Monday, 17 September 2007

Professor Charles Taylor on multiculturalism

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Writing today on the Guardian's Comment is Free site, Professor Charles Taylor makes some important points about multiculturalism, saying people need to stop "block-thinking" about Islam. By associating certain expressions of Islamic piety or culture, for example the headscarf, with one possible meaning, such as fundamentalism, we risk thinking of Muslims as one unified block, and so "make it harder for Muslims to stand out and criticise their own block thinkers", such as Osama bin Laden.

As Taylor says, "block thinkers on each side give aid and comfort to block thinkers on the other side" and help to strengthen Charles Huntington's controversial idea of the "clash of civilisations". Taylor concludes that we need to discourage block thinking and listen to "the crossover figures who can provide that urgently needed connection", for example the many who may be "deeply pious while being utterly revolted by gender discrimination or violence".

It's a point that ties in with our latest cover story on Islamic extremism in British universities. While there may be a problem with Islamist groups on campus, it is important to remember that such groups speak for the minority and do not warrant a hysterical reaction.


Ralph said...

A very stupid article by Charles Taylor. Of course “block thinking” is wrong, but as he says, “block thinking” has been going on since the World began.

What he is saying, and could have said in one sentence, is that a more sophisticated discourse between cultures is desirable. But even that is a pathetically anodyne statement of the obvious.

Since block thinking is nothing new, it is unlikely, as Taylor suggests, that it is block thinking that is leading to a clash of civilisations. It is (first) the realisation that Islam has an agenda: its aim is to dominate. It’s being doing this, or trying, for centuries – sometimes succeeding and sometimes not.

A not unnatural reaction to this is the BNP type “send ‘em all home”, where they can enjoy their own idea of nirvana: a fully Islamic country. Forcing people to enjoy their own idea of heaven is hardly a sin, is it?

A second justification for the BNP type reaction is “why do I have to see my culture make compromises with ANY other culture – particularly one that has yet to have it’s renaissance? If I want to nick some good ideas from other cultures I can do this via books, the Internet, thank you very much."

Perhaps Charles Taylor could address these issues.