Fez - In less than three decades, “multiculturalism” has become a word that is recognized by policy-makers, social commentators, academics and the general public in some countries.
Fez – In less than three decades, “multiculturalism” has become a word that is recognized by policy-makers, social commentators, academics and the general public in some countries.
The term, however, is not used with the same meaning in the different contexts to which it is applied. The word “multicultural” is sometimes used in a purely sociological or demographic sense to refer to high levels of ethnic or racial diversity. A society is “multicultural” in this demographic sense if it contains sizeable ethnic or racial minorities, regardless of how the state responds to this diversity. In the political philosophical sense, the term “multiculturalism” indicates normative approaches which advocate coexistence and respect of different cultures.
According to Parekh, multiculturalism can be defined as:
Multiculturalism is about the proper terms of relationship between different cultural communities. The norms governing their respective claims, including the principles of justice, cannot be derived from one culture alone but through an open and equal dialogue between them. . . . By definition a multicultural society consists of several cultures or cultural communities with their own distinct systems of meaning and significance and views on man and the world. It cannot be therefore adequately theorized from within the conceptual framework of any particular political doctrine which, being embedded in, and structurally biased towards, a particular cultural perspective, cannot do justice to others.
Over the last decades, a number of issues related to “multiculturalism” have been subjected to heated debate among many philosophical perspectives. Some of the assumptions put forward in this debate were advanced by the foundational studies of theorists such as, Taylor, Kymlicka, Young, Fraser, Homy Bhabha and Parekh.
Multiculturalism emerged as an idea and a normative approach in political philosophy during the 1980s, predominantly in Canada, Australia, Britain and the United States. Multiculturalism was in part the response to the demands raised by native people. These native people have legitimate needs and rights including the preservation of their culture, language and religion. John Rex argues that multicultural societies stress on the equality of opportunities, individual rights, culture preservation and national minority languages should not be subjected to assimilation pressures and should be provided with equal opportunities instead.
The native people also claimed their legitimate rights and asked for recognition to the state which is considered to be unjust. Taylor stresses on the importance of equal recognition since, as he puts it, “the projection of an inferior or demeaning image on another can actually distort and oppress, to the extent that the image is internalized.” Taylor believes that it is essential to human identity that one’s ethno-cultural community be recognized both politically and socially, and he emphasizes that certain forms of political liberalism endanger that recognition and promote homogeneity rather than recognizing plurality. He claims that “we cannot assume that all cultures are intrinsically valuable, and we must instead work towards a ‘fusion of horizons’ that grows out of recognizing the qualitative contrast between cultures.”
The emergence and the rise of multiculturalism as a political and philosophical approach is also due, over the last twenty years to the question related to international immigration. Migration has played a central role in building nations since settlers have come from different countries leading to a situation of great cultural diversity. Multiculturalism advanced a number of questions conveyed for this diversity. Indeed, Kymlicka has argued that while steps should be taken to ensure that national minorities should be allowed the opportunity to maintain their distinct cultures, migrants, in choosing to settle in another country voluntarily, in fact ‘waive’ their entitlement to access to their original societal cultures. Migrants’ claims to equal access to a societal culture should be met by enabling immigrants to integrate into ‘mainstream cultures.’
Migrant societies like Canada, the UK and the Netherlands are successful examples because they have experienced immigration and they were able to adopt policies inspired by multiculturalism so as to help immigrants preserve their language, culture and religion. Communique of the EU Heads of Government emphasized on the fact that at a time of great population movements we must have clear policies for immigration and asylum. We are committed to fostering social inclusion and respect for ethnic, cultural and religious diversity, because they make our societies strong, our economies more flexible and promote exchange of ideas and knowledge.
Consequently, any attempt to deny immigrant communities the opportunity to sustain their own religion, culture and language violates their rights as members of a minority in a democratic society. Kymlicka argues that …the multiculturalists’ moral ethic underlying these policy responses is that minority groups have a right to the recognition and accommodation of their cultural identities. For some, this right is based on respect for identity; for others on the intrinsic value of cultural diversity; while others claim it on the grounds of autonomy.
Many scholars think of multiculturalism as an official policy to deal with conflicts between majorities and minorities; that is, to develop institutions that will be able to deal with the injustices produced by intolerance. Multiculturalism redresses injustices, where minority ethnic groups had to suppressed their cultural identities and practices upon migration and acculturate themselves into the dominant group in the host country. Multiculturalism emerged so as to stop the racial discrimination in the developed nations of the West. For example, in the early 1970s, multiculturalism emerged in Canada as a response to the open challenges of the French-speaking to the dominance of English-speaking Canadians. Kymlicka claims that “most people, most of the time, have a deep bond to their own culture is empirical innature.” Thus, perhaps what makes Kymlicka’s defense of minority rights distinctively liberal is that they are endorsed only in so far as they are consistent with respect for the freedom or autonomy of individuals.
Multiculturalism is a discourse of contestations for the rights to the recovery and preservation of the suppressed self and group identities. This is a primary political feature that motivates the promotion of multiculturalism in contemporary civil society and academic discourse. Multiculturalism emerged as an idea that fosters the equality cultural rights of different racial groups are protected by the law or at least by the administrative practice. Singapore is a good example of this case, since there is diversity of languages. There are four official languages, and at school students are obliged to take English plus his/her ‘mother tongue.’ They also assigned holidays of each racial/religious group like, Malay/Muslim and Indian/Hindu, as national holidays per year. Multiculturalism implies a world where we respect differences, tolerate one another and allow different cultures to flourish. Proponents of multiculturalism argue that this is the best option in a world where it is difficult to assimilate different values and beliefs.
Proponents of multiculturalism tend to associate the term with ideals of tolerance, the right of ethnic minority groups to maintain aspects of cultural heritage and language; equal treatment and equal access and full participation in the social, economic and political spheres. Bhiku Parekh discusses the opportunities and challenges contemporary multiculturalism presents at the outset of the 21st century. He addressed also the importance of cultural diversity, and the reason why cultural diversity should not merely be accepted and accommodated, but appreciated as a positive value to be cherished and fostered.
Parekh believes in an open and equal dialogue between mutually respectful cultural communities and the ability of the state or polity to reconcile the demands of political unity and cultural diversity. Proponents of Multiculturalism emphasize the fact that all citizens are equal in the sense that multiculturalism ensures that all citizens can keep their identities, can take pride in their ancestry and have a sense of belonging. Acceptance gives citizens a feeling of security since multiculturalism encourages racial and ethnic harmony and cross-cultural understanding, and discourages hatred, discrimination and violence. In addition, multiculturalism promotes human dignity and fosters a better understanding of human kinds.
Hence, proponents of multiculturalism value cultural difference and seek to maintain it in ways that individuals benefit from it. States that adopt policies inspired by multiculturalism reinforced the importance of multiculturalism as a key instrument in the government’s efforts to foster social cohesion, build an inclusive society and help people from all backgrounds to contribute more fully to society. Multiculturalism stresses on identity, social justice and civic participation. Identity seeks to foster a society that recognizes respects and reflects a diversity of cultures such that people of all backgrounds feel a sense of belonging and attachment to the country where they live. Social justice envisions a society that ensures fair and equitable treatment of all and that respects the dignity of people of all origins. The civic participation ensures that everyone has both the opportunity and the capacity to participate in shaping the future of their country.
Thus, multiculturalism supporters often see it as a self-evident entitlement of cultural groups, as a form of civil rights grounded in equality of cultures. They often assume the beneficial cultural exchanges, where cultures learn about each other’s literature, art and history and influence each other’s music, fashion and cuisine. Critics of multiculturalism view that multiculturalism is representing ideas and policies which threaten core national societal values. Therefore, they believe that multiculturalism represents steps for the destruction of national identity and the breakdown of social cohesion.
The critics of multiculturalism emphasize the fact that multiculturalism causes a division within the country for example; this division is created when a specific group refuses to speak the commonly accepted language and resists becoming part of the culture by refusing, for example, to recognize the same holidays and demanding recognition of their own. These and similar practices cause community isolationism, narrowly define markets by cultural or geographic areas, or otherwise separate people into many distinct groups. Multiculturalism will have negative effects on the country because it boldly stands as an obstacle in the way of developing or sustaining common goals and national bonds.
One of the most articulate and careful recent critic of multiculturalism is the political theorist Brian Barry, who argues that “groups of people are more alike than different and that all people regardless of culture can share similar aims.” He claims that “multiculturalists take the opposite view that groups of people are more different than alike and that people from different cultures can never truly understand each other. The divergence of these views is clear and it seems that this split is one that is not likely to be reconciled, even through extensive dialogue, as both sides have a tendency to talk past one another.
The opponents of multiculturalism see it as inherently divisive and fear it will lead to cultural ghettos and undermining national unity. Moreover, multiculturalism increases the anxiety about loss of cultural homogeneity and national identity. The political theorist Brian Barry argues that “some forms of multiculturalism can divide people when they need to unite in order to fight for social justice.” Opponents of multiculturalism claim that multiculturalism promotes the creation of segregated racial and ethno-cultural enclaves. It creates also multiple social and political identities and divided loyalties. Multiculturalism hinders the development and creates conflicts within ethno-cultural groups.
Barry’s essential focus is to attack multiculturalism. Barry admits that there is not a singular point of view of multiculturalism; however, there are numerous multicultural theories with unequal and different goals supporter by a wide-ranging set of policies. Barry’s principal targets are philosophers that include William Galston, Will Kymicka, Bhikhu Parekh, Charles Taylor, and Iris Young. Multiculturalists believe that all cultures have unique qualities that should be defended simply because they exist and are thought to be unique. However, Barry is skeptical about their arguments in the sense that “Multiculturalists tend to be intellectual magpies, picking up attractive ideas and incorporating them into their theories without worrying too much about how they fit together.” Barry claims that: Defending a culture’s sovereignty without an external justification makes quite a number of reprehensible practices harder to criticize and more difficult to eliminate”. If we accept this multicultural notion of protecting culture for its own sake, then the abuse of women, children, and prisoners can all be cloaked as legitimate parts of any number of the world’s cultures. This view leads to protecting genocide as a cultural practice.
The opponents of multiculturalism believe that diversity may deteriorate and not improve tolerance within societies because it “may heighten the sense of Otherness and arrogate the egalitarian perquisites of democracy to a majority group.” The ‘We’ would then degenerate into hostile ethnic where the link would be severed between cultural heritage and the state. In such a prospect, “The state becomes a soulless broker for stability while the individual trades the dignity of being a citizen for the right to represent a certain ethnic or confessional group.” The major critics against multiculturalism claim that even in liberal democracies, multiculturalism is seen as leading to disunity. It has been accused of impeding the full integration and acceptance of immigrants into the host country where individuals are seen first as ethnics and only secondly as Neil Bissondath has therefore proposed as an alternative, ‘reasonable diversity within vigorous unity.’
In general, it is expected that ethnic minority and majority groups will evaluate multiculturalism differently. Multiculturalism on the one side offers the minority group the possibility of maintaining their own culture and obtaining higher social status in society. On their own culture as a threat to their group identity and status position. Hence, minority group members should support multiculturalism more strongly than majority group members.
Considering these competing interests, ethnic minority group members should be more in favor of multiculturalism than majority group members in the sense that multiculturalism stresses the importance of recognizing and maintaining different ethnic and cultural identities within the same framework. Multiculturalism is about group identities, requires a conception of groups as having unique and inherent characteristics.
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 Bhikhu Parekh. Rethinking Multiculturalism: Cultural Diversity and Political Theory. Basingstoke: Macmillan Press/Palgrave, 2000, p. 13
 Taras Kuzio. “The Politics of Multiculturalism.” The University of Birmingham, p,6
 Charls Taylor. Multiculturalism: Examining the Politics of Recognition. Princeton University Press: New Jersey , 1994, p. 36
 Ibid., p. 67
 Kymlicka, Will. Multicultural Citizenship: A Liberal Theory of Minority Rights. Oxford: Oxford UP,1995, p. 113
 Kymlicka, W. “Introduction: An Emerging Consensus?” in W. Kymlicka, guest ed., Ethical Theory and Moral Practice, Special Issue on Nationalism, Multiculturalism and Liberal Democracy, 1998, p. 154
 Parekh, Bhikhu. Rethinking Multiculturalism: Cultural Diversity and Political Theory. Basingstoke: Macmillan Press/Palgrave. 2000, p. 14
 Multiculturalism. The Ministry of Public Works and Government Services, Ottawa, Ontario. 2005
 Sias, Russell. “The Negative Aspects of Multiculturalism”, 2004, p. 1
 Ibid., p. 1
 Lloyd Wong, Joe Garcea and Anna Kirova. An Analysis of the “Anti- and Post-Multiculturalism” Discourses: The Fragmentation Position. Report, 2006, p. 2 – 3
 M.Herzfeld. Cultural Intims in the Nation-State. Routledge, 1997, p. 83
 G.Nodia, “Nationalism and the Crisis of Liberalism”, in R.Caplan&J.Feffer (eds),
Europe’s NewNational Minorities in Conflict, Oxford University Press, 1996, p. 117
 N.Bissondath. Selling Illusions: The Cult of Multiculturalismin Canada. Penguin Books, 1994, p. 224
 Maykel Verkuyten and Peary Brug. “Multiculturalism and group status: The role of ethnic identification, group essentialism and protestant ethic.” European Journal of Social Psychology, 2004, p. 642