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on 15 December 2015
A timely book that counters the usual cliches and reveals how the unreflective embrace of pluralist multiculturalism leaves vulnerable minorities exposed to violence and abuse. Anyone committed to protecting the dignity of the individual and her self-determination ought to add this to her library.
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on 18 July 2010
The left in this country has had the reputation of championing the cause of anti- racism, gay rights and civil liberties, but now it is seen to be blind to the obvious problems with its own doctrine of multiculturalism, and even paralysed by the hypnotic term "Islamophobia", which it has been persuaded equates with "racism". It is therefore not only reluctant to criticise illiberal and oppressive practices of some minorities, but even manufactures apologetics on the grounds of respect for multicultural differences. Dr Hasan's book drives a bulldozer through this edifice of hypocrisy, misinterpretation and wilful ignorance.
In his book he distinguishes between multiculturalism on the superficial level, such as cuisine, music, films, and fundamentals such as attitudes to personal freedom in matters of religion, marriage and career, the first being welcome, and the second, insofar as they conflict with hard-won enlightenment values, utterly repugnant. When the concept of culture becomes confused - often as a deliberate ploy - with the practice of religion, which is given certain rights in law, then the danger to society is even greater.
In certain parts of the country, monocultural ghettoes are being created, many of whose inhabitants lead parallel lives, unwilling or compelled to share the way of life of the host population. They live in a state of psychic detachment. One symbol of which is the hijab, which the author investigates in more detail in a later chapter.
Multiculturalism as an apparently benign or even laudable concept is being used as a cover for endless demands for religious privilege, while the accusation of "Islamphobia" is used to silence legitimate criticism of certain cultural practices. Dr Hasan takes up a whole chapter on "Islamophobia" as an offspring of multiculturalism.
The last part of the book discusses obstacles to closer social cohesion (which the last government heavily promoted without in the least understanding that its own policies were the greatest impediment to it). There is a section on the pernicious effects of segregating children in schools by parents' religion, white liberal post-colonial guilt, and one on the weakness of secularism as it exists in this country (secular people for the most part, distinctly un-secular establishment).
Finally, Dr Hasan suggests some solutions, including the emphasis on a common identity based on common values, instead of stressing - "celebrating" - differences, and the need to break down segregation.
This book articulates very clearly the dangers and fallacies inherent in the current concept of multiculturalism, illustrated with example after example. It should be compulsory reading for every MP and every government department.
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on 25 August 2011
There were many times when reading this book that I wanted to hug the author for stating what should be obvious to anyone who genuinely believes in universal rights and free expression. It seems sad then that in many respects Rumy's arguments often sound quite radical coming from a member of the political left which, as other reviews have pointed out, claims so often to speak up for gender equality, anti-racism and gay rights.Rumy hits the nail on the head when he argues that 'Paradoxically, in the name of liberalism and political correctness, thoroughly illiberal practices and beliefs come to be tolerated'. So we have the bizarre situation where 'liberals' feel unable to engage in principled and unequivocal critique of often extraordinary oppressive beliefs and practices within non-Western cultures. If this seems a bit far fetched then it's worth remembering Germaine Greer's view expressed in 'The Whole Woman' that female genital mutilation should be seen in its 'cultural context' and that the forceable mutilation of a childs genitals is somehow comparable with adult Western women choosing to wear high heels! Greer has subsequently retracted this claim but it is worth remembering how probably the most (media wise) famous second wave feminist felt it was appropriate to express this opinion in the follow up to the seminal'The Female Eunuch'. Any one unfortunate enough to have ploughed through post-colonial feminist texts (a popular genre I know!) can also verify that Greer is not alone in falling for this relativistic twaddle. Having to read that polygamy is only 'differently patriarchal' to monogamy, for instance, does make you think that with feminism like this who needs male chauvinism!

The book also neatly dismantles the multicultural concept of 'cultural racism' which has shifted the struggle away from seeking racial equality in all aspects of life towards demands for separate rights and provisions. Rumy argues 'We now need to move beyond what has become the suffocating bind of 'cultural racism' - which is not the same as racism - and firmly assert that challenging reactionary cultural practices is not racist but a progressive and necessary act'.Rumy's analysis here is similar to that of Kenan Malik who has also written some excellent stuff on how group rights often reinforce the idea that members of religious and cultural minorities are guided by different values to rest of us,in effect sticking a 'Do not disturb' sign around cultural groups. Cultural and religious minorities also often end up being treated as homogenous entities, (unlike members of the majority culture) with little regard for the many differences within groups. This becomes particularly problematic when 'community leaders' are wheeled out in the media and presented as if they reflect the interests of everyone in their 'community'- no surprises that these 'community leaders' often hold reactionary views (e.g Iqbal Sacranie).

This book is firm in its commitment to cosmopolitanism, anti-racism and social equality - (those expecting a Melanie Phillips style rant against immigration will be very disappointed). It is,however, a good reminder of how respect for difference depends upon universal human values and equality within as well as between cultural groups.
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on 31 May 2010
A powerful, sustained and well informed attack on "multiculturalism" in its guise as separate provision and over-deference to group (especially Islamic) customs and values. Hasan shows how the policy pursued by the Government over the last decade or more leads to 'parallel lives' with different communities insulated from each other with the result that women and despised minorities are severely oppressed. He questions the whole existence on any significant scale of Islamophobia, defends universal human values and argues for integration and conditional respect. "Freedom of cultural and religious expression has too often transgressed into freedom of cultural and religious oppression and so has become, in reality, a carte blanche for all manner of abuses, obscurantist practices, and domination by predominantly male community and 'religious 'leaders', with only the most egregious beliefs, practices and traditions being deemed out of bounds." Autonomy for communities does not translate into autonomy for members of ghettoised religious-ethnic minority communities: rather, "from birth . . . their lives are dictated by incessant levels of intervention. . ." This is a splendidly readable and long overdue critique of a bankrupt government policy about which we now know that some government ministers were worried years ago - see Chris Mullin's diaries.
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on 22 August 2010
Rumy Hasan brilliantly deals in a no holds barred way of critiquing Multiculturalism that most other authors shy away from doing. In this he stands head and shoulders above all others. The fact that he particularly tackles the Muslim problem of loathing the West but at the same time hypocritically most Muslims wanting to stay here and take advantage of all its liberties and yet expressing a loathing for it by denigrating its laws of equality and tolerance shows the problems that Britain is now facing with different ethnicities living side by side but never really mixing except marginally, and I say this with some conviction as a Muslim and Pakistani who has first hand experienced this phenomenon. I too was content to live the status quo as something to be proud off as mixing could contaminate our Muslim identity but now have come full circle realising that creating our ghetto mentality only serves to alienate us as Muslims and bodes ill for the next generation of Muslims. I have seen the rise of more people embracing Islam from an ethnic identity point and express a general alienation and dislike of the mainstream society in itself not appreciating and accepting the tolerance and pluralism it extends - and this is not from the first generation Pakistani or Bangledeshi Muslims but 2nd and 3rd generation Muslims expressing their disconnection and disenfranchisement from the majority society. It is my earnest belief now that the policies in the past on Multiculturalism have created this sense of identity and culture which is totally in conflict with modern day Britain and its values and unless addressed will bode very badly for future generations creating fault lines and divisions amongst people fracturing Britain along social lines. Rumy Hasan deals with these points in his book brilliantly and commands depth and structure to his argument. As a final point when I was a boy in the 90's there were not many girls wearing the Burkah (veil) or the Hijab and now in contrast in the year 2010 they seem to be everywhere. The evidence of marginalisation is all to evident because if communities were truly integrated this expression of a Muslim identity would not reinforce itself in such a way.
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on 15 November 2012
this book highlights problems with the form of multiculturalism that we have here in the uk.
it goes well when also reading Guido Preperata's critism of 'Post Modernism'. the left should never abandon its championing of women, children,gays, and oppressed minorities rights for the sake of cultural relativism. Religious texts are open to widely differing interpretations.

there are plenty of liberal, or left leaning religious people from all religions who wish to see a form of their religion that respects women, children and gay rights.
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on 27 February 2012
Hasan, for me, fails in many different ways. He recognises that some might think that he is a secular fundamentalist and that is exactly how he comes across. He sets up, for attack, the straw man of cultural relativism as if that is the proposed stance of the principal proponents of multiculturalism when it clearly is not. Charles Taylor, for example, talks about a presumption of respect with regard to cultures that have lasted many years, but he does not suggest suspending judgement. Similarly Parekh asks his readers to be slow to disrespect long-standing cultures but he goes on to say that cultures are not equallly worthy and do not merit equal respect. This is not cultural relativism! Hasan clearly has a down on religion in general and Islam in particular. He seems to claim that Islamophobia does not exist because a phobia is an irrational fear and we have good reason to fear Muslims! He claims that there is unambiguous evidence as to the inherently divisive nature of faith schools. However, current statistics show, for example, that OFTSED classed 51% of Catholic Schools as outstanding in terms of community cohesion whereas only 38% of other schools achieved a similar level. He wants the gradual withering away of faith identities; no wonder he suspects we might think of him as a secular fundamentalist. He wants a colour and difference-blind approach to root out discrimination; what happened to the findings of MacPherson who referred to the colour blind approach as one aspect of Institutional Racism (par. 6.18)? He asks if misrecognition really leads to crippling self hatred; he needs to read "The Bluest Eye" by Toni Morrison or "School Days" by Chamoiseau or look at the research of Jocelyn Maxime. Hasan acknowledges the need to develop and use policies that achieve equality yet when teachers do not know how to nurture identity through the delivery of the curriculum many will suffer disadvantage. The argument for multiculturalism stems, indeed, from a search for equality, especially among groups with what could be called "necessary identities" that have been stigmatised. Hasan seems to me to display more prejudice than academic analysis. But then, I write as a person of faith and as someone very much involved with others at the chalk-face of creating community cohesion in a Northern British town that witnesed a riot in 2001. Fr. Philip T. Sumner
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