Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Assessing Multiculturalism

I realise that this post is going to walk a fine line and could by some be perceived to be racist, xenophobic or some other such intolerant view. For what it's worth, I assure you that such is not my aim nor my viewpoint.

An article came to my attention today. Having read it I also found another, a little more dated, from the BBC. They concern the practise of 'honour killings'. For those who have not come across that term before, 'honour killings' can be described as murders committed to preserve the 'honour' of a family or individual. That is, in a number of eastern nations there exists the concept that certain acts - illicit sex for example - can bring dishonour upon a family. If an individual does something deemed to bring dishonour to the family then the accepted method of 'cleansing' is for the family to kill the individual 'responsible'. I add inverted commas in that last sentence because if you take a look at a lot of the reported cases, the victims were young girls or women who were killed because they were raped - 'responsible' for bringing dishonour to the family. The practise is common in a number of Eastern, Middle-Eastern and Eastern European cutures and nations, and along with the many stories of individual murders there is also the fact that such practises are supported by law in some places. I shall not go into further detail of the outworkings and stories of this practise, suffice to say that it is an upsetting and highly immoral practise that reveals twisted societal values and an abased sense of honour.

Now, many awful things happen in this world, and yes we all need to work against them, but that is not the point of my writing here. I am writing today because this practise found commonly in the east is now proving to be a growing, and in fact, an already large, problem in Europe. The first article, highlights the problem in Berlin - six possible killings in the past four months, and the older BBC article, takes a wider perspective, looking at stories throughout Europe.

Thinking about how an Eastern-world problem came to exist and grow in Western Europe brought me to consider whether there is a problem with the glorified 'multiculturalism'. Specifically, that there is a big problem with the notion that all cultures are equal and that we must be more 'tolerating' and less 'judgemental'. Note that I find myself once again using inverted commas. I think I could do a post or two on semantics and the changing vocabulary of the West. Anyway, as I said at the start, some readers may have take great offence at the notion that I can, or should be able to, pass judgement on other cultures and brand some better than others. My question in return would be, "Why?" It seems to me whilst it is good to have diversity in all areas of life the ever-growing "live and let live"philosophy is going to result in a lot of dead people.

The London Telegraph put it this way,

Karl Mollenhauer, a Berlin police psychologist, blamed Islamic religious leaders for failing to address the problem. Last week, he also suggested that the German authorities were at fault for failing to intervene in case they were branded racist.

"We have silently allowed a parallel society to develop because of fears that we would sow hatred by talking openly about its injustices. The women have paid the price for this," he said. Serap Cileli, a German-born Turkish woman who finds homes for women threatened by "honour murders", said: "If I criticise the Islamic community over these problems, I find that the Germans criticise me for being anti-foreigner. At the same time, many Turks say I am fouling my own nest."

What a nation or a society can do about such things I don't know, but surely something needs to be done? Especially when one considers that there are signs of this problem not stopping any time soon. Those who hold such beliefs are also seeing fit to pass them on to the generations that follow them. Talking of one particular murder in Berlin the Telegraph says,

"Shocking as that is, the reactions of some Turkish immigrant children at a school whose main gates are yards from the scene of the shooting has caused even graver concern.

Asked by teachers what they thought of the murder, several 13-year-old pupils are said to have implied that they thought Mrs Sürücü had "earned" her death. "Well, she lived like a German, didn't she?" remarked one. Mrs Sürücü got married in Turkey at the age of 15 but returned with her son to her birthplace, Berlin, more than five years ago."

Some have said that Europe has two possible futures - become Islamic or face civil war. I don't know that I'd go so far, however, I think it's clear that a society cannot maintain an all-embracing, passive attitude and remain free from such dangers. Not in the face of cultures where moves for reform in this area promoted these responses:

"Islamists and conservatives opposed to the new law [harsher penalties for 'honour killings'] said it would encourage vice and destroy social values."

"[sterner] punishments will violate religious traditions and damage the fabric of Jordan's conservative society, where men have the final say."

I'm not sure I know what the answer is, but I think a number of current attitudes need careful assessment starting with 'tolerant multiculturalism'.