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Posts Tagged ‘multiculturalism’

[Article written on December 3, 2007]

I would really like to know what the proponents of multiculturalism, communitarianism and identity politics have to say about these three recent cases:

1) The case of the teacher Gillian Gibbons, who was sentenced to jail in Sudan because she allowed her class to call a teddy bear “Muhammad”. BBC tells you her story here

2) The case of the 19-year-old woman sentenced after she was raped. The woman is known only as Qatif Girl, after the region where the crime took place. “She was initially sentenced to 90 lashes for being in the car of a strange man. On appeal, the Arab News reported that the punishment was not reduced but increased to 200 lashes and a six-month prison sentence. (…) The victim’s lawyer was suspended from the case, has had his licence to work confiscated, and faces a disciplinary session” (BBC). See the whole story related by BBC here

3) The case of Aqsa Parvez, a 16-year-old Muslim girl from Brampton, Ontario (Canada). She was killed by her father because she refused to wear the hijab (the head scarf) anymore. More about this case here

As it is well known, multiculturalism puts forth an important challenge for the liberal theory. According to this ideology, the liberal ideal of treating people as equals cannot be reached by treating people in the same way. This is because there are no universal, “culturally blind” laws: every time, “universal laws” are, in fact, the laws of the majority group (or of one country, or culture), which are forcefully imposed on minority groups (or on other countries or cultures). As a consequence, such ideas as “universal human rights”, or even “human nature”, are culturally-framed: they are Western cultural ideas, and to enforce these ideas on individuals belonging to other cultures means simply to oppress them. According to the proponents of multiculturalism, treating individuals equally requires to treat them differently, to let them live according to their own cultural standards.

Well, as the above three cases show, this is simply stupid (I would have wished to say: “crap”). We really need universal rights. And imposing them on other cultures and countries (even by force, when necessary) seems to be the only way to go, if we don’t like to see such cases happening again.

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As far as I can see, in what concerns the relation between an individual and his cultural group, communitarians could endorse one of the following two claims:

(1) The group is ontologically, but not politically, prior to the individual. As a consequence, the interests of the group should be protected, but when these interests conflict with those of the individual members, individual interests (and rights) must always trump group interests (and rights)

(2) The group is both ontologically and politically prior to the individual. As a consequence, the interests of the group should be protected, and when these interests conflict with those of the individual members, group interests (and rights) must always trump individual interests (and rights)

If (1), then there is no conflict between liberalism and communitarianism. Even if some liberals deny that the group is ontologically prior to the individual, the problem is not that important. All that liberals want is to sanction the view that the individual is politically prior to his cultural group. In other words, (a) the group should be protected just because this protection increases the freedom and welfare of group’s individual members; (b) whenever there is a conflict between the group and (some of) its individual members, the interests of the individual members is prior. Bluntly put, I consider that this view is endorsed by liberal communitarians like Charles Taylor, Will Kymlicka and Joseph Raz. But this shows that there is no conflict between communitarianism and liberalism.

If (2), then the conflict is genuine: if group’s interests must always trump individual interests, then the group (in fact, its leaders, right?) has the right of life and death over its individual members. The “traditions” of the group (and the power of its leaders, right?) must always be defended, even at the expense of the individual members’ welfare and freedom. I do not know any communitarian theorist who would explicitly endorse this view, although Michael Sandel and Michael Walzer can be read as supporting a “soft” version of this idea.

In short: if (1), there is no conflict between liberalism and communitarianism in what concerns the relation between the individual and its cultural group. If (2), then this latter theory (if not simply wrong) cannot be sincerely endorsed by any mentally healthy person. So it seems that liberalism wins the case again.

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[Article written on March 1, 2008]

For English readers and for all those who are multiculturalists: you can find something about the torture of women and children in Islam now. Please click here. And if you want to learn how to beat your wife, here.

Pentru cititorii romani: pe blog-ul lui Manu, chaos_and_smiles posteaza urmatorul link. Sper ca nici unul, nici celalalt nu se vor supara pentru ca fac publica si pe acest blog respectiva chestiune. Metionez ca cei slabi de inima nu ar trebui sa faca click. Si eu, si Alina am ramas speachless. Sorry, dar chiar nu pot comenta. [si daca vrei sa afli cum trebuie sa iti bati nevasta, aici]

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