Cultural, Religious and Political Contestations: The Multicultural Challenge

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These essays amply justify his reputation and are a most welcome addition to the growing body of literature. Request Inspection Copy. Add to cart. Buy in the Americas. Ethics, Rights and Citizenship",. Identity and Difference,. Conflict, Change and Precarity",. Description Table of contents Author Whether the recently settled religious minorities, Muslims, in particular, can be accommodated as religious groups in European countries has become a central political question and threatens to create long-term fault lines.

Also Recommended. That is to say, they are not influenced by the debate and could indeed have been known without any dialogue having taken place. More precisely, they are known by reason not by dialogue or by who participates in the dialogue. Multiculturalists have rejected abstract reasoning by a sole reasoner or identical identity—less individuals in favour of dialogue. Moreover, the relationship between the relevant parties is likely to involve domination—subordination or inclusion—exclusion and that the weaker or newer party is likely to lack recognition or be misrecognised Taylor, Firstly, the solution to the problem, or the arriving of a principle by which to address the problem, needs an effort at cross—cultural understanding.

It is not just a question of taking material interests into account, but a matter of re designing the shared public space and rules of conduct so diverse cultural commitments and needs are explicitly taken into account. So that the public space does not simply reflect the dominant culture, but is opened up to accommodate new or marginalised minorities.

Secondly, this means that the solution is genuinely open. Rather, that the solution cannot be predicted in advance in the way that, say, the final step of a piece of mathematical reasoning can, of which we say the answer was there all along waiting to be discovered. The dialogue makes a difference: it contributes to a growth of understanding that genuinely is novel or additional to what was present before and the quality or character of the dialogue is dependent on the participants.

Thirdly, the dialogue is important not just in discovering an outcome, but in building a relationship of trust, co—operation and ultimately of belonging together between parties to the dialogue. The multiculturalist political theorists I have in mind include Iris Young, who assisted people to understand themselves as oppressed and to discover themselves in collective identities such as black or gay and to thus develop a liberatory identity and group politics and using it to engage with other groups to institute a new form of democratic politics Young, His interventions in relation to The Satanic Verses Affair, in which he argued against a freedom-of-speech absolutism and argued that angry Muslims must be given a sympathetic hearing, are exemplary Parekh, Rather, it is about ensuring that there is a genuine dialogue and that the minority is allowed to express its point of view.

While such dialogues inevitably have a majoritarian or status quo starting point, because even while wanting to express unfamiliar sensibilities and bring in new arguments, minorities are primarily trying to persuade the majority. This often takes the form of a minority arguing that what it is seeking is not so different to what the majority, at one time or another, has sought for itself.

This, then, is what I mean by saying that intercultural dialogue is central to multiculturalism, even foundational to it. This is not a hasty revisionism. What is true, however, is that interculturalists have made their own distinctive addition; an emphasis on cultural encounters and everyday interaction in localities, schools, clubs, public spaces. As my example of the Rushdie Affair shows the importance of dialogue has been central to multiculturalism but has been mainly thought of at the level of public discourses and political controversies.

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For Cantle, it is not dialogue or the importance of interaction that is supposed to mark the superiority of IC over MC. This is an old criticism in the subject area of equality and group identities, predating IC and has been extremely successful. By successful I mean that everybody has been persuaded, it is just about impossible to find anyone within the social sciences who does not agree that such identities are not based on cognitive or behavioural properties that are shared by all who may be members of a relevant group such as women, black people, gay and lesbians and so on.

If, then, group members do not share a common essence then they cannot be simply demarcated from non-group members because there will be many cases where individuals are not simply on one side of the boundary or the other. So groups cannot have discrete, nor indeed, fixed boundaries as these boundaries may vary across time and place, across social contexts and will be the subject of social construction and social change.

Anti-essentialism is a powerful way of handling ascriptive discourses, of showing that various popular or dominant ideas about women, gays or Muslims are not true as such but are aspects of socially constructed images that have been made to stick on to those groups of people because the ascribers are more powerful than the ascribed. The latter, in their variety, are not reducible to the essentialistic generalisations and stereotypes that are characteristics of ascriptions but not of lived-in identities.

Anti-essentialism, then, is an intellectually compelling idea, and a powerful resource in the cause of equality. Anti-essentialism, however, can be variously interpreted. The first is the sceptical interpretation that the critique kills the groups as real entities and they only live on as ascriptions or reactions to ascriptions or political make-believe. Another way of doing it is that employed by Anne Phillips in her book, Multiculturalism without Culture Phillips, , the intellectual thrust of which, that cultural groups do not exist, simply transposes into accommodating groups when it comes to politics, without any sense of obligation to reconcile these divergent intellectual and political positions.

I think groups are necessary to both social science and to anti-racism or egalitarian politics and so I offered an alternative interpretation of anti-essentialism.

The point is that Cantle and other interculturalists are mistaken in saying that multiculturalists assume that ethnic and religious minorities are discrete, bounded, static, homogeneous and reifed entities. Let us, however, return to the substantive question.

Cultural, Religious and Political Contestations

Given, that the political theory and sociology of multiculturalism speaks of ethnic groups not necessarily in a pure or singular form, but perhaps as or including the ethnoracial, ethnocultural, ethnoreligious and so on , what does ethnicity refer to? Namely that in relation to a group defined by descent there is an element of self-identification, and with it community norms and structures and the inter-subjectivity that constitutes a group or groupness.

The question, then, becomes can this ethnicity be given any content? Cultural Distinctiveness : norms and practices such as arranged marriage, existence of specific gender roles or a religion. Of course these norms and practices will to some extent be contested within the group and will modify and perhaps even disappear over time. The cultural distinctiveness therefore does not merely lie in conformity but also in the fact that one feels one needs to engage with those practices.

The way that some Muslim women are reinterpreting Islamic gender norms is a very good example. Disproportionality : a group may be marked by a disproportional distribution of a characteristic that is not distinctive eg. Moreover, the disproportional presence or absence of certain ethnic minorities in certain occupations may be to do with racism or features of a particular labour market but they may also be due to, for example, an ethnic group particularly favouring a certain profession eg.

Strategy : responses to a common set of circumstances eg. Creativity : some groups are identified with some innovations eg. Identity : membership of a group may carry affective meanings that may motivate or demotivate, eg. As for the normative implications in relation to placing hybridity and fluidity over the existence and recognition of groups, I have insisted that we should not approach the question in the spirit of a binary. I will not repeat those discussions here but the next section discusses aspects of the normative significance of groups.

Gerard Bouchard has offered a direct and pithy statement of it in English Bouchard, For him, the central feature of IC is that it frames the question of diversity in terms of a majority-minority duality, not the plurality characteristic of multiculturalism Bouchard, , pp. This is challenging for multiculturalists because it would be fair to say multiculturalists of the kind being defended here have not explicitly addressed the issue about the majority though see Levey, MC is not about opposing a given nation-state but of co-operatively and dialogically adapting it and re-imagining it, i.

So perhaps it is not entirely accurate to say that multiculturalists have neglected to note the normative significance of the majority tout court. Yet, on the whole, while the national culture is assumed as an appropriate normative context, multiculturalists do not explicitly discuss the concept of the majority or the idea of majority rights or recognition.

It is assumed that a minority culture can be identified as distinct from what it needs to be included into but much less is said about the majority culture in this respect.

I confess to being guilty here. Having admitted that multiculturalists like myself have not engaged much with the concept of he majority, I would like to do two things here. Firstly, I will state what I think has been the view of the concept of the majority implicit in MC. Secondly, I will go beyond that to develop further the concept of a national multiculturalism that I have advocated in the context of Britain.

Protection from racism, cultural racism and Islamophobia not from majority culture per se. There should be no insistence on assimilation but nor should there be any hinderance against uncoercive social processes of assimilation or self-chosen assimilation; different modes of integration should be equally welcomed.

There should be multicultural accommodation of minorities within shared public institutions. Minorities should be able to make claims on the national culture and identity in their own ways and this remaking of national identity is part of multicultural citizenship and should be welcomed and encouraged by the majority. Rather the above list allows us to note that one of the noticeable differences between MC and IC is the emphasis the former puts on anti-racism and beyond that to acknowledging the role of the political, of contestations and the challenging of power relations.

MCs like me clearly accept that liberal democratic states may promote a national culture within liberal limits and respecting other group identities and this would be of benefit to the society or polity as a whole. The multiculturalist point is that the predominance that the cultural majority enjoys in the shaping of the national culture, symbols and institutions should not be exercised in non-minority accommodating ways.

So, the goal is legitimate but the constraints are not just about traditional liberal freedoms of the individual, which may be enough to ensure non-discrimination and non-coercive assimilation, but also respect for post-immigration ethnoracial, ethnocultural and ethnoreligious group identities.

This respect is both a constraint on the kind of national cultural identity building that may be pursued but, more positively, it is an opportunity for creating a certain kind of national identity, namely one which includes those kinds of group identities in the revised or reformed national identity, critically reforming but without displacing the narrative of the majority within the national identity. Minorities may wish to contest dominant narratives which exclude them or fail to respect them and their contribution but they do not compete with the majority in a zero-sum game.

I have argued that the process should be seen as a kind of egalitarian levelling up, where the minorities come to share the public space, not a form of dispossession of the majority. More positively still, that the accommodation of minorities should not be seen as a drag on the national identity but as a positive resource; not as diluting the national culture but vivifying and enrichening it. Whilst liberal nationalism is often offered in relation to facilitating the solidarity that enables social democratic redistribution of resources, the distinctive goal of multicultural nationalism is to allow people to hold, adapt, hyphenate, fuse and create identities important to them in the context of their being co-citizens and members of socio-cultural, ethnoracial and ethnoreligious groups.

Levey has suggested that my acceptance of the cultural predominance of the majority is simply as an empirical fact and is not sufficiently normative Levey, , p. Yet, Bouchard , pp. In any case, let me give two examples to illustrate the general points that I have been making about a multiculturalist position in relation to national identity and the respective claims of the majority and the minorities. The examples illustrate two different but complementary, indeed mutually necessary, aspects of multiculturalism.

This is reflected in symbolic and substantive aspects of the constitution. For example, 26 Anglican bishops sit by virtue of that status in the upper house of the UK legislature, the House of Lords.

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It is the Archbishop of Canterbury that presides over the installation of a new head of state, namely the coronation of the monarch. Given the rapidity of changes that are affecting British national identity, and the way in which religion, sometimes in a divisive way, is making a political reappearance, I think it would be wise not to discard lightly this historic aspect of British identity, which continues to be of importance to many even when few attend Church of England services and when that Church may perhaps have been overtaken by Catholicism as the largest organised religion in the country.

Yet, in my advocacy of a multiculturalized Britain I would like to see the Church of England share these constitutional privileges—which should perhaps be extended—with other faiths. My expectation is that even in the context of an explicit multifaithism the Church of England would enjoy a rightful precedence in the religious representation in the House of Lords and in the coronation of the monarch.

This, however, would not be just a crude majoritarianism nor based only on its historical significance but also on its actual track record in furthering multiculturalism and its potential to play a leading role in the evolution of a multiculturalist national identity, state and society.

My second example is about religion in non-denominational state schools. I think multiculturalism should support a compulsory religious education RE in which children of all faiths and none are taught about a variety of faith traditions and their past and current effects upon individuals and societies, upon the shaping of humanity, taught to classes comprising those of all religions and those of none.