February 2014 Unveiled: anti-immigration confusion, World Hijab Day and on Hassan Rouhani

fitnah-UNVEILED-Feb14Unveiled: A Publication of Fitnah – Movement for Women’s Liberation 
February 2014; Volume 2, Issue 2
Editor: Maryam Namazie; Design: Kiran Opal

Pdf version of publication available here.

In this issue:
Interview with Kenan Malik: Secularism, Islamism and the Anti-Immigration Confusion
January 2014 Newsflash
Campaign: End Ban on Female Fans in Iran; Stadiums for All
Editorials: Hassan Rouhani’s charm offensive is just plain offensive and World Hijab Day

Secularism, Islamism and the Anti-Immigration Confusion
Interview with Kenan Malik

Maryam Namazie: Restrictions demanded by Islamists are viewed as the demand of Muslims and immigrants who are seen to be a homogeneous group with no differences of opinion. Immigrants and Muslims are often blamed for all of Britain and Europe’s woes but particularly for the rise of Sharia courts, the burqa or 7/7. Your views?

Kenan Malik: When I was working on my book From Fatwa to Jihad, I interviewed Naser Khader, a Danish MP and one of the best known Muslims in the country. He recalled a conversation he had had at the time of the Danish cartoon controversy with Toger Seidenfaden, editor of the left-wing newspaper Politiken. ‘He said to me that the cartoons insulted all Muslims’, Khader remembers. ‘I said I was not insulted. And he said, “But you’re not a real Muslim”.’

That sums up the liberal attitude towards Muslims. You are only a ‘proper’ Muslim if you want to ban Danish cartoons, or are offended by The Satanic Verses or think that Monica Ali’s Brick Lane is demeaning to your community. Similarly, you are only a proper Sikh if you are offended by Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti’s play Behzti. Someone like Naser Khader, on the other hand, or like Salman Rushdie or Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti, or Monica Ali, are seen as too liberal, too ‘Westernized’, too progressive, to be truly of their community.

The consequence has been that the most reactionary figures get to be seen as the authentic voices of those communities. And in presenting Muslim communities in this fashion, liberals do the racists’ job for them. The protests against the cartoons, as Khader put it, ‘were not about Mohammed. They were about who should represent Muslims’. And what was ‘really offensive’ to him was that ‘journalists and politicians see the fundamentalists as the real Muslims’.

It’s one of the ironies of the liberal multicultural view. Liberals argue for multicultural policies on the grounds that we live in a diverse nation. But they seem also to believe that such diversity somehow magically stops at the edges of minority communities. They wash over differences and conflicts in those communities, seeing them instead as fixed, homogenous groups with a single set of views, primarily driven by faith. And they rely on so-called community leaders to be suitable judges of what is and is not acceptable or necessary for that community. As a result, progressive voices often get silenced as ‘inauthentic’ or as not really being of that community.

Maryam Namazie: Free expression is a demand of those without power vis-a-vis the powers that be. It seems more often than not, it is those with power and influence making such demands at the expense of those who need it most. I’m thinking of Islamists using rights language to deny rights and expression. Free speech and expression have often been censored under the guise of respecting the sensibilities of Islamists (couched in terms of Muslim or minority sensibilities). [Read more…]

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?