7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
A principled critique,
This review is from: Multiculturalism: Some Inconvenient Truths (Paperback)
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.