The bigger cultural picture

Soumayya Ghannoushi“Is there anything inherently wrong in placing multiculturalism under the spotlight to critically examine it and assess its ills and virtues? The obvious answer is no. The problem is not with the question itself, but with its context, assumptions and terms.

“The current debate about multiculturalism takes place in the wrong context: terrorism. Like the non-heroes in Kafka’s tragic plots, who find themselves embroiled in situations in which they had no hand, multiculturalism has been dragged into the discussion of terrorism. It does not belong there.

“Those who have forced the subject into discussion start with a false diagnosis of the problem of terrorism. For example, that the problem is not political, but cultural. That policies and strategies are blameless. That culture and religion are culpable.

“The conclusion of this ostrich-like analysis is that the cultural pit must be drained if we are to get rid of the troublesome mosquitoes. Cultural diversity is at fault. It has allowed Muslims to continue behaving like Muslims.

“The now ubiquitous question about multiculturalism is, in reality, a question about Islam and Muslims. For ‘Has multiculturalism failed?’ read: ‘what is to be done about Muslims?’. The ‘multiculturalism problem’ is, in other words, a euphemism for ‘the Muslim problem’.”

Soumaya Ghannoushi at the Guardian’s Comment is Free, 5 September 2006