France is still a non-multicultural, assimilationist environment (...)
France is still a non-multicultural, assimilationist environment (...)
The sugary excerpt of the day from Alain Finkielkraut who is almost as blind as he is rotten by his self-righteousness:
C'est trop souvent dangereux ou juste inutile d'être trop intelligent et de le savoir !
I am pained to see that the French mode of European civilization is threatened. France is in the process of transforming into a post-national and multicultural society. It seems to me that this enormous transformation does not bring anything good. I am pained to see that the French mode of European civilization is threatened. France is in the process of transforming into a post-national and multicultural society. It seems to me that this enormous transformation does not bring anything good. (...)Today the Muslims in France like to shout in an act of self-assertion: We are just as French as you! It would have never occurred to my parents to say something like that. I would also never say that I am just as French as Charles de Gaulle was.
From the great Pankaj Mishra:
The European idea of the nation-state, realized after much horrific bloodshed in Europe itself, was always a poor fit for Asia’s diverse mosaic.
Joseph Roth, who grew up in the multinational Hapsburg empire, was appalled by the imperatives of modern nationalism, according to which “every person must belong to a definite nationality or race” in order to be treated as an individual citizen. Roth, a Jew, suspected that members of minority groups, like himself, would be relegated to third-class citizenship, and vicious prejudice against them would be made respectable in the new nation-states built on the ruins of multinational empires.
The ethnic cleansers of 20th century Europe proved him right. It required a monstrous crime and a repentant political imagination to institute peace between warring European nations and soften attitudes toward minorities.
The battle against bigotry is far from over; Europe’s long and violent past today looms over its inevitably multicultural future.
Ah I have always found fascinating the idea that some things are inevitable especially when it is based on the assumption that ethnicity is destiny and identity!
I like John McWhorter and Glenn Loury and their conversation on race is fascinating especially for somebody like me who believes she got beyond race. That isn't to say that race doesn't matter, but rather that it does because people want it to matter in order to make the world simple and to put people within tiny and beautiful boxes.
To talk about Cornel West, I think he epitomizes of the fact that race forces people to be inauthentic and to hold on to bad faith in a pointless, vile and desperate attempt to make race matter more than anything else.
Sugary excerpt of the day from Anjad Khan:
Essentially, Islamists have been successful in the UK where they have failed elsewhere. They have duped the establishment into thinking that they represent Muslims and Islam, all the while using that as a guise to promote divisive and potentially explosive identity politics. Their job has, of course, been made easier by soft deluded “liberal” multiculturalists who are in fact guilty of the racism of lower expectation and who don’t apply universal norms to the ‘exotic’ others who we can’t expect to behave like us.
Thoughtless and aggravating quote of the day from Max Rodenbeck :
Yemen is a messy place, with a fearsomely well-armed, fiercely tribal society of immense complexity.
So Yemen is America!
The point of my purposeful (I hope) provocation is to put an emphasis of the fact that too many use the world 'tribal' when their underlying assumption is that what they are describing is foreign, 'non-western (that doesn't mean anything),' barbaric, backwards, illegitimate, or just uncivilized. In short. tribal is a pejorative term, melting pot, countries filled with communities isn't. It occurs rarely to people to criticize the fact that America accepts to be divided into communities without ever questioning the fact that it might be hindering its progress. The assumption is that the difference between tribal and 'communitarism' is solely a matter of civilization,' of the level of a society sophistication.' Barbarians are tribal, modern men are cultured and civilized enough to acknowledge that race, religion, sexual orientation and other particularities matter more than commonness or an artificial universality.
I agree with Paul Sagar on this:
When Merkel declares that multiculturalism has been a “failure”, she is not only playing to a xenophobic and reactionary gallery, she is also being profoundly short-sighted. Firstly, because she mistakenly focuses only on the day-to-day tensions between different groups that multiculturalism inevitable throws up.
It's incredibly disappointing to realize that Merkel has some Sarkozy within her, which says a lot about the state of the European left for it cannot address issues such as the ones of immigration or law and order without repeating either the errors of Blairism or of Jospinism.
Multiculturalism has greatly enriched Canada, making it a more interesting, vibrant and outward-looking country. But multiculturalism can be dangerous if diaspora politics twist Canada’s foreign policies to suit ethnic demands.
Quote of the day from Ujjal Dosanjh:
I think what we are doing to this country is that this idea of multiculturalism has been completely distorted, turned on its head to essentially claim that anything anyone believes – no matter how ridiculous and outrageous it might be – is okay and acceptable in the name of diversity. (...) Where we have gone wrong in this pursuit of multiculturalism is that there is no adherence to core values, the core Canadian values, which [are]: That you don’t threaten people who differ with you; you don’t go attack them personally; you don’t terrorize the populace
Clifford Orwin has a blunt take on the whole niqab controversy in Québec:
Yes, Canada, some of those fellow citizens, being Muslim, dress so as to conceal more of themselves than do their sisters of other faiths. And yes, their veil bears a name so unfamiliar as to sound downright un-Canadian. They pay taxes, however, in the very same currency as we do, and are entitled to the very same services. They cannot be denied these for exercising their religious freedom.
Yes, their religious freedom. Forget about “multiculturalism”: The issue here is both older and more fundamental. It's the right of every resident of a liberal state to conduct herself as she thinks pleasing to God, on the sole condition that such conduct not violate the rights of others. And while wearing a niqab may send some observers into a high dudgeon, it impairs neither their civil interests nor their religious ones. To paraphrase Thomas Jefferson, whether their neighbour wears no niqab or three niqabs neither picks their pocket nor breaks their bones.
I agree with Orwin. However, the matter to me isn't about religion. It is about women's choices and their right that they have, as individuals, to do whatever they choose with their body, to dress however they choose even it means sending messages society is not comfortable with. I have never bought the whole sacredness of religion argument it isn't very convincing. I believe in individual rights for everybody even people who are still viewed as sexual objects or as people who either have to be invisible, transparent, hidden or just good to look at In short, the niqab/hijab/burka/burqa/veil is about equality and liberty
Telling anecdote from Lysiane Gagnon:
A reporter from La Presse spent two days walking around Montreal dressed like a fundamentalist Muslim, with a long black robe and a niqab that covered everything but her eyes, but in most places – in the Metro, fast-food restaurants or on the streets – she went rather unnoticed and was not subjected to any aggressive reaction, except a few hard glances.
Is it possible that the debate about the niqab/burqa/burka/islamic veil isn't about the niqab/burqa/burka/islamic veil but about something else?
Sugary excerpt from Les Perraux's essential article on the different perceptions in Québec and the rest of Canada on the burka/burqa/niqab and what it says about Canada's brand of multiculturalism:
Prominent Quebeckers known for promoting equality, including Mr. Taylor, Mr. Bouchard and Ms. McAndrew, argued the gender segregation that comes with the niqab – along the practical barrier of a covered mouth – was too much to expect from a provincial Immigration Ministry class designed to teach spoken French and help integration.
In the rest of Canada, it was often the mainstream view in Quebec that was shunned.
One Toronto television commentator linked Quebec's fertility subsidies to the banishment of Ms. Ahmed – a barely disguised suggestion that Quebec wants women to be uneducated and pregnant.
Ms. McAndrew argues Canadians looking down on Quebec should consider why debate seems impossible outside the province.
“Public debate in Quebec is vigorous, and the level of the debate is complex. On diversity, the debate is very poor in Canada. It's marshmallow multiculturalism. You're okay, I'm okay,” she said.
“It's tolerance, but it's very soft and will face its own challenges at some point.”
Having addressed this issue several times, I have no doubt that it isn't going to go away because Québec is not going to give up its own views of secularism and integration to please the rest of Canada,. However, the key issue is being ignored in this debate and that is the state shouldn't have the right, any more than religious figures or anybody else, to tell women how to dress and to tell them that they defined by their body and how they present it. Anything else about gender discrimination and equality is gibberish designed to mask a totalitarian view of gender with popular and seemingly modern principles.
Quote of the day from Jonathan Laurence :
(...) recent cases show that the combination of extreme alienation from US foreign policy, whipped up with religious fervor, can trump even the relatively harmonious multicultural setting of American society.
The irony of multiculturalism as a political process is that it undermines much of what is valuable about diversity as lived experience. When we talk about diversity, what we mean is that the world is a messy place, full of clashes and conflicts. That's all for the good, for such clashes and conflicts are the stuff of political and cultural engagement.
(...)Multiculturalism, on the other hand, by reposing political problems in terms of culture or faith, transforms political conflicts into a form that makes them neither useful nor resolvable. Rather than ask, for instance, "What are the social roots of racism and what structural changes are required to combat it?" it demands recognition for one's particular identity, public affirmation of one's cultural difference and respect and tolerance for one's cultural and faith beliefs.
Multicultural policies have come to be seen as a means of empowering minority communities and giving them a voice. In reality such policies have empowered not individuals but "community leaders" who owe their position and influence largely to their relationship with the state. Multicultural policies tend to treat minority communities as homogenous wholes, ignoring class, religious, gender and other differences, and leaving many within those communities feeling misrepresented and, indeed, disenfranchised.
Britain's brand of multiculturalism has failed because it placed at its center the cult of diversity and thus sacralized differences in the name of culture and of religion making moral judgments difficult and segregation/sectarianism unavoidable. I'm uncomfortable with drawing sharp distinctions between Britain's multiculturalism and diversity because in the mind of too many those two concepts have merged. Nowadays, people who argues fanatically for diversity are in fact doing so by categorizing people, by hierarchizing particularities, and thus deciding which ones ought to more important than others. The trouble with both multiculturalism and diversity as they are commonly understood is that they lead to desindividualization. People are forced to identity with a group of people in order to matter and to avoid marginalization because identity politics is the most potent form of politics.
To put things more simply, the only acceptable multicultural society is one, which sees that people as individuals, not as member of a group/community/whatever else and recognizes that culture and particularities are never legitimate justifications for the erosion of the social compact and the unjustifiable.
Interesting: explanation of the different visions that Québec and Canada have on the Niqab, and more importantly on integration:
(...) English Canada embraces a multiculturalist ideal: Come to Canada, and bring your differences with you. In French Canada, you can have your differences, “but please do become a Quebecker.”
Quebec's francophone majority identifies itself as a fragile minority that must be ever vigilant against cultural erosion. In that context, collective rights often outweigh individual ones, especially when it comes to language or schooling. Quebec, like France, is also fiercely devoted to secularism. “We've had a long and painful struggle with the place of religion in this society, and a lot of people feel strongly about the separation of church and state,” says Mr. Lagacé.
The Quebec-English differences over immigration and integration echo those between France and Britain. France is contemplating a ban on the burka and niqab. In Britain, any politician who'd dare suggest such a thing would be denounced as a fascist.
In English Canada, provincial government officials are only too eager to distance themselves from intolerant Quebec. “We are an open Ontario,” said a spokeswoman for that province's immigration minister. “In Nova Scotia, people have a right to express themselves any way they wish around their faith,” its immigration minister said.
It makes sense that Québec would want its immigrants to assimilate in order to be Quebeckers first to increase its population and strengthen its special minority status within Canada and Canadian second. The issue is whether it is framing the issue the right way and fighting the right battles. The problem is that these differences that exist within Canada are going to be increasingly difficult to coexist within the same country because they are based on very different visions of society and hierarchy of fundamentals value. The whole niqab episode has shown that even the politicians of Québec don't fully know how immigrants can become 'good ' Québécois, but they know what their fears are, which explains why the focus has been placed on the usual and weakest subjects: visibly "different" women.
In France, where there is an inflamed debate on the matter right now, the first investigation carried out by the police last year found that there were 367 women in France who wore burka or Niqab – 0.015% of the population. This was so low that the secret service was told to count again, and came up with a figure of 2,000; in Holland there seem to be about 400, and in Sweden a respectable guess suggests 100. The most fascinating figure of all, though, came from the Danish researchers, who actually interviewed some of the covered women. Most were young, or at least under forty, and half of them were white converts. I think this makes it entirely clear that in modern Europe the burka is not an atavistic hangover, but a very modern gesture of disaffection from and rejection of society, which appeals to a certain kind of extreme temperament.
If those stats are right, it means in my opinion that banning the Burka/burqa is even more of an invitation for women who want to make a point to wear it as an act of defiance and of rejection of 'modern' society. The question that I have then is whether the Burqa/Burka becomes less threatening to the usual suspects if it isn't a symbol of women's submision or of a proof of Islamisation, but simply an instrument of rebellion? My answer is that it doesn't matter for what a woman wants to wear is her business and should never become a matter for the state or for a religion.
In Quebec, most agreed with the decision to expel the niqab-wearing woman, including constitutional lawyer Julius Grey, who has defended the right of inmates to smoke in prison and the right of Sikh students to wear ceremonial daggers in class. “Accommodation should not lead to separation,” he said.
Yolande Geadah, an Egyptian-born writer, said: “There is no possible compromise with people with such inflexible attitudes.” Raheel Raza, a Pakistani-born Muslim women's rights activist, said: “When we come to Canada, we're not coming to the Islamic Republic of Canada.”
The irony is that, last fall, Egypt's top Islamic cleric said students and teachers at Cairo's Al-Azhar University would not be allowed to wear face veils in classrooms and dorms on the grounds they had “nothing to do with Islam.” The education ministry later barred the niqab during exams, to prevent students from sending others to take the tests. Although an Egyptian court subsequently ordered a stay on the Al-Azhar ban and overturned the education ministry's decision, we have to ask ourselves: Should Canadian colleges be more tolerant of Islamic fundamentalism than Cairo's universities?
Wow, in what world do we live in to make the argument that a woman becomes dangerous and infectious because of what she wears? And how convincing is it for Lysiane Gagnon to argue that Canada must be as open on the so-called woman's issues as Egyptians? Did I miss a big part of this movie not to be able to understand why the body of a woman can never be fully their own, but an instrument to make either a political or a religious point? I'm forced to realize that Islamists and feminists agree on at least a central issue : a woman is what she wears.
Aleksandar Hemon's pertinent words on the effects that technology has on immigration and more specifically on the immigrants:
I think technology has a neutral value at best; it could be used for good things or bad things. I think it fundamentally changes the situation of assimilation or participation in society. Because you can stay in touch daily with wherever you came from and you can listen to live broadcasts of radio stations or the prayers from the mosques or read daily newspapers, complete with obituaries online. I met a guy in St. Louis, a city that has the largest Bosnian population [in America], who, when he got nostalgic would get on the Web and watch snow fall in Sarajevo.
Ellis Island immigrants, on the other hand, would come in, work hard, be exploited, make it or not make it but even those who made it would go back thirty to forty years later to the village of their origin and they would find that one or two people remembered them. So it was easy to sever connections, and in some ways it was natural: your life was here, your old life was there. But I know a large number of Bosnians in Chicago who send their kids to Bosnia over the summer—school’s over, they send them to Grandma. These kids are bilingual, bicultural. Displacement is not necessarily political. You can go back and forth. Transportation has become relatively cheap. Masses of people are moving around the world: immigrants, refugees, labor migrants. It’s an entirely different world.
I'm wondering whether technology isn't just a tool that is reflecting that the fact that immigration has changed because the world has gotten smaller and also that at the same time, it has become more fragmented. Immigrants when they move to a new country no longer leave everything behind; to the contrary, they are able more often than not to live within a community of their compatriots that has recreated its home environment a best as it could. Globalization may have compressed both time and space, it has made people less willing to change their identities or adapt their culture for those have become too sacred to touch.
Great article in the Boston Review from John R. Bowen refuting the arguments of those who argue that Europe is becoming Eurabia and that it has everything to fear from its increasing "Muslim population." It is a must-read; here is a sugary excerpt:
Some Islamophobes claim that differences in civilization and religion between Islam and Europe will last because a fast-growing Muslim population is poised to take over European cities and establish political control in the name of a global ummah. This argument disputes the notion that Muslim immigrants (and, a fortiori, their children) will do what most immigrants do: adapt. To the contrary, the argument says, multiculturalist—as opposed to assimilationist—policies isolated Muslims just as ummah TV was reaching youth with calls for jihad, and the new generations will continue to be motivated by radical Islam in all areas of their lives: as they plan families, build schools, and riot, all with Islamic political victory as their goal.
(...)In creating sharia councils, British Muslims began to look “separatist,” and some do call for greater authority for sharia mediation. Against that British institutional background, a good number of younger Muslims call for governance “by sharia,” whatever that might mean. French Muslims began to look “corporatist,” as national organizations sought control over local mosque financing; everyone—Muslims included—calls for laïcité (secularity) to be applied equally. Throughout Europe, some Muslims developed ties with transnational groups: intellectual ties with the Muslim Brotherhood, spiritual ones with West African Sufi orders, financial ones with Gulf sheikhs.
In other words, these Islamic political actors have adapted to national opportunity structures with more or less success: more in the cases of British, French, and Belgian Muslims, less in the cases of German, Dutch, and Swedish ones. The organizing that ostensibly proves Islamism is on the rise in fact shows that these immigrants are following the examples of their predecessors. Like Catholics and Jews before them, Muslims build religious schools and associations—usually with external financial aid—and get involved in elections. (...) Muslims are adapting like everyone else and are divided like everyone else.
The burger fuss is of course just the latest manifestation of anxiety over what is perceived to be an assertive Muslim population. The sense of threat lies behind the popular steps to outlaw the full Muslim veil on transport, universities and other state-run services. It also fuelled Sarkozy's four-month great national debate on the nature of French identity. The exercise was called off this month after focusing only the six-million Muslims in France's midst.
(...) The opponents of Quick fastfood and Muslim veils draw on high-minded principles which go back to the equality of the 1789 Revolution and the Republic's more recent principle of laicité, the strict separation of religion from public life.
These "valeurs de la République" are cited by leftists and intellectuals as well as rightwing politicians to deplore the more visible practices of Islam. The argument is that religious behaviour outside the mainstream culture amounts to an act of separateness and should be discouraged (For the ideal of the mainstream, see yesterday's post on white Marianne, symbol of the Revolution). By setting themselves apart from traditional French life, Muslims are being "identitaire" and committing "communautarisme". Equivalent to sectarianism, this means putting one's ethnic or religious identity ahead of Frenchness.
Britain and the United States, with their supposed ghettos, are seen as examples of the ill. Anne Fulda commenting in today's Le Figaro, complained that France has imported communautarisme from the United States along with hamburgers and now it is too late to stop it.
The problem is that the sin of communautarisme has a flexible definition. That is what makes it dubious when applied to Muslims. With France's record in world war two, no-one would publicly accuse the Jewish population of communautarisme, let alone complain to prosecutors. No-one protests against kosher restaurants -- or says Chinese or Italian ones discriminate because they do not offer French cuisine. Try substituting kosher for halal in the complaints over Quick burgers and the effect is offensive.
One of the problems is that France has already americanized on the question of race, religion, and society for it is indeed ghettorized. There are parts of Paris, Marseilles, or Lyon where only members of a "community" and where they do so trying to recreate not only the atmosphere, but the norms of the place that they or their parents left behind. At the crux of the issue is that France no longer has a workable integration model and that instead of accepting and creating a new one, the French elites and bien pensants are improvising according to their ideology, which means either importing parts of the American/British model or trying the impossible by reverting to the "assimilating" one that worked when there were no visible differences between new and old France. It is for that reason that I am one of the very few people who regret that the debate on French identity was a failure. I had believed that it could have been useful not in defining what it means to be French, but to find common ground on the limits of tolerance and at the very least to make once again essential the principle that not citizenship is about both rights and inescapable obligations.
I have been waiting impatiently for Ian Buruma’s take on the French and the burqa. Here it is:
One could take the view that national governments should
enforce laws, but not values. But, whereas most democracies are less prone than
the French Republic is to impose "national values" on their citizens,
the law cannot be totally divorced from shared values either. The fact that
Europeans can marry only one spouse is both a legal and a cultural norm. And
views on sexual, gender, and racial discrimination, which change with time, are
reflected in the laws as well.
On the whole, individual practices, as long as they do no harm to others, should be allowed, even if many people don't particularly like them. It may be undesirable to have people who carry out public functions judges, teachers, or policewomen, for example cover up their faces. But one can impose dress codes for certain jobs, without banning a type of clothing for everyone. After all, we don't have judges and teachers wearing bikinis on the job, either.
There is another, practical, reason why the burqa ban is a bad idea. If we are serious about integrating immigrants into western societies, they should be encouraged to move around in public as much as possible. Banning the burqa would force this tiny minority of women to stay at home, and be even more dependent on their men to deal with the outside world.
So what should be done about practices that are judged to be illiberal, if we don't ban them? Sometimes it is better to do nothing. Living with values that one does not share is a price to be paid for living in a pluralist society.
I have to say that I'm a bit disappointed with Buruma's take for he uses a lot of mambo jumbo when he should be saying that a society whose slogan is Liberté, Egalité et Fraternité cannot focus on the burqa and ban it especially when wearing it can be a choice, one made knowingly by somebody comfortable with submission or whatever else. In other words, picking on the way women dress is a reinforcement of the view that they are not equals to men for afterwards, is there any men’s wear that any government on earth would even entertaining banning by arguing that it symbolizes something? There is none and that is simply because it is accepted that men are individuals and that how they dress is their business as long as they don’t expose their “best friend.”
Sugary excerpt of the day from Nav Purewal's fascinating article in the Walrus:
Canada’s kaleidoscopic shards form a culture more overtly variegated than America’s comparatively homogeneous stew, but they also elide both nations’ colonial pasts, a history that has particularly important implications for Canada’s complicated approaches to assimilation. The truism that everyone here came from somewhere else obliquely acknowledges that English and French imperialism supplanted existing cultures.
Modern Canada is as much a palimpsest as a mosaic, a truth perhaps engrained somewhere in our national consciousness — and one that manifests itself in two divergent traditions of immigrant assimilation. In English Canada, the fraught legacy of cultural imperialism — whether the slaughter of native tribes or the injustice of residential schools — results in a reluctance to impose a uniform Canadian culture on newcomers; whereas Quebec, ever afraid of diluting its francophone heritage, demands that immigrants conform to an atavistic conception of French-Canadian culture.
I am wondering whether both America and Canada integration's models are adaptable and suitable for any other country. I have the suspicion that that the answer is no and these variation of the melting pot model, which in fact lead to fractured societies made of communities (which can cohabit without "mixing" given the size of those countries),but which are in fact legitimated and thus, reinforced by the State (s). The most interesting question has to be whether those models are sustainable. At the time, when analysts such as Bruce Bawer, Christophe Caldwell and Mark Steyn are making loud (and disturbing) noises about the end of Europe as we know to put things more tastefully, I wonder if they should look at America and Canada and wonder what might happen if the communities that form their societies stop having common interest and a share of the apple pie. In other words, what happens when American and Canada become even more unequal, and more "varied societies." Implicitly, I'm suggesting here that identity matters less in wealthy and prospering countries where the poor, and minorities feel that they have a shoot to reach the mountain top. This might suggest that Canada because it is a "fairer" society (one where welfare and universal healthcare are not fighting words) might face great of an identity crisis than America. Unfortunately, literature doesn't have the answer to that question.
Only Nick Cohen and few others make want to become an Obamabot or Obamaniac when they said stuff like this:
Many from his political generation use the superficially leftish language of multiculturalism and post-colonialism to imply that human rights are a modern version of imperialism which westerners impose on societies that do not need them. Scratch a relativist and you find a racist and although they do not put it as bluntly as this, their thinking boils down to the truly imperialist belief that universal suffrage or a woman's right to choose are all very well for white-skinned people in rich countries but not brown-skinned people in poor ones.
The unthinking adulation Obama received would have turned the most level-headed man into an egomaniac. In his first year, he acted as if it was enough not to be Bush, as if his charisma and oratorical brilliance could persuade dangerous leaders to change their behaviour. He cannot believe that after a year of failure. He abandoned Bush's missile defence programme in an attempt to charm Putin and received no concessions in return. Similarly, his creeping to Ahmadinejad has not produced any diplomatic rewards. Kissinger and Nixon were terrifying figures, who, in the name of "realism", endorsed regimes that persecuted opponents from East Timor to Chile. Obama, by contrast, doesn't frighten anyone.
Cohen was so close to getting this right and that it irritates me to admit that he is on to something, but just can't see the forest through the trees. Obama isn't the most reactionary president since Nixon, he is just an acceptable president (because he comes after the other guy), which is disappointing since he promised America everything except the moon. Ah if only Obama stood for something other than a savvy political branding, which masks less effectively with time the fact that its object believes mainly in political expediency and pragmatism and is not the standing bearing of the dissipating and increasing irrelevant American left (except in a democratic primary). The problem with Obama is that he wants to be all things to all people and to the contrary to George W. Bush, there isn't, yet (I hope it is a simple question of time) some principles he would be willing to bet his political figures. The whole healthcare mess is teaching us that the fastest way to fall from your throne in politics is when you are willing to do almost anything to get a result except lead and slap a few naysayers. As to foreign politics, multiculturalism and the other glitzy stuff, they don't matter for we know even if Obama repeated the contrary powerfully during his campaign that Presidents usually only give grand speeches about subjects they can't/don't want to do anything about.
It is because of statements such this one that I have never been able to know quite what to make of Wole Soyinka (I have always thought that his writings were too restricted and restrictive, but that doesn't mean that he isn't a good writer):
England is a cesspit. England is the breeding ground of fundamentalist Muslims. Its social logic is to allow all religions to preach openly. But this is illogic, because none of the other religions preach apocalyptic violence. And yet England allows it. Remember, that country was the breeding ground for communism, too. Karl Marx did all his work in libraries there.(...) Colonialism bred an innate arrogance, but when you undertake that sort of imperial adventure, that arrogance gives way to a feeling of accommodativeness. You take pride in your openness.
Why do I have the unsavory feeling that too many greater of certain epoch are incapable to accept that Africa got decolonized over 40 years ago because they cannot let go of a world were there has to be the colonizers responsible for all the ills of the world and the colonized, eternal victims of history?
Interesting, insightful, but I'm afraid this sugary excerpt from Brett from Harry's place a bit problematic:
I find it particularly upsetting when, in the heat of summer, I see Muslim men wearing fashionable and season-appropriate clothing while their wives trail behind in a black tent. But, if some adult women choose to be oppressed in this way, that’s their business, not mine. But it is curious that primarily male Islamists - though of course often fronted by fundamentalist women - have made it a “human rights issue” to “defend” this “right”. Only a fool would believe that this is out of genuine concern for women’s rights rather than a means of providing an acceptable cover for perpetuating patriarchal domination. Acceptable, that is, to the confused cultural-relativist faux-liberal mindset.
I have noticed an escalation in these demands. First there was a call to “defend” the hijab. Now there is a call to do the same for the niqab - which covers the whole face, effectively cutting a woman off from society in the most basic way - and, I’m pretty sure, a demand to accept the full burqa, Taliban-style, can’t be far off.
To repeat. I think a consenting adult should be able to wear what they like subject to reasonable limits, but I won’t pretend there is anything innocent about the niqab. I won’t pretend that it is merely a neutral item of cultural apparel and is in no way designed to oppress and exclude women.
For some reason, this line of reasoning takes me to Sartre's play No exit and to one of its characters Estelle who wanted to a being in itself, a mirror, an object. To be upfront about what bugs with the current debate on women, the so-called women's rights, feminism, islamism, and whatever is precisely the idea that a woman's choices are never truly her own. No woman is an island. A bitch is just a bitch but a BITCH and moreover a veiled woman whatever her situation, her dasein, is an Estelle. That to me is a problem because it is patently obvious that in any society, no matter how civilized/modern, a woman who makes the wrong choices, who stands out, who rubs people the wrong way, who provokes, who shames/humiliated/dominates/infuriates/manipulates/submits/ easily, too easily becomes an object or rather a being swallowed by nothingness.
Hum, I'm tempted to agree with Samir Shah on this ( I think his main point can be made about the US, France or any other country dealing with a population, which is diverse and mixed), but it would be too easy and moreover, I have the feeling that he is only offering part of the picture even though it is one, which I find both uplifting and depressing because it leaves open the possibility that race doesn't have to doom the future of a country and to pollute its politics:
The plain truth is that Britain is developing an underclass who share more in common with each other than they do with other members of their own ethnic group. What are these traits? Everyone will have their own theories. But here are mine.
The first impediment to progress is a community’s determination to cling on to elements of their own cultural traditions and ways of life. Parents from certain Muslim groups, for example, have a tendency to bring up their children in such a way that they never interact with members of other cultures — restricting the ability of their children to get ahead. Then take the ‘babyfather’ phenomenon. David Cameron has urged Afro-Caribbean fathers to attend to their parental duties — an issue because half of black children live in lone-parent households, double the ratio of whites. Jack Straw made this point rather well with the surprisingly pithy ‘Lads need Dads’. The need for a father is not specific to children of any race.
If we are to hunt for discrimination in 21st-century Britain, then we should look at other factors that make us different. Each distinguishing feature — class, culture, accent, being Northern — plays a part. For example, in some liberal industries such as the media, being right-wing doesn’t help. But why should this surprise us? The kind of people who make decisions — white, middle-class, metropolitan, liberal, male — all think that the best people for the job are, er, white, liberal, metropolitan, middle-class and male. To describe this phenomenon as ‘institutional racism’ (as many are inclined to do) misses the problem by a country mile.
The real problem is what I call ‘cultural cloning’ — the human tendency to recruit in one’s own image. Recruitment, instead of being about picking the best people, becomes a process of finding people like the ones already there. The overwhelming need for a kind of cultural comfort blanket takes precedence over every other consideration — and rules out those whose backgrounds don’t quite fit. This is what a 21st-century Equalities Commission should have in its sights. Cultural cloning is, in my opinion, the main source of discrimination in Britain today.
I don't fully agree with this, but it just shows that too many feel that integration isn't working, I'm wondering if that perception isn't just based on the sense that there isn't enough pie left to share:
I almost agree totally with this:
Pankaj Mishra on what he considers to be a culture of fear that is created in too many countries by the increasing popular sentiment that foreigners are assailing their land, their culture, and their national identity as seen in Christopher Caldwell's latest book on the threat of Islam and of Muslims to Europe, Reflections on the Revolution In Europe: Immigration, Islam, and the West :
I have always thought that the debate about culture, assimilation, and identity masks what I believed to be the essential debate of our time, which is how free are we allowed to be when choosing who we are as people, citizens or whatever else? Because if one really thinks about the subject, one has to come to the realization that only people who believed in the totalitarianism of the Good./traditions/God are really obsessed with culture and with the idea that civilized people/nations can become barbarians or barbaric. The idea that if there is no God, no moralistic state or culture then everything is permissible is laughable and obscurantist because it dooms humanity since it asserts that people are incapable of making good decisions and that there is nothing that they won't forbid themselves to do if something or someone doesn't forbid them to do bad things or rather things that are for them. I may be stupidly or charmingly naïve but I don't think that banning the veil in France solves any problem with Islamism and I don't even think that it is the goal because otherwise, Sarkozy would have had the wildly imaginative idea to just ban Islamism and to therefore put the State at the center of deciding what kind of Islams are compatible with French Society.
The reality is that Canadians talk about multiculturalism but don't
practise it. That does not mean we don't embrace diversity. Both Canada
and the United States, because of high levels of immigration, are
diverse societies, but diversity and multiculturalism are not synonyms.
Diversity encompasses a variety of characteristics that differentiate
people, including dress, culinary and musical styles. An example is
Toronto's hugely successful Caribana festival. Such events are hardly
unique to Canada; several major U.S. cities have Caribbean festivals
Diversity is not divisive in secular democracies that respect individual freedom, such as Canada and the United States. On the other hand, culture is not just about superficial differences but also about core values. The people who were attending cock fights in Cloverdale simply don't understand our tender feelings toward animals. This is a difference in values and there is no room for compromise.
The notion that Canada is a mosaic while the United States is a melting pot does not survive scrutiny. In 1994, a study by two University of Toronto sociologists, Jeffrey Reitz and Raymond Breton, found that language retention of third-generation immigrants was less than 1 per cent in both countries. This was significant. One would expect foreign languages to dissolve into the American melting pot. But Canada is supposed to be a mosaic: a set of separate and distinct cultural entities. If it really were a mosaic, ancestral languages would survive through the generations. But they don't, because the offspring of immigrants are quickly absorbed into the dominant language milieux of North America.
Neil Clark on Sarkozy and his willingness to put the Burqa at the center of the French political debate:
The secret of Sarkozy's success is that he knows how to spot a vote
winner. While the left sought to focus on the underlying causes of the
riots which plagued Paris in the autumn of 2005, Sarkozy, as Minister
of the Interior, simply sent in the riot police and denounced the
rioters as racaille or 'rabble'.
Faced with the impact of the global recession, he ditched his flirtation with Anglo-Saxon capitalism and adopted more traditional dirigiste Gaullist policies - in the process completely wrong-footing the left.
Now it seems he's played another trump card by announcing on Monday the establishment of a commission to consider banning the wearing in public of the burka - the garment worn by some Muslim women which covers the entire body, including the face.
His argument for doing so is not just that the burka represents an assault on French secularism, but that it is degrading to women. By championing the rights of women, Sarkozy is able to pose as the defender of the founding principles of the Republic. He also gains kudos for dealing with a hyper-sensitive political issue head-on. And here's the really clever part: he manages at the same time to expose divisions on the left.
This debate about the Burqa frustrates me because it is clear that it isn't about the burqa, but about something else, about identity politics, defining/redefining what it means to be French and what/who cannot become French. I don't mind having such a debate, but it isn't cheap to confine it to the interdiction of the Burqa of French society when the issue is about finding the balance between liberty and religion, all religions not just Islam for after all, if as Sarkozy asserts the Burqa is about foreign traditions and cultures, then what is the problem? Can women wear the Burqa if they assert that they do it just because they like it, just as they would wear fur or a thong?
Ayaan Hirsi Ali on what she believes to be an identity crisis in Europe, which makes Europeans unwilling to die for their values such as free speech and willing to tolerate the intolerable from Muslims :
I don't know, but there is something is this Ali's arguments that seems artificial and even insincere. I think that Glenn Greenwald is right to assert that people such Ayaan Hirsi Ali go out of their way to clash with Islam because they believe in global clashes and that there is indeed a clash of civilizations, which must be won by the West by taking the fight to the barbarians. However, it is difficult to deny that there is a malaise within Europe caused not solely by Muslim immigration, but also by the critical debate, which has yet to happen or to least lead to some decisive political action about what it means to be European and whether nationality and citizenship can be about something other than culture especially when the later clashes with the present social compact.
Quote of the day from the worth reading of Terry Eagleton on culture, religion, atheism, and civilization:
From Andrew Brown, a good summary of Gilles Kepel, criticism of the British and in my view Anglo-saxon version of Multiculturalism and identity politics:
In my view, there is a difference between identity politics and multiculturalism even though in the mind of most it is no longer to differentiate the two. In any case, Kepel with whom I don't agree often, puts his finger on the key issue, which is the one of power in a system where race and other categories, which reinforce identity politics are valued and recognized as legitimate basis for social and political identities. Kepel's criticism reminds of Professor Anderson's pronouncement during the presidential campaign that Obama was part of the new class, which has a vested interest in creating conflicts in order to solve them:
Obama is a classic New Class elitist, by education, outlook, everything. So is his wife. Their professional lives have consisted in - community organizing? please - the elite management of the poor and, of even greater importance today, management of, but also production of, communalist tensions through multiculturalism and identity politics. That’s what the New Class does; that’s what it exists to do. Along with, to be sure, extracting rents for managing social conflicts that it also has much interest in creating.
In America, the fact the NAACP still exists and will never disappear proves in a way Kepel's point that separation and extremism are political sources of power in a system where social and political dialogues aren't possible without shaming and without recriminations. Unfortunately, the French approach to these issues is not better as proves the fact that France is still debating whether to use ethnic statistics to count its minorities. It is, in my opinion, as bad even though it is based on the noble idea that color, race, religion or whatever else shouldn't matter to the State.
I agree almost totally with Kenan Malik except on his views of Multiculturalism, which suffers, in my opinion, from a lack of nuance and willingness to contest received ideas on that subject.
Thought provoking point form Stanley Fish on Différence:
“Difference” is the key concept in these socio-political dramas, and difference is an inherently unstable measure. In order to mark it — in order to say where difference resides — you must first identify a baseline, a center; but any such identification will appear to those exiled to the periphery as arbitrary, a function of prejudice and an illegitimate exercise of power: it’s only because there are more of you that you can consign us to the margins and refuse us respect. Armed with this argument (which flourishes in some versions of multiculturalist and deconstructive thought), there is no form of behavior that cannot make a case for its legitimacy and for its right to be free of external coercion, whether it takes the form of legal sanctions or a forced “cure.”
David Edgar in the Guardian on the defection of writers such as Christopher Hitchens, and Martin Amis from the left to the right:
As former victims of political delusion, these defectors claim a unique authority. But there is something quite particular about spending the second half of your life taking revenge on the first. Inevitably, however complete the conversion, what defectors think and do now is coloured by what they thought and did before.
[…] For, let's be clear, the alliance to which the new defectors object - the alliance enabled by a multiculturalism that sought to give visibility and confidence to entire communities - is not just between a few deluded revolutionaries and the odd crazed Muslim cleric. […] Many of the usual pathologies of defection can be detected in the current crop. The attack on multiculturalism - so often sold as a reassertion of Enlightenment principles - often masks a distinctly unenlightened reassertion of hierarchic and traditionalist thinking.
[…] Martin Amis's elegant prose shouldn't blind us to his seeming obsession with the Muslim birth rate as a "gangplank to theocracy" ("Has feminism cost us Europe?" he asked in an Independent interview). David Goodhart, editor of left-leaning Prospect magazine (who describes the 60s as "the decade that sharply eroded authority and constraint"), argued in his pamphlet Progressive Nationalism for a two-tier welfare system, the teaching of imperial history in schools, the creation of a migration and integration ministry, the raising of citizenship test hurdles, the reassertion of the monarchy and the army as nationally binding institutions, the banning of certain forms of dress from public buildings and the reintroduction of conscription. That several of these proposals are now government policy is an indication of how Gordon Brown's golden thread of British liberties has thickened into what looks more like a whip.
[…]Whether they like it or not, the current defectors are seeking to provide a vocabulary for the progressive intelligentsia to abandon the poor. So, for civil libertarians, the divide is no longer between left and right, but between authority and personal liberty. For atheists, it is between secularism and religious belief. For some American and European feminists, it is between women's rights and a multiculturalism that validates Muslim patriarchy. For a number of former leftwingers, it is between the social solidarity of a conservative working class and the demands of multicultural newcomers.
From the Brussels Journals, this sugary excerpt on the supposedly increased urgency for true Europeans to create an indigenous people movement:
Genetically speaking, native Europeans have thus lived longer on the same continent than have Native Americans. […] Yet a Scottish councillor, Sandy Aitchison, was chastised for using the term "indigenous" about native Brits. Why is it considered ridiculous or evil if Europeans assert our rights? Is it because we are white? Everybody's supposed to keep their culture, except people of European origins? Is that it? Why is colonialism bad, except when my country, which has no colonial history, gets colonized by Third World peoples?
Western Europeans have in recent years accepted more immigration in a shorter period of time than any society has ever done peacefully in human history. If we want a break we have the right to do so. What we are dealing with is not "immigration" but colonization, and in the case of Muslims, internationally organized attempts to conquer of our countries. If non-Europeans have the right to resist colonization then so do Europeans. Switzerland, Sweden, Finland and Norway hardly have any colonial history at all. The Germans had a colony in Namibia. Why should they accept millions of Turkish Muslims, who have a thousand years of brutal colonial history of their own, because of this? There are hardly any Britons in Pakistan today, so why should the Brits allow huge numbers of Pakistanis to settle in Britain? And if the Algerians can demand independence from France, why can't the French demand independence from Algerians?
I like cultural diversity and would hope this could be extended to include my culture, too. Or is Multiculturalism simply a hate ideology designed to unilaterally dismantle European culture and the peoples who created it? If people in Cameroon or Cambodia can keep their culture, why can't the peoples who produced Beethoven, Newton, Copernicus, Michelangelo and Louis Pasteur do the same? As Rabbi Aryeh Spero points out, European elites insist "on the primacy of indigenous cultures and religions when speaking of other faraway regions, yet find such insistence arrogant when it concerns the indigenous culture of its own lands."
My first reaction when reading these arguments is to be astonished by the fact that it is being made seriously without the person making realizing their stupidity and irrationality. Then, of course there is the question of how would indigenous Europeans would be determined, what criteria would be used, genetics, race, or something else? I wonder if for example, if somebody who, as Alexandre Dumas, has some non-European blood in her/his ancestry would be considered indigenous or if someone who looks “un-European” but who can trace her/his roots in Europe would be considered Europeans. The idea is so ridiculous because it is a gimmick created to make cheap points about European identity and immigration. What it shows that implicit within the concept of reverse colonization is the idea that assertion that the ideals behind colonialism are righteous for after all, blood, genes are everything, one has the right blood or does not, and there can be any mixing and everyone, everything must remain at their place. I think those who believe that the true Europeans, the pure bloods should start an indigenous movement to stop the so-called colonization of their continent should instead invest their time and energy in creating a time machine. This would give them a better chance to change history, to pre-empt any attempts by their ancestors to go outside of Europe, to mix with the wrong people, to
civilize “Europeanize” them and to initiate what is called, today, globalization.
Spiegel has an interview with Ian Buruma in which he discusses the latest controversy surrounding Dutch politician Geert Wilders and his anti-Islam movie. It was an instructive read. The most interesting part of the interview is Burama answers when asked whether Wilders should be compared to Jean-Marie Le Pen (the French Far Right leader) and Jörg Harder (the Austrian Far-Right leader) and whether the Netherland’s guilt over its brush with Fascism made it a liberal and tolerant society for decade:
I would compare him in the sense that he taps into the same feelings of resentment and fear. The common man feels the threat of Muslims moving into his neighborhood, whereas the elite live in leafy suburbs and don't have to confront these issues. Immigration and the Muslim issue in particular has become the focal point of a much larger sense of anxiety which has to do with the European Union, globalization, erosion of the authority of the nation-state and economic uncertainty. That general sense of insecurity and resentment makes a country very vulnerable to the kind of populist demagoguery that you get from people like Wilders and Pim Fortuyn before him.
Still, while Holland may have had a National Socialist Party in the 1930s, there has never been a true right-wing tradition and people are very suspicious of it today -- and the fascist tradition seen in right-wing movements in Austria or Germany has not been apparent in the politics of Wilders or Fortuyn. Their demagoguery is based on the idea that we live in a free country and our liberties are being threatened by foreigners.
[…] It [the guilt of the Dutch’s brush with Fascism) did a lot to drive tolerance, but it also stifled necessary debate -- and in that regard people like Theo van Gogh had a point. As soon as people started talking about the potential problems of integrating large numbers of non-Western immigrants in Europe in the 1990s, they were quickly denounced as racists, with people evoking the war in a knee-jerk reaction. By the same token, other people, including van Gogh, suggest that anybody who makes accommodations to Muslims in Europe (who these detractors call the "Islamofascists") is tantamount to a Nazi collaborator. This kind of response also silences the debate.
Jerry Z. Muller has an article in Foreign Affairs on Ethnic nationalism and its enduring power. It discusses the history of ethnicity and its implications in Europe and the role that it plays currently in societies that have to deal with populations that are different from the ones of their past. It is a good read. Sugary excerpt:
The most dramatic transformation of European ethnic balances in recent decades has come from the immigration of people of Asian, African, and Middle Eastern origin, and here the results have been mixed. Some of these groups have achieved remarkable success, such as the Indian Hindus who have come to the United Kingdom. […] As a result, some of the traditional contours of European politics have been upended. The left, for example, has tended to embrace immigration in the name of egalitarianism and multiculturalism. But if there is indeed a link between ethnic homogeneity and a population's willingness to support generous income-redistribution programs, the encouragement of a more heterogeneous society may end up undermining the left's broader political agenda. And some of Europe's libertarian cultural propensities have already clashed with the cultural illiberalism of some of the new immigrant communities.
I don’t like the term cultural illiberalism because it is more offensive to me than the term barbarism. More importantly, it puts the emphasis on culture by divinizing it, which encourages fruitless confrontations when the emphasis ought to be on togetherness and the separation between the public sphere and the private sphere.
Multiculturalism has become the great boo-word. No one is in favour of it. At one level, though, it simply means respecting different cultures. Nearly everyone is in favour of that. At another it means the opposite of integration, and in that sense nearly everyone is against it.
In practice, nothing is as simple as either meaning. Should pupils be allowed to speak Punjabi in schools where the majority speak Punjabi at home? Most people might say that schools should not have multilingual signs, that English should be required in classrooms, but that what pupils do in the playground is their own affair. […]The funny thing about multiculturalism is that it brings out the most tangled of muddled thinking from people with a reputation for being too clever for their own good. First it was the ABC, as the Archbishop of Canterbury's own office calls him; last week it was Robert Gascoyne-Cecil. First we had "liberal" nonsense about accommodating sharia in British law; then we had jihadist terrorism blamed on the soft touch society that fails to stand up to the "firm self-image of those elements within it who refuse to integrate".
This is nonsense not just on stilts but in a helicopter gunship some distance above the Earth's surface. The reasons why Mohammed Atta flew his plane, or why Mohammad Sidique Khan put on his backpack, did not include the separation of their families from mainstream society by misguided policies of multiculturalism. Their hatred of the West was, if anything, driven by the opposite: by their fear of a culture of consumerism, hedonism and sexual equality that seemed to them to be all too attractive to their largely integrated fellow Muslims.
Just one question is skillfully avoided: what is exactly
Ian Buruma makes the interesting argument that there is a war against tolerance in the West. He argues that this war is not only targeting elites by portraying as out of touch with the real people, but also foreignness:
[…] The common man, rooted in the real world, supposedly knows better: uncompromising toughness, the hard line, is the only way to get results. In the United States, the word "liberal," in the mouths of populist radio hosts and right-wing politicians, has become almost synonymous with "effete East Coast snob" or, worse, "New York intellectual." Liberals, in this view, are not only soft, but are somehow distinctly un-American.
The association of elites with foreignness, tolerance and metropolitan cities is nothing new. Elites often can speak foreign languages, and big cities are traditionally more tolerant and open to mixed populations. Modern populism - American politicians running, or pretending to run, "against Washington," or French populists speaking for "deep France" - is invariably hostile to capital cities. Brussels, the capital of the European Union, stands for everything populists, whether left or right, hate. And Muslim immigrants live in Amsterdam, London or Marseilles, not in the kind of small towns where right-wing populists find most of their support.
Still, the politics of resentment works best when it can tap into real fears. There are reasons for people to feel anxious about economic globalization, pan-European bureaucracy, the huge and not always effectively controlled influx of immigrants, and the aggression of radical political Islam. These anxieties have too often been ignored. There is a sense among many Europeans, not just in the Netherlands, that they have been abandoned in a fast-changing world, that multinational corporations are more powerful than nation-states, that the urban rich and highly educated do fine and ordinary folks in the provinces languish, while democratically elected politicians are not only powerless, but have abjectly surrendered to these larger forces that threaten the common man. Tolerance is seen as not just weak, but as a betrayal.
I agree with the concept of the “war on tolerance” even though I believe that it is just a continuation of a so-called fight the values of the sixties which infantilize Westerners and make them unwilling in the name of anti-racism and tolerance to defend its identity and to affirm its superiority. The real divide here is between those who believe in nature and manliness and those who don’t. In other words, tolerance is viewed as an unmanly value because it doesn’t acknowledge nature, that life is a competition, and that not everything is good or equal.
The great ideas of the West—rationalism, self-criticism, the disinterested search for truth, the separation of church and state, the rule of law and equality under the law, freedom of thought and expression, human rights, and liberal democracy—are superior to any others devised by humankind. It was the West that took steps to abolish slavery; the calls for abolition did not resonate even in Africa, where rival tribes sold black prisoners into slavery. The West has secured freedoms for women and racial and other minorities to an extent unimaginable 60 years ago. The West recognizes and defends the rights of the individual: we are free to think what we want, to read what we want, to practice our religion, to live lives of our choosing.
[…] One could characterize the difference between the West and the Rest as a difference in epistemological principles. The desire for knowledge, no matter where it leads, inherited from the Greeks, has led to an institution unequaled—or very rarely equaled—outside the West: the university. Along with research institutes and libraries, universities are, at least ideally, independent academies that enshrine these epistemological norms, where we can pursue truth in a spirit of disinterested inquiry, free from political pressures. In other words, behind the success of modern Western societies, with their science and technology and open institutions, lies a distinct way of looking at the world, interpreting it, and recognizing and rectifying problems.
The edifice of modern science and scientific method is one of Western man’s greatest gifts to the world. The West has given us not only nearly every scientific discovery of the last 500 years—from electricity to computers—but also, thanks to its humanitarian impulses, the Red Cross, Doctors Without Borders, Human Rights Watch, and Amnesty International. The West provides the bulk of aid to beleaguered Darfur; Islamic countries are conspicuous by their lack of assistance.
Moreover, other parts of the world recognize Western superiority. When other societies such as South Korea and Japan have adopted Western political principles, their citizens have flourished. It is to the West, not to Saudi Arabia or Iran, that millions of refugees from theocratic or other totalitarian regimes flee, seeking tolerance and political freedom.
The one question that comes to mind when reading Warraq’s assertions is whether there is any essentially western about liberal democracy, human rights, rationalism, and self-criticism. I don’t think there is, but again the fact that Warraq was talking to Tariq Ramadan shows how limited and idiotic the dialogue about the West and its so-called clash with the rest has become.
So France is one of the few developed nations which does not ask for ethnic origin in the national census. There are no reliable statistics that can be used to measure discrimination or gauge diversity in education and the work place.
[…] Last summer the Sarkozy parliament passed a law that reversed the statistics ban. It allowed the collection of ethnic data in projects approved by the national agency for the protection of personal data (CNIL).
The new law was furiously opposed by some groups, such as SOS Racisme, which raised 90,000 signatures on an internet petition against it, including that of François Hollande, the Socialist Party leader. It was also strongly supported by other groups. "We are about to open the way to something fabulous," said Patrick Lozès, president of the Representative Council of Black Organizations. “We are going from just talking about equality as a moral standard to doing something to help achieve it.”
Then two weeks ago, the Constitutional Council threw out the law and upheld the old ban, saying that measuring ethnicity contradicted article one of the Constitution. The decision has been welcomed as a blow against racism while others deplore it as a set-back in the fight against discrimination.
Its immediate impact has been the suspension of a planned survey by two state statistical agencies (INSEE and INED) which would track the impact of ethnic origin on French citizens of African origin. Those involved have been voicing their frustration, saying the ruling, designed to uphold the noble ideal of the constitution, will block attempts to remedy discrimination.
[…] President Sarkozy himself carries some of the blame for the confusion because he has muddied the waters over race. On one hand he is in French terms progressive. The son of a Hungarian immigrant and part Jewish, he favours affirmative action, or positive discrimination, to balance diversity in work and education (There is no chance that the Constitutional Council will let this happen). Yet he has also played to the unhealthier instincts of white France by creating a new ministry of Immigration and National Identity, headed by his old friend Brice Hortefeux. His parliament stirred the pot further by adding the possibility of DNA testing for people seeking permission to immigrate to rejoin family members. The Constitutional Council upheld this at the same time as rejecting the change on ethnic data.
Sarko's hard line on last week's riots -- saying that they had nothing to do with any social malaise -- has further fanned suspicion among minorities and on the left that he does not understand the exclusion that they suffer. He has promised a new approach to the plight of the banlieue, to be announced next month. All we know so far is that, as he put it, "this will not just be another attempt to throw money at the problem."
What disturbs me is the fact that Bremmer’s unsavory assumption that the banlieues is related to ethnicity and immigration rather than to
assimilation integration and unemployment and crime. In other words, one would logically assume, after reading Bremmer, that France has problems controlling its banlieues because it is more multiethnic and multicultural than it knows and that the French youths get in the streets because they have foreign roots and look different than Sarkozy. The problem is in my opinion more complex in the sense that French youths are rioting because they have foreign roots or look different but precisely because to the contrary of Sarkozy who had a father who came from Hungary, people assume without even knowing their name that they aren't french and that they are lazy, uneducated, and potentially dangerous. They don't enjoy the presumption of Frenchness and for these reasons, they believe that the State doesn't treat them like every other citizen. The refusal of France to acknowledge its multi-ethnicity has made French society unwilling to accept that Francité, frenchness is neither about race, ethnicity, or religion, which means in other words that even those who don't have french blood can become French. The solution to this problem starts with the realization that Integration means in part the acceptance that foreignness doesn’t pollute the French national identity, but enriches it.
Via the New York Times, there is the following interesting bit on what a name means in France:
IN France, a person’s name can signify as little as a measure of what’s big on TV at any given time, or as much as an entire country’s nature.
The recent publication there of two annual guides charting the popularity of first names could only prompt more soul-searching in a nation already painfully struggling with how to define its character. The issue appears so urgent that President Nicolas Sarkozy felt the need to create a Ministry of Immigration and National Identity, and the government has passed a law authorizing DNA testing to establish family links among would-be immigrants.
[…] In a recent article pegged to the publication of one of the guides, Joséphine Besnard’s “Index of First Names in 2008,” the newspaper Libération asked 15 people to talk about their own names, prompting a lively debate on its Web site. A few readers commented on some French assumptions. “What of the new first names — Binta, Jamila, Lin, Ahmed, etc. — of an increasing number of French people?” wrote one commentator at the Web site. “It would have been interesting to look into that issue and how society perceives people with those names, people who may be born here but whose parents almost certainly weren’t.”
But Guy Desplanques, a demographer, pointed out in 2002 that names like Ahmed and Jamila actually were on the wane, and that second-generation French men and women work toward integration by coming up with variations like Yanis or Rayan; the latter has become popular in some banlieues, evoking both the Maghreb and the relatively widespread Ryan.
[…] Sociologists like Mr. Besnard observed that first names were often quick markers of social and educational status. […] Indeed, bourgeois French parents are unlikely to give their children “Anglo-Saxon” names; Jennifer was the most popular name for girls from 1984 to 1986, but it’s a safe bet few Jennifers came from well-educated families. (The craze is commonly explained by the success of the TV series “Hart to Hart” in France at that time — Jennifer Hart was one of the title characters — while “Beverly Hills, 90210,” featuring a popular character named Dylan McKay, is sometimes blamed for the explosion of Dylans a few years later.)
This quick profiling can hamper those looking for a job: Several studies have shown that all things being equal, applicants with “foreign”-sounding names are less likely to be hired.
It is possible to expand the discussion to America with the case of Barack Obama for example. The fact that it is possible to un-Americanize him by using his middle name by purposely confusing his last name with Osama without paying any political prize speaks volume about the importance of a name and of race in America. It shows that in the US, to the contrary to France, the main problem with having a different name and looking foreign isn’t so much the difficulty of finding a job, but rather the difficulty of becoming the representative for all Americans and of acceding to the highest class status through other means than entertainment and sports. Sarkozy loves to tell the story that his father told him that he wouldn’t succeed in politics with his name. However, Sarkozy had the advantage that he looked French and that he could take off the “de Nagy Bócsa” of his name to make it sound less foreign. All he had to do was to wrap himself in the French flag and to use extreme language against immigrants to look more patriotic than the French of pure blood to get to the Elysée palace. The recent polemic about Obama and his supposed lack of patriotism shows that the perception of one’s foreignness is reinforced by one’s name and one’s physical appearance. To come back to France, a large part of the French elite and politicians knows that the French integration model doesn’t work. However, because they are conservative, they are still clinging on to the idea that it doesn’t work because France got the wrong immigrants who don’t want to become French or rather cannot become French because of their cultures and religions.
Agnès Poirier has a nice article on French Slang and of its significance. She makes the point that Le Léxik is the language of a multicultural France. Sugary excerpt:
The very names of the four boys and seven girls behind Le Léxik speak of a multicultural France: Alhassane, Alhousseynou, Cédric, Franck, Boudia, Cindy, Dalla, Imane, Kandé, Marcela and Marie. It's this colourful France whose language they decided to decipher for the whole country. They were helped in their work by the pope of French language, Alain Rey, 79, in charge of French dictionary Le Petit Robert's editions. The introduction to the book, a formidable exchange between Alain Rey and French rap artists Disiz la peste (a word play on disease and the plague), sets the tempo.
The selected words, almost all fruits of immigration, have been born in the last few years. They are often of Berber, West Indies, English, Romani and even old French origins. For a taste of what you will find in Le Léxik, see here. Paris suburban slang has spread to all playgrounds in France, whatever their social and ethnic backgrounds, leading many parents to buy the book in order to, at last, understand their children's "tchatche" (or what they're chatting about). Others, lovers of the French language, have bought it to follow the evolution of the language. "It is fascinating to see how a language evolves with time. Words are incredible world travellers, they come and go, and when they come back home, they are forever changed from their adventures abroad. There is no such thing as a ministry of Immigration for words," says Alain Rey, referring to the new Ministry of Immigration set up by Nicolas Sarkozy.
Language plays a big part of someone’s identity. What is happening with Le Léxik is that young French who feel rejected by France are trying to claim their Francité by marking the French language with their own stamp and making it theirs.
John Derbyshire writes the following in the New English Review about Robert Putnam’s study on diversity, which concluded that focus on diversity increases distrust within a community and thus hurts civic life:
Could it be, could it possibly be (the terrible, disgraceful thought occurred to me), could it be that Professor Putnam, with all the resources of Harvard University behind him, with all his massed banks of computers and his battalions of research assistants, their Blackberries clicking and tweeping away, with his piles of questionnaires and his multivariate analyses and his yardsticks and control groups and coefficients of regression—could it be that he has discovered something that ol’ Rudyard knew all along, a hundred years ago? That when strangers come among us (or for that matter, when we go among them), we find it hard to fathom or to trust them?
If so, then it might also be true that (gasp!) smart kids need to be educated separately from dumb kids (who actually exist!)
It might even be true (oh no!), as was once the universal belief, that mostly-inbred human groups develop group characteristics—of behavior, and attitude, and socializability, as well as of mere appearance. Come to think of it, why would this not have been a universal belief? Matters of breeding and inheritance are, after all, the most ancient human studies—think of all those “begats” in the Old Testament, medieval lineage obsessions, and characters in Victorian novels saying “His family are nobodies, you know.” With the publicity over recent events like the sequencing of a human genome and the fuss about genetically-modified crops, we have somehow got the impression that the inheritance and propagation of characteristics is a new topic. In fact it is the oldest of all: Human beings have been accumulating knowledge about it since animals were first domesticated back in the Neolithic.
Derbyshire fails however to address the critical issue posed by Putnam’s study, which isn’t about the value of diversity, but rather about the ways to ensuring that it becomes a less divisive issue. It is fine to assert to Kipling’s vision of human nature is right, but the issue because whether human nature should stand in the way of progress. In other words, is it a good excuse to argue that people should be allowed to be intolerant because of nature and to allow that society should seeking to modernize or to improve itself because nature is not only always right, but can be changed with education and experience?