Egalitarian mix

September 30, 2010

In her review of my book Multiculturalism: Some Inconvenient Truths (16 September), Marnia Lazreg makes some egregious misrepresentations. First, nowhere do I perceive Muslims as being beyond the pale, nor do I denigrate minority cultures wholesale. Given my Islamic background and the global importance of Islam and Muslims in recent years, I focus more on this group than any other. In the book, however, I do consider oppressive cultural and religious beliefs and practices (the most serious of which include female genital mutilation, self-flagellation, sati and polygamy) as being beyond the pale and denigrate them accordingly.

Second, I provide a breakdown of data regarding unemployment, poverty and educational accomplishment, and argue that religious-cultural practices that hinder the ability of people (especially girls and women) to study and work must be resisted.

Third, I explicitly argue against a "single, idealised, cultural mould", instead stressing the importance of mixing and "creolisation".

Finally, I make a strong case against the US/UK-led wars in Afghanistan and Iraq: not only are they unjust wars of aggression, but they have also given a great boost to Islamists and the cementing of a divisive Islamic identity.

These issues are not mutually exclusive: tackling the problems inherent in multiculturalism and multifaithism can and ought to be undertaken concurrently with tackling war, poverty and injustice. All this accords with my advocacy of "egalitarian universalism" as a better alternative to multiculturalism, which Lazreg omits to mention.

Rumy Hasan, Senior lecturer Science and Technology Policy Research, University of Sussex.

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