21 August 2016

France’s liberal traditions won’t be helped by the burkini ban

.... What went wrong with multiculturalism, as Kenan Malik argues in a fine article in Foreign Affairs, is not its respect for diversity. Rather, as implemented, it created a network of competing monocultures fostering antagonistic separateness.

Equally, what has gone wrong in France, with its belief in assimilation, is not the commitment to universal values. Rather, it is that such statements are cast as those of the majority “tribe” confronting a hostile other in a sort of war, the language too readily deployed in France. Muslims are not part of the tribe. Both mistakes should be avoided and the good components built on.

What is required is not burqa and burkini bans or, indeed, measures in Britain such as Prevent, which, for all its apparent rational intent to close down opportunities for hate speech, only stigmatises Muslims as “other”. Instead, we need continual clarion calls to uphold universal values and a characterisation of jihadism as conducted by the deranged who need medical treatment, rather than legitimisation as warlords.

We also need an insistence on mutual tolerance as the only long-term solution and a huge effort to create economic and social institutions that offer more meaning for the mass of our citizenry. If that is pie in the sky, the alternative is a war of civilisations and, with it, the collapse of liberal society. Nobody, I hope, wants that. [Guardian Cif] Read more