Over at Pickled Politics, Sunny Hundal presents his essay on how the War On Terror has fractured the British Asian community along religious lines.
… a change has been taking place within minority communities in the way they interact with each other, identify themselves and become politically engaged… The atmosphere of distrust following 9/11 and 7/7 made it easier for Muslim, Sikh and Hindu religious extremists to openly express distaste towards other religious minorities.
For me, the a key feature of the post-9/11 politics, which includes the enigma that is ‘Britishness’ and the hammering of ‘multiculturalism’, has been a focus on differences between groups: How does the white majority interact with the minorities; how do the values of different groups differ, and can they be reconciled; what concessions does the State make to these groups, and does it ask for any change in return?
As we debate ad nauseum the conflicting identities within the State, it often seems as if other aspects of multiculturalism are neglected. Specifically, the different and conflicting identities that exist within the individual. This is a particular issue for British-Asians (Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims all) as well many people with dual nationality, and many people of mixed race (an exponentially expanding group). For these people, to suggest that notions of multiculturalism should be abandoned is nonsensical. For while a compromise with (or even a capitulation to) the behemoth that is ‘mainstream culture’ might be theoretically possible on a group level, this is not true on the level of the individual.
That is not to say that people, on an individual level, cannot resolve what conflicts they are presented with. Indeed, they seem to succeed much more often than they fail. At places like Pickled Politics I think the contributors manage to elucidate very well how they reconcile such differences, and what immediately becomes clear is that their solutions do not lie in their granting total supremacy of one culture over the other. That they can do this proves for me the value of multiculturalism. The most sensible commentators seem to be those who can say, for example, “I am 100% Hindu and 100% Asian and 100% British”.
And yet much of the political debate (from both the, erm, generic white majority, and also within the various interest groups Sunny highlights) refuses to accept that this kind of reconciliation is possible. Because these critics cannot make that reconciliation themselves, they smear those who can as either delusional or fake. In this dismissal, they fail to accept the idea that one may be changed by other ideas, fail to understand the value of multiculturalism, and therefore become a kind of fundamentalist. Its a shame that the post 9/11 political climate has exacerbated this problem too.