Friday, May 13, 2016

Mehdi Hasan's Multiculturalism

Mehdi Hasan is by many measures a great journalist working at Al Jazeera - or at least a decent interviewer, as witnessed in the pinned tweet of his interview with a Saudi ambassador. It's challenging, fast, immensely watchable and entertaining.

Yet commentary from Hasan is at times a bit odd - out of loyalty or agreement Hasan is found endorsing other "insights" from the network that employs him, and Hasan is often writing some rather ridiculous opinion articles.

One of the most recent is a victory lap made about Sadiq Khan's mayoral win, entitled "Sadiq Khan and the Future of Europe".

Some questionable observations:

Islamophobes are tearing their hair out as they decry the Islamization of Britain. But for all the Muslim baiting, London’s new mayor is part of an encouraging trend. He’s just the latest in a series of observant Muslims who have captured the hearts and minds of the British public. Last October, 14.5 million Britons tuned in to watch the smiling, hijab-clad Nadiya Hussain, the daughter of a waiter from Bangladesh, as she was crowned champion of “The Great British Bake Off,” a TV show. In April, Riyad Mahrez, who was born in Paris to an Algerian father and a Moroccan mother, was awarded the Professional Footballers’ Association Player of the Year trophy after scoring 17 goals for Leicester City, which went on to a surprise victory in the Premier League championship.
In a perfect world, the faith of a TV cooking show star, an athlete or even a major politician would be irrelevant. But in our deeply imperfect — and, yes, Islamophobic — world, it isn’t. British newspapers are filled with alarmist headlines about “Muslim sex grooming” and “the rise in Muslim birthrate.” Earlier this year, Trevor Philips, the former chairman of Britain’s Equality and Human Rights Commission, accused Britain’s Muslims of “becoming a nation within a nation.”
It’s harder to say that now. The tide is turning in the toxic debate on Islam, integration and multiculturalism. As Mr. Khan told Time magazine, the best way to fight extremism is to “say to youngsters you can be British, Muslim and successful” and to “point to successful British role models,” like Zayn Malik, a pop star, and Mo Farah, an Olympic gold medal-winning runner. London’s new mayor may become the ultimate role model. I imagine Muslim parents across Britain are now reciting Sadiq Khan’s name to their kids. It’s one thing to celebrate the Muslim winner of a reality TV show; quite another to have a Muslim elected to one of the highest offices in the land.
Mr. Khan’s resounding victory was a stinging rebuke to the peddlers of prejudice. Here is a Muslim who prays and fasts and has gone on the hajj to Mecca. But he sees no contradiction in being a card-carrying liberal, too. As a member of Parliament, he voted — despite death threats from Islamist extremists — in favor of same-sex marriage and he campaigned to save a local pub in his constituency from closure. He has pledged to serve as a “feminist mayor” of London and made his first public appearance after the election at a Holocaust memorial service.
This sounds like an ode to tolerance, a celebration of multiculturalism. But it is nothing of the sort.

The message this is saying is that muslims can be clean-shaven, pro-gay marriage, pub-loving former members of One Direction that can bake a good cake - just like everyone else, and just like we want them to. This is the polar opposite of religious diversity and makes a mockery of what being "observant" can possibly mean.

In this view, multiculturalism is nothing more than spicy flavors of a secular liberal theme. If this is what multiculturalism is to be, then even "Islamophobes" can be found encouraging this goal. As it is, there are plenty of gay men that would not mind sharing a kiss in a halal grocery. The problem with this is however obvious to all those existing outside a Labour party ukulele sing-along.

While Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy have declared multiculturalism a failure, the truth is that their countries, Germany and France, have never tried it. As Tariq Modood, the author of “Still Not Easy Being British,” writes, multiculturalism is the “political accommodation of difference.” For the French, however, difference has never even been tolerated, much less accommodated. In contrast, British-style multiculturalism has treated integration, as even David Cameron conceded almost a decade ago, as “a two-way street” and never required, in the words of Will Kymlicka, the author of “Multicultural Odysseys,” that “prior identities” must “be relinquished” in order to build a national identity.

The claim that Germany and France have "never tried" multiculturalism is completely baseless and non-evidenced, and in this very paragraph it shows that "multiculturalism" is a self-contradictory moving target. Saying that France does not tolerate difference is quite a bold claim after just celebrating all the successful muslims in Britain that happen to think like all the other people - so much so that the rest of the population has elected one mayor of London.

Is it surprising that polls find that British Muslims are more patriotic and take more pride in their national identity than their non-Muslim counterparts and studies show that ethnic and religious segregation in Britain is either steady or in decline?

This is funny as most polls of muslims that are released are dismissed as soon as it's discovered that the muslim population might be a little bit more conservative than Jeremy Corbyn. Now apparently a survey that is valid is one that would compare British patriotism with German.

For quite some time Britain has possibly had a more established sense of self - Britain has James Bond & #Brexit. Britain is the Texas of Europe, and this self-assured attitude without a doubt has an impact on the muslim population.

Meanwhile, Germany was literally in pieces until the '90s, has an incredible skepticism of its own nationalism (for many good 20th century reasons) and perhaps harbours a sense of obligation to the balkanized* mess that is the continent of Europe.

But it's true - if living in the bounds of London manages to instill an immense sense of pride, self-worth and entitlement to a diverse-while-rich-and-socialist population, maybe multiculturalism will work after all.

* - Balkanized : synonym for multicultural

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