Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Pascal Bruckner : Some final thoughts on the multiculturalism debate.

This is why I continue to prefer the position of Ayaan Hirsi Ali over that of Tariq Ramadan, even now that he has become a friend of tolerance and a prophet of anti-capitalism. In his laudatory portrait of Ramadan - that borders on hagiography despite minor reservations - Ian Buruma still manages to reveal some worrying traits in his new champion. I will refer to only one. While propagating the feminine sense of shame and recommending that Muslim women should abstain from shaking men's hands and using mixed swimming pools if they wish, Tariq Ramadan states that for his part, he does shake women's hands. Yes, you read it right: in 2007, a self-styled "progressive" Muslim preacher who has received the support of the entire French extreme Left for his anti-liberalism, pushes audaciousness to the point of admitting that he shakes women's hands. He should be named secretary of state for the condition of women!

In his response to my essay, Ian Buruma argues for Islamic hospitals on the grounds that there are Christian and Jewish hospitals. Similarly, he justifies beaches reserved for Muslim women with the existence of nudist beaches, passing the difference off as a matter of taste. Necla Kelek has rightly pointed out that Islamists aim to establish an out and out segregation of men and women right across society, in medical care, in leisure and education, and so to install a regime of voluntary apartheid within open societies. The problem with this defence of multiculturalism in the name of tolerance is clear: it leads to the end of the common world. The right to difference gets us very quickly to the difference of rights, with which believers may be preserved from contamination from impious – and so impure - ideas and behaviour.

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Or, put another way: I have secured my rights. Now let's see how I can agitate your rights to better conform with my rights...

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