Not that they aren’t trying.

The disgusting Sharia4Pakistan has called for Malala to be put on ‘trial in a Shariah court for the crimes she has been accused of’ – which according to them include insulting and belittling Islam and espionage!

By the way, Al-Mohajiroun – and the British Islamist Anjem Choudhary – are even holding a conference on 30 November to issue their fatwa against Malala and more.

Well it is a fight after all. They want to defend their medieval and barbaric rules in the face of the immense tide of support for Malala with their usual threats and fatwas.

What they haven’t realised is that they have already lost…

By all means, take a stand

On Sunday, whilst I was at the cinema with my seven year old, 9 children were killed by the Israeli government’s relentless attacks on Gaza; 90 Palestinians and three Israelis have been killed since Wednesday.

The thought of one child dead – one just like mine – leaves me insane with rage.

And whilst human beings are murdered in broad daylight and cold blood, including entire families being wiped out, there are those despicables who “take a stand” with the murderous Israeli government on the one hand or the  murderous Hamas on the other. It’s like those who side with either the US government on the one hand or the Islamic regime of Iran and the Asad regime on the other rather than siding with real live human beings.

How people can be duped into blindly supporting and excusing governments that kill and murder at will whilst ignoring their real interests and how their lives and interests are intrinsically linked with  people who are often labelled ‘the enemy’ never ceases to astonish me.

By all means, take a stand. You are not human if you don’t feel the need to do so. But why not take it on behalf of the Israeli and Palestinian people and not those who are committing the murders…

Not rocket science but it does feel like it sometimes.

24 November: International Day of Protest against tsunami of executions in Iran

In another tsunami of executions, the Islamic regime of Iran has executed 57 people in the last two weeks.

On 11 November, we received news that 35 people had been executed in Vakilabad Prison in Mashad, including a 21 year old and 4 Afghans (one of whom was a human rights campaigner). On 13 November, 8 were executed in Gohardasht prison. On 14 November, 3 were publicly executed in Arak and 1 was executed in Rejaee Shahr Prison. Currently, 3,000 people, many young, are on death row in Iran. The pretext for these killings is often drug trafficking or similar offences.

Others have been killed under torture whilst in custody, including Jamil Sowaidi in Ahvaz and blogger Sattar Beheshti. Beheshti was buried in the presence of armed security forces this week. His family was effectively prevented from holding his funeral and were put under pressure not to contact international media. Political prisoners who were with Beheshti have written a joint letter attesting to his heinous torture marks. Death row prisoner Zanyar Moradi’s father recently reported that his son is again being tortured in prison whilst labour activist Shahrokh Zamani recently reported on the horrific tortures he and others have faced in prison via two letters smuggled out from prison. The maltreatment of women prisoners, including lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh, has also recently been highlighted in the media. There is talk of stepping up executions from some officials.

The executions and deaths in custody are meant to intimidate the public and stifle social protests, particularly given the economic crisis and widespread poverty and opposition to the regime.

The International Committee against Executions has designated Saturday 24 November as an international day of protest against executions and for the release of political prisoners in Iran. Join this day of protest to bring attention to and stop the state-sponsored killings. Write protest letters, join actions and rallies in your city of residence, or carry out acts of solidarity… anything that will help raise our voices in unison against the executions and torture. They must be stopped now.

Mina Ahadi
International Committee against Execution
International Committee against Stoning
Email: minaahadi@aol.com
Tel: 0049 (0) 1775692413

http://notonemoreexecution.org

http://stopstonningnow.com/wpress/

Iran: two sides to the story

Jafar Panahi’s “This is Not a Film” provides an important glimpse into the extent and nature of the Islamic regime of Iran’s oppression and the injustices of Sharia law.

His entire film-making career has been – in his own words – “constructed around the notion of restriction, limitation, confinement and boundaries”.

Take any week in the life of this regime and its true nature becomes as clear as daylight.

This past week, at least 22 people were executed in Tehran, Shiraz and Kerman. Every single one of them – as WH Auden has said – was someone’s north, south, east and west.

One of those killed under torture was 35 year old blogger Sattar Beheshti who was arrested a week earlier on bogus “national security” charges and whose parents were called yesterday and told: “prepare a grave; your son is dead”. His parents were not even allowed to prepare his body for burial – the regime did it for them – to prevent his tortured body from being seen.

Under totalitarianism and dictatorships like that of the Islamic regime of Iran, one eats “fear for breakfast, fear for lunch and for dinner, fear” as Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano says. That’s how the system works; how it maintains itself. You cannot rely on anything; and you can never be sure if you will survive a run-in with the authorities.

The best way I can describe it is that it is how things are under an Islamic inquisition

But fear and repression are only one side of the story.

It is in Panahi’s film. If Panahi is forbidden from making a film, them he will be filmed describing the film he is banned from making. And this refusal is as much a part of Iranian society – and even more so – than the repression.

There are countless examples – from the protests post 2009 fraudulent elections; the constant battle over the veil; regular labour strikes and sit-ins; the fight back from political prisoners and mothers of those killed or imprisoned…

And I think that is the very human and inspiring other side to the story that’s visible in Panahi’s film. It’s the refusal to submit and the extraordinary courage of sometimes very ordinary people. [Read more…]

End-Year Drinks with the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain

Members and supporters are invited to join the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain for end-year drinks.

Date: Tuesday 11 December 2012
Time: 18:30-20:00 Hours
Location: Central London

Entry: £10 per person; £7 for unwaged (including one drink and canapés).

Special Guest Speaker: Philosopher A C Grayling on ‘Secularism as a Human Right’. [Read more…]

One law for All – Passion For Freedom – Awards 2012

One Law for All’s 4th Passion for Freedom Art Festival opened on 3 November with a private viewing at Unit24 Gallery. Hundreds attended the viewing.

The festival, which is addressing the issue of freedom, is showcasing the work of over 40 artists from 20 countries worldwide (including censored works shown in London for the very first time) under the direction of Agnieszka Kolek, KM Curator and Marianna Fox, Assistant Curator.

gallery

Winners of the 2012 Freedom Awards are as follows: [Read more…]

Despite the Fear

Last night’s private viewing of One Law for All’s 4th Passion for Freedom Art Festival was absolutely brilliant. I spent most of the night on the couch in the back feeling ill but managed to give my speech. The art was fantastic – some shocking, others heart-wrenching or inspiring, and all of them thought-provoking. The festival is on until 10 November so drop by if you can. More details on the night’s winners are to follow but here is a piece by Nick Cohen in the Spectator about it. You can also see some photos of the night hereThe people’s vote went to a painting in homage to Pussy Riot (see featured photo).  Here’s my speech:

Under totalitarianism and dictatorship, one eats “fear for breakfast, fear for lunch and for dinner, fear” says Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano.

Fear is palpable when one lives under an Islamic inquisition, even if it’s not experienced directly.

Even here in Europe – Islamism’s Sharia laws and fatwas of censorship and death for everything from blasphemy, heresy, and apostasy become secular ones – where the artist or dissenter is not routinely imprisoned or killed (even if the threat is always there) but proclaimed ‘guilty’ of offence, disrespect, intolerance, and Islamophobia, thereby making censorship and self-censorship ‘justifiable’.

Where it rules, Islamism forbids you to dissent; here, it convinces you that dissent is impossible.

Yet fear is only part of the story; it is what we do despite the fear that counts.

In the late 1980s, whilst working in Sudan, I and a Burmese colleague whose name I cannot recall initiated an underground human rights organisation opposed to the Islamic regime there. When things got tricky, he said the fear was secondary. Taking action – even when one is afraid – that is the sign of true courage. [Read more…]

Where I’ll be this month

I’ll be at the following places this month:

Tomorrow 3 November 2012, I’ll be attending and speaking at One Law for All’s Passion for Freedom Art Festival private view from 6.30-9.30pm. More details here.

During 8-11 November 2012 I will be speaking at the Jersey Human Rights Festival on the human rights situation in Iran, censorship and Sharia law. More details here.

On 17 November 2012 I’ll be attending a private luncheon to celebrate the CEMB forum‘s 5th anniversary.

During 30 November – 2 December 2012 I will be speaking at a two-day symposium organised by the Institute of Humanist Studies entitled ‘Does theism have an impact on public policy and, if it does, what is it and how should humanists respond to this situation?’ held on the Rice University campus in Houston, Texas.

In between I have decided I will be learning how to drive – I’ve given myself from now until end December to do it so better stay off the roads if you can…