Monday, February 20, 2006

How do you solve a problem like sharia?

Forty per cent of British Muslims support the idea of sharia law being introduced to parts of the UK, according to an ICM opinion poll carried out for the Sunday Telegraph,

If anyone was wondering what the limits of multiculturalism are, I think we may have stumbled across them.

We should obviously approach these statistics with caution. A sample of 500 people could never produce concrete conclusions, no matter how sophisticated the profiling or the nature of the questions asked.

It’s worth remembering too that a majority of people asked did not support this idea. But it’s still worrying that any British citizen could possibly favour a system of law that involves punishments such as stoning, lashes, severing of hands and beheading for so-called Hadd offences (which include sex outside of marriage, drinking alcohol and petty theft).

There’s a good opinion piece in today’s Guardian by Marcel Berlins that I agree with, arguing that sharia law is completely incompatible with the values and laws of this country to the point of them being mutually exclusive. It is unthinkable that this could ever be permitted.

Response from the government so far has been fairly muted, but I would favour an outright dismissal of the very concept from the outset. There needs to be a very clear and unequivocal message delivered to the group of people who think it could ever be taken seriously, namely: No. It is never going to happen. This is not even up for discussion.

Now the question remains: how do we ever integrate the people that believe this?


tafka PP said...

Haven't even read the post- too amused by the title!

Citizen Sane said...

Yes, I was rather pleased with it myself.

ph said...

Oh I love this. At last 'well meaning' liberals are coming to terms with their ignorance.(I do not mean C.S.).
No matter what the liberals say you cannot have a multicultural society, culture defines society. You can have a multiracial society and a multicultural country but not a multicultural society.
I am afraid the doctrine of multiculturalism, will make Britain a country composed of competing societies, which at best will ignore each other and at worst fight with each other.
Multiculturalism expects its adherents to hold as true, two or more condradictory facts. Multiculturalism is itellectually bankrupt and socially bankrupt.
Why people thought it could work, when there are numerous examples of its lack of success I will never know. The arrogance of the elite I suppose.
You mention the integration word at the end of the post. Integration has been out of fashion in liberal circles for many years. Integration is the vocabulary of racists and Tories - don't you know?
At some point the liberal elite will stop celebrating diversity and start celebrating unity. But how much damage these liberals will have imposed on British subjects during their arrogant multicultural flight of fancy, who can say.

Nigel said...

Interesting post over on the Ablution about this yesterday.

Isn't there a difference though between multi-culturalism and multiple legal systems?

Citizen Sane said...

PH - So what is the solution? The French model? Arguably even less succesful than our own "multicultural" project.

Is "multiculturalism" the real problem, or is it the reluctance of certain ethnic and religious groups to be integrated?

I think it's telling that most ethnic groups in the UK are integrated - especially 2nd and 3rd generation. Even the majority of the Muslims polled by ICM still considered themselves "British". Unfortunately their religious beliefs are indivisible from their individual beliefs and no law can replace that of their "god".

So I don't think that multiculturalism is necessarily the problem here, because what is the alternative? Forced integration? That would be just as counter-productive. The problem, as seems increasingly clear, is that there is a sizeable subset of Islam that is irreconcilable to western liberal democracy.

The biggest failure of multiculturalism would be to not recognise this.

Nigel - I read the posts at Ablution too. Good stuff.

ph said...

Multiculturalism means that any cultural groups beliefs and views are as valid as anyone elses. So if they want to introduce Sharia law in Bradford and stone homosexuals then that should be acceptable to multiculturalists.
If it is not acceptable then they are imposing their own culture on another culture.

As for a solution, maybe there isn't one, but I think if the same efforts are placed into celebrating unity as they were into celebrating diversity it would be a start.

We should be looking at how much we are alike rather than how different we are.

ph said...

Who decided that Britain was to be a multicultural society? Of course Britain became a multicultural country by default, but at some point the great and the good began to actively promote multiculturalism as the goal to strive for. Who where they? On whose behalf did they speak? What happened to democratic consent?
I think this issue gets to the heart of who runs Britain.

Citizen Sane said...

I suppose "multiculturalism", like anything else, has different meanings and interpretations. I think the policy to which you refer is applicable to certain extreme examples, for instance "loony left" councils following a rigid PC agenda, dogmatic social services, etc.

I'm not sure I wholly adhere to this interpretation though. Whilst I can recognise the faults in the strategy, I don't think there has been a national conspiracy by an elite cabal to force the policy on the country as a whole.

What about the positive aspects of multiculturalism? The assimilation of different peoples into Britain's fabric - the impact on music, art, film, politics, society, food and drink? This is what multiculturalism means to me - the acceptance of different cultures and viewpoints within a loosely defined term of "Britishness".

But then I think we can both agree that there are cases where it just isn't applicable and will not work.

ph said...

Yes there are benefits of introducing new cultures into the UK. However, how do the positives weigh up against the negatives. I am sure you will agree that it has been acceptable to talk about the positive aspects of multiculturalism, but discussing the negative aspects has been virtually outlawed in polite circles for fear of accusations of racism.
I feel that what multiculturalism means to you is very different to what it means to many other people.
The multicultural agenda is not soley found within loony left councils, it is pervasive throughout the public sector.
I know the following example is about race, but it shows how the minds of our rulers work. Racial information is collected about school children. They are encouraged to specify what race they are without parental influence. However, the race they are is that they feel they would like to be. Thus my child (white blond, blue-eyed) could say that they were Black African, and that is then their race. So if my child is subject to anti black abuse, it will be recorded as a racist incident. Sheer unmitigated nonsense

Citizen Sane said...

I agree. That is absurd to the point of being comical.

Isn't it the opposite in France? Don't they take the view that everyone is "French" and everything else - skin colour, religion, ethnicity - is deemed irrelevant. This kind of flat approach to everyone, far from making everyone feel equal, fosters resentment in a different kind of way.

I may be wrong, but this is my understanding.

Brytta said...

I live in the US and, since there is no common ethnicity here, this country is a product of multiculturalism. The melting pot of cultures and ideas has produced a robust economy and much individual liberty. It is harder for other countries where there is an indigenous ethnic identity, like France or Germany, that likes the culture just the way it is and are resistant to change. Immigrants can be economically and socially marginalized for failing to fully integrate and lose all of their cultural identity. I also think that stagnant economies, high unemployment, and disincentives to work (social welfare programs) preclude immigrants and their descendents from joining in economic prosperity and integrating into the greater culture. They end up banding together into disaffected enclaves and have plenty of time on their hands to cause trouble.

It seems that here, most immigrants reap personal economic advantages in adjusting their cultures to mainstream ideas and by the second or third generation they are fully Americanized, keeping cultural traits that are not incompatible with economic success.

Conservative multiculturalism is when we think that groups should bring their best traits and add them to the American society, bring benefits to the whole group. Liberal multiculturalism feels that immigrant groups should keep their cultures pure and not integrate.

And I know that the US has its own share of problems, this is just a general impression of why we don’t seem to have the types of ethnic tensions that have been seen in France. Sorry this is so long.

Citizen Sane said...

Brytta - I think that, by and large, the UK experience is similar to that of the US. We are ALSO a product of immigration - although our lineage goes back a couple of thousand years so it doesn't seem so apparent.

I'd say that multiculturalism has been more successful with some ethnic groups than others. Although (and this is something that supports the arguments of ph) prevailing PC orthodoxy decrees that you cannot say that.

ph said...

I seems that multiculturalism is successful where cultural groups on moving to the UK, have adopted many of the ways of the UK, but still retaining some of their indigenous culture. Other cultures (or parts of these cultures) have stuck two fingers up at the dominant culture. Unfortunately the doctrine of multiculturalism accepts both approaches as equally valid

h said...

Firstly I am not sure at all that the US has less ethnic tension than the UK, or Germany. Especially not when you consider how racist and exclusionary their immigration policy is.

But as for the argument over multiculturalism - ph's example of bradford choosing to stone homosexuals is of course ridiculous, because the obvious answer is, such a decision by bradford city council would be anti-multicuralist. So what is the question really being posed - how does multi-culturalism deal with an anti-pluralist, anti-multi-cultural, anti-liberal, anti-choice ideology such as militant islam (or any other ideology which takes advantages of a liberal society while opposing the values which create that society)?

Ph is talking about absolute pluralism - where the concept of one right, one truth, one law has been negated and all truths are equal - moral relativism. Multi-culturalism, as opposed to absolute pluralism, proposes that all cultures should be treated with respect and that minorities should be encouraged to use their own cultures as positive support for building community as opposed to being forced to adopt the majority culture of the society in which they are the minority. That has nothing to do with introducing sharia law.

ph said...

h seems to view the liberal culture as the supreme arbiter of right and wrong, a culture that is willing to be tolerant of other cultures as long as those cultures do not offend the liberal culture in any way. This seems to say that the dominant culture should take precident over others.
I can go along with this, but I think that there are many cultures who would not agree with this definition of multiculturalism.
One could almost accuse h of being a cultural imperialist, which is of course OK when limited to ones own country.
My definition of multiculturalism may be wrong, as h says, but I would say that sitting on a Clapham omnibus it would be the prevailing view.

mAc Chaos said...

What I find interesting is that the support for Sharia is the strongest under the women who live under it.

H said...


I am not in any way trying to promote the cultural imperialism of liberalism. I was merely stating that Multi-culturalism would never support the introduction of laws which advocated stoning homosexuals, and that you were making fictitious arguments against multi-culturalism's validity as a model for a free and fair society. Multi-Culturalism is a liberal framework. It's whole nature is that people should be given individual and communal rights. That doesn't mean there are no red lines - those red lines are that the practice of your individual and communal rights does not infringe upon others' individual and communal rights.

As for the Clapham bus test - I don't know. I personally am still torn between liberal multi-culturalism as a model for Britain and progressive intergrationalism. I would agree with Citizen Sane, that for whatever reason, multi-culturalism is facing huge challenges when confronted with the reality of the Muslim community of Britain. Why has a multi-cultural approach not led to a sense of identification among Muslims of Britain with the values of the society which support their freedom to uphold their communities? My first guess as an answer would be that Britain isn't truly a multi-cultural society. And in fact any society in a country with an unconstitutional monarchy and an established church will never be a multi-cultural society. And now that I think about it, without having become violent, the majority of Jews in Britain also adhere to a faith which rejects the values of multi-culturalism - they just don't make as much fuss as a million muslims. And when the Jews were new immigrants, the country was actually deeply committed to intergrationism as opposed to Multi-culturalism. Hence the Jews of Britain were assimilated much more easily.

ph said...

So multiculturalism is a construct of a liberal culture, which states that other cultures must adopt this construct even if their culture rejects it, and this is not cultural supremacy.
Sounds like intellectual bankruptcy to me.

How can Britain be multicultural when multiculturalism allows other cultures to reject it - its got now't to do with the presence of a monarchy.

Do not be torn any more, multiculturaism is an intelletual and practical nonsense, whilst progressive intergrationism is a much better bet.

H said...


As I was trying to say before. Multi-culturalism is a framework, as opposed to an ideology - the ideology behind it is social liberalism. In this sense Multi-culturalism is not in a position to "allow" or "dis-allow" anything. It just IS. It does not DO. What we are arguing about is whether the liberal ideologues who espouse multi-culturalism and would like to see it prosper should be more pro-active in enforcing their ethical values while leaving cultural values well alone in the spirit of multi-culturalism. The problem coming that ethical values are viewed by those who hold them as cultural - making the enforcement of liberal values within a multi-cultural society an oxymoronic paradox. All this having been said, it does not mean that progressive intergrationism is a better model for Britain. Perhaps Britain simply needs to be more committed to genuine liberal multi-culturalism and the desired liberalisation of the Muslim community would take place. If a Muslim knew that he could become head of state, that might make a difference. If a muslim felt that the state did not discriminate against his faith in favour of the state religion that might make a difference. And if society was not under the social influence of a hierarchical regime such as monarchy, that may also make a big difference.

I am not harping on about Monarchy and the lack of separation of religion and state because I think these factors have a huge direct effect upon Britain's culture or society, but rather because of the indirect effect they have in the shaping of a social culture which is based on class and rank.