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← “It’s Part of their Culture” - Reading Nick Cohen in the light of the Jaipur affair [Also in Polish]

“It’s Part of their Culture” - Reading Nick Cohen in the light of the Jaipur affair [Also in Polish] - Comments

1niceatheist's Avatar Comment 1 by 1niceatheist

Multiculturalism is essence moral relativism, because once you have said all cultures are equal it follows that their beliefs are equal. Beliefs such as that we should kill people who no longer accept our ignorant ideologies and make our women walk around in black tents. Islam is disgusting, it is so inspiring to see thinkers like Richard Dawkins and Salman Rushdie standing against this madness. As has been said before " blashphemy is a victimless crime." Long live the ability to say what your thinking without fear of brutal murder.

Thu, 02 Feb 2012 01:55:54 UTC | #913658

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 2 by Steve Zara

Who is it who claims to be offended, to have their sensibilities hurt? From what I have seen, it's community leaders, representatives of religion and culture. Self-appointed, of course. I wonder how easy it is to become a community leader and end up in a position of being able to bully and threaten others with government assistance. When I have come across mention of leaders from the GLBT (Gay,Lesbian,Bisexual,Transgender) community, I do wonder if someone actually bothered to send me some sort of voting card so I could have helped to choose my leader. Apparently not.

Governments and some leftist groups listen to whomever shouts loudest and longest. That's no way to find out what is going on in a culture, even if we feel the need to find out.

I like Multiculturalism, but it has to be done right. I like different styles of food, art, poetry, music, dance. The awful problem is cultural relativism - that values are culturally determined.

Thu, 02 Feb 2012 01:58:39 UTC | #913659

1niceatheist's Avatar Comment 3 by 1niceatheist

Your very right Steve, I should have made that distinction. Multiculturalism is a beautiful idea. But here in Canada we are so respecting of different beliefs that we fail to point out the ignorant and abhorrent problems with some of them, I am referring to the school curriculum specfically

Thu, 02 Feb 2012 02:04:53 UTC | #913662

1niceatheist's Avatar Comment 4 by 1niceatheist

I was looking through old Macleans magazines the other day, a headline referring to the Shafia murder trial said " The Shafia murder trial is not about religion, but who controls peoples bodies" I was disgusted. Religion is what seeks to control peoples bodies, and Islam was the reason they were trying to control womens bodies in the first place

Thu, 02 Feb 2012 02:06:59 UTC | #913663

susanlatimer's Avatar Comment 6 by susanlatimer

Comment 2 by Steve Zara

I like Multiculturalism, but it has to be done right. I like different styles of food, art, poetry, music, dance. The awful problem is cultural relativism - that values are culturally determined.

I agree completely. Many immigrants here in Canada came here to escape these oppressive aspects of the countries they left behind. When we assume that the worst aspects of these cultures are a true reflection of the community, we do a great disservice to everyone.

Would we look at Stalinists and assume that "That's just what Russians believe. Who are we to question their culture?"

Thu, 02 Feb 2012 02:13:29 UTC | #913665

zengardener's Avatar Comment 7 by zengardener

It's their culture.

Is a very hallow statement. It is along the same lines as:

They are who they are. They have different values.

It doesn't really mean anything until they try to imply that this other "culture" is equivalent. Merely another equally valid way of doing things.

Well, fine. As long as they don't try to tell us that this other culture isn't evil.

Thu, 02 Feb 2012 02:26:54 UTC | #913666

Opisthokont's Avatar Comment 8 by Opisthokont

I feel a bit silly posting just to say "me too", but that was an amazing piece. Thank you, Richard: every thinking person needs to read this.

In the interest of redeeming myself, let me point out that multiculturalism should not be, and in some cases is not, the sort of postmodernist enshrining and enabling of 'culture' above human rights that seems to have taken hold in Europe. Many New World cities seem to have done it pretty well: consider the number of cities with a Chinatown. The truly ideal examples are places like Vancouver, BC, in which people who have lived there for generations are a minority -- the thing most people have in common with most others there is that they all came from somewhere else!

Where the idea of multiculturalism becomes a problem, I think, is if one regards human rights as merely an aspect of our own culture. Certainly the concept of human rights is championed by the West, and perhaps more importantly, Western culture incorporates human rights more than many others. There are no aspects of our culture today that are as utterly wrong as 'honour' killings, or child 'witches', or female genital mutilation. And of course even if we did have those sorts of contemptible practices in our own culture, our recognising of the conflict between them and human rights would not persuade anyone else that human rights are any more universal. People of other ethnicities may see an imposition of human rights as cultural imperialism -- and if that is the case, so be it. Nobody can help being shaped by their culture, but nobody should be threatened by it either.

Thu, 02 Feb 2012 02:39:06 UTC | #913669

DaveUK9xx's Avatar Comment 9 by DaveUK9xx

Isn't the heart of the problem the unsufferable hypocrasy in the bible (and no doubt the koran too) where the Ten Commandments say you shall not kill but the bible then goes on to give numerous examples of where you must indeed kill including gays, followers of other religions and even people who work on the sabbath?

Here's a list of where the bible says it's perfectly fine to murder people, in fact it's required.

http://www.evilbible.com/Murder.htm

It's a pretty long list.

The Xians who believe in this tripe have the nerve to call him a "loving god" when he's no more than a petty vindictive tyrant, bereft of moral values and deserving of utter condemnation rather than worship. I can't imagine having to spend ones life in fear of this murderous being and what he might do to you after you die if you don't utterly kowtow to his every whim.

Thu, 02 Feb 2012 02:40:59 UTC | #913670

Premiseless's Avatar Comment 10 by Premiseless

I was shocked to learn, on the final 10 mins of BBC; Paxmans Newsnight (1st Feb), about charities which are providing India with resources for the poor, which are then somehow sold and reinvested in UK property by corrupt officials. An example given was of 8000 televisions, bought and sent, to the same number of Indian schools. Seemingly this is an excellent way of getting much needed information to the massive populations hungry for an education. It turned out most of the schools did not have electricity, so whoever requested this assistance knew in advance - endemic corruption absent regulation. Also the TVs disappeared! And the discourse then swayed into India having switched from British jets to French ones and whether governments use charitable organisations hard earned contributions as negotiating leverage to buffer still larger financial dealings - in effect the big deals are by the big money players whose agenda only ever seriously concerns itself with mass inequalities as extra bargaining chips to play when the stakes are high. Ethics hardly warrant consideration in the main. Economy rules. Big rewards for the high earners and wealthy shareholders dominate events. Where are our priorities???

Major global issue: If a charity struggles to get a material product to source, due power wielding an axe of greed in behalf of elite minorities, how much greater a task is it to deliver the people a healthy and fair education absent the delusions history has repeatedly shafted them with? And then what? Must they rationalise over being oppressed indefinitely, due their position of poverty, or delude themselves an improved afterlife awaits their servile existence? Yet another exploitation - of peoples lives by the powerful.

Just as medicine is too costly, so placebo is marketed. Just as the rich get their reward, so too bonuses are marketed. It's what the doctor ordered - the rich , whose skills so outweigh the poor's, NEED further rewards whilst those denied even the basics must beg outside agency. How wonderful to have such intellectually hedonistic role models telling them all about next life investment packages.

One begins to see how the world puts the billions out to graze upon delusions, quite deliberately and fenced in!

One begins to see the majority of the wealthy, greedy and cunning as the most perverse people on planet Earth.

One begins to wonder at the absence of transparency in the corridors of wealth and power.

Ones wonder is a lasting impression upon the self, and whether anyone else is better qualified.

Honesty, reason and trust are the best holders of money and the power to deliver.

Thu, 02 Feb 2012 02:52:03 UTC | #913671

stellier68's Avatar Comment 11 by stellier68

Enough of the: "It's ok as long as they don't impose it on others" or "Religious beliefs are a personnal choice, whatever anyone practice at home is none of our business". Religion has social and societal ramifications, that's its nature. Could someone say: "Slavery is ok as long as it stays in Africa?" or "Paedophilia is a personal choice, whatever anyone practices at home is none of our business?" Religion is politics in its ugliest, most evil form and has to be fought and denouced with vigor. A famous poet once said that: "If you don't take care of politics, politics will take care of you"...The same can be said of religions.

Thu, 02 Feb 2012 02:57:43 UTC | #913672

AtheistEgbert's Avatar Comment 12 by AtheistEgbert

New atheism, in my opinion, is not so much about science or even atheism, but about politics. I would really like to see the label 'new atheism' changed to a more coherent and explicit statement of what various thinkers actually stand for politically, or what their actual values are. I think freedom of speech resonates strongly, and I suspect that our values are liberal values.

I also think that new atheism is an ethical position, strongly connected to liberalism, but also a social morality where religion and other forms of irrationality are considered harmful (and an understanding of psychology is essential here), while free thought, education, equality and well-being are seen as healthy. Not so much a radical politics, but a sensible politics that ought to be the standard model for our current age.

Lastly, we must not shy away from self-criticism, from healthy dissent and debate amongst ourselves. We are not immune to group thought and irrationality, and the only way to prevent that is a value for free thought and new ideas, and of course freedom of speech.

Thu, 02 Feb 2012 03:06:29 UTC | #913673

-TheCodeCrack-'s Avatar Comment 13 by -TheCodeCrack-

Most people on this website support freedom of expression - even when it hurts the feelings of Muslims - so guys, what are we going to do about this?

I regularly see pictures of Jesus in my local newspaper but never prophet Mo? Are people really that scared of their throat being slashed?

Thu, 02 Feb 2012 03:12:49 UTC | #913675

MilitantNonStampCollector's Avatar Comment 14 by MilitantNonStampCollector

the religious are granted sanctuary in a sort of intellectual no go area.sort of intellectual no go area.

I would say it's more of an anti-intellectual no go area. If the religious were intellectual, there might be progress. The same goes for the soft liberals too. In my view, nobody is softer on religion - even softer than other religions are to each other - than these wishy washy "we must respect their culture" lilly-livered idiots, who bestow the virtues of a tolerant society yet tolerate (in silence) the intolerance of Islam. Cultural relativism is an ad-hoc answer to a complex issue, and a wrong answer at that.

Thu, 02 Feb 2012 03:34:16 UTC | #913680

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 15 by Steve Zara

Comment 14 by Derek M

In my view, nobody is softer on religion - even softer than other religions are to each other - than these wishy washy "we must respect their culture" lilly-livered idiots, who bestow the virtues of a tolerant society yet tolerate (in silence) the intolerance of Islam.

It's quite ironic that those who talk about respecting culture in this way end up showing a distinct lack of respect for people. It's not just patronising to talk about morality and rights to free speech being culture-dependent, it also ends up harming many in those cultures, because their rights are sacrificed on the altar of pseudo-liberalism. Moral cultural relativism is itself a form of bigotry.

What I do hope we can avoid, though, is any insistence that left-wing liberalism is synonymous with this dreadful relativism.

Thu, 02 Feb 2012 03:40:10 UTC | #913682

Kubrick's Avatar Comment 16 by Kubrick

I've always liked philosopher Slavoj Zizek's formulation on cultural relativism: "Today's tolerant liberal multiculturalism wishes to experience the Other deprived of its Otherness (the idealized Other who dances fascinating dances and has an ecologically holistic approach to reality, while features like wife beating remain out of sight)."

Thu, 02 Feb 2012 03:50:54 UTC | #913684

Sean_W's Avatar Comment 17 by Sean_W

There are no such relativists on the gallows of Saudi Arabia. Well, you probably could find some poor bastard willing to apologize for it. "I'm really very sorry that you all have to do this, I trust you'll tell me if I'm doing it wrong?"

Thu, 02 Feb 2012 03:54:08 UTC | #913685

susanlatimer's Avatar Comment 18 by susanlatimer

Moral cultural relativism is itself a form of bigotry.

That's as bad an aspect of it as anything. It's a superficial and patronizing approach to dealing with other human beings. It assumes that bigotry, misogyny, violence and ignorance are the best ideas they have. It caters to the worst voices in their communities.

Thu, 02 Feb 2012 04:51:08 UTC | #913689

danconquer's Avatar Comment 19 by danconquer

Applauded? I can't think of any "leading otherwise liberal journalists" who applauded the death threats against Rushdie.

Thu, 02 Feb 2012 06:49:56 UTC | #913699

Metamag's Avatar Comment 20 by Metamag

Comment 2 by Steve Zara :

I like Multiculturalism, but it has to be done right. I like different styles of food, art, poetry, music, dance. The awful problem is cultural relativism - that values are culturally determined.

Sorry but that's just dumb, nobody has ever talked(criticized) about multiculturalism as welcoming of cuisine and art or different clothing styles. Those are just welcomed varieties which spice up life. That was never the issue.

Multiculturalism has always been a code word for religion and served in sneaking its repugnant elements as legitimate forms of culture.

Thu, 02 Feb 2012 06:51:09 UTC | #913700

sbooder's Avatar Comment 21 by sbooder

There is a maddening irony here.

Freedom of speech seems to be upheld until it provokes retaliations of violence and murder, actions which, are usually in any other circumstance prohibited.

Thu, 02 Feb 2012 06:58:05 UTC | #913701

NakedCelt's Avatar Comment 22 by NakedCelt

This provides an eloquent answer both to "It's their culture" and to "Where are the moderate Muslims?"

As for "cultural relativism", I think this term covers several different ideas:

  1. The methodological relativism without which anthropological fieldwork simply cannot be done. One has to recognise that even repellent beliefs and practices make sense to the people who believe and practise them, and that they do so by fitting into the cultural schema through which your informants view the world, said cultural schema being your (the anthropologist's) subject of study.
  2. The realization that just about everything you've grown up thinking of simply as "the way things are" is another such cultural schema.
  3. The false deduction that, since we cannot know anything without a cultural schema, everything we know is nothing but a cultural schema. And that, therefore, the only standard by which to judge a belief or a practice is its fit into its believers' or practitioners' cultural schema.

In my opinion, recognising (1) and (2) is necessary to becoming an enlightened person in today's world; (3) will therefore always be present as a pitfall to avoid.

Thu, 02 Feb 2012 07:08:50 UTC | #913702

mmurray's Avatar Comment 23 by mmurray

Slightly off-topic but it might be a good idea for the site to develop a longer list of books with links through to Amazon. I'd happily buy my Kindle books via the site rather than directly from Amazon so the the RDF can get a benefit.

Michael

Thu, 02 Feb 2012 07:23:30 UTC | #913703

Helga Vieirch's Avatar Comment 24 by Helga Vieirch

Comment 16 by Kubrick I've always liked philosopher Slavoj Zizek's formulation on cultural relativism

It is interesting to note that "cultural relativism" is actually a research methodology in ethnographic work (anthropology). It is part of the analysis phase - hypotheses about the origin of cultural practices are framed as possible adaptive responses to the unique environment in which they developed (including neighbouring cultures). It is, therefore, looking at cultural practices relative to their environments. It is not a basis for social activism or policy.

Sometimes it worries me that people somehow associate this phrase with anthropologists and blame them for the kind of neoliberal shenanigans that were so justly condemned in this post by Dawkins. I am not saying there are none go along with the neo-liberals in my discipline, of course; moral cowardice appears to be equally distributed in all walks of life.

What has always seemed odd, to me, is the overlooking of the fact that human beings can and do readily adopt new practices to fit in to cultures that they seek refuge in. They learn the language, the behavioural and legal codes, learn to conform to dress codes and so on. It is most unusual to see immigrant groups demanding to retain those aspects of their original culture, which actively defy their new setting, in a situation where this would likely get them expelled (or worse) from the society which has offered them a home.

So it is imperative to be very clear what is acceptable and what is not. In a multicultural society, it cannot always be easy to make the kinds of rules that permit, on the one hand, freedom of religion, while on the other hand, apply a uniform standard of law - especially of human rights and individual freedoms. But it must be done, and be seen to be strictly upheld. This is not a moral minefield. It is a simple matter of applying the legal system equally. Any politician who panders special interests, be they ethnic or religious - or class - should be publicly challenged and shamed. People have fought too hard for those rights and freedoms, now enshrined in the legal system of most democratic countries, to risk losing these now because some member of parliament cannot, or will not, see that this balancing of the rights of the individual against those of the state must apply to all citizens, regardless of their origins or beliefs.

Thu, 02 Feb 2012 07:53:13 UTC | #913706

calvinchan's Avatar Comment 25 by calvinchan

I find myself on the receiving end of strange looks whenever I defend Western values or Enlightenment principles. They never say it but the vulgar insinuation is clear: you're not White, or Western by heritage, why are you defending values that are not your own? And of course, I get even stranger looks from Asians when I criticize our own culture on the grounds that we have much to learn from the West. For instance, many from Hong Kong found it regrettable that we should be "handed back" to China (as if we were a piece of cake) in 1997 because we cherished the liberal values brought by the British. These sentiments were and still are derided as treacherous, servile, masochistic worship of the "dictator" and "colonizer". Somehow, we are expected to abandon a meritocratic standard when it comes to values and morality. It is a "betrayal" to adopt the values of the West and the Enlightenment even if they are superior and we should all be proud of our own provincial and potentially barbaric tradition regardless of how wrong it might be. I think this sentiment - that it is a betrayal to one's people to adopt Western values - is quite powerful and I suspect it's the same that infects many (perhaps Muslim) non-Caucasians who see the supremacy of Western values but feel a bit uneasy criticizing their own background/heritage/culture.

Thu, 02 Feb 2012 08:03:44 UTC | #913707

Quine's Avatar Comment 26 by Quine

calvanchan, I appreciate the difficulty of your situation. However, I suggest you ask your associates the simple question, "When is it a proper time to trade in superstition for reason?"

Thu, 02 Feb 2012 08:10:26 UTC | #913708

calvinchan's Avatar Comment 27 by calvinchan

Comment 26 by Quine :

calvanchan, I appreciate the difficulty of your situation. However, I suggest you ask your associates the simple question, "When is it a proper time to trade in superstition for reason?"

I don't think it's a problem with superstition, but more of a problem with parochialism and chauvinism. People seem to feel obliged to be proud of whatever thing into which they happen to be born. I suspect that they know what they are doing is ridiculous and they are a bit dishonest with themselves. For instance, some Chinese people choose traditional medicine over Western ones mainly on the grounds that they are "authentically Chinese" and that "we are a proud civilization with sophisticated medical procedures too". But they only do that when they have coughs and fevers. When they need a heart surgery, they will be cramming in Western hospitals because they know, deep down even though they won't admit it, that Western science is rather special in that it actually works.

Thu, 02 Feb 2012 08:26:03 UTC | #913710

Quine's Avatar Comment 28 by Quine

calvanchan, that is why I suggested you ask them, "when is the time?" It has a way of clearing the mind. It does not suggest that what has come before is wrong or should not have happened, just when is it time to grow out of all that? There is no shame in once having been influenced by the irrational; we all have.

Thu, 02 Feb 2012 08:32:57 UTC | #913712

Premiseless's Avatar Comment 29 by Premiseless

Comment 11 by stellier68 :

Enough of the: "It's ok as long as they don't impose it on others" or "Religious beliefs are a personnal choice, whatever anyone practice at home is none of our business". Religion has social and societal ramifications, that's its nature. Could someone say: "Slavery is ok as long as it stays in Africa?" or "Paedophilia is a personal choice, whatever anyone practices at home is none of our business?" Religion is politics in its ugliest, most evil form and has to be fought and denouced with vigor. A famous poet once said that: "If you don't take care of politics, politics will take care of you"...The same can be said of religions.

The DEVADASI are the most incredible example of how lifestyle respects are an absolute mutation of what we might consider mainstream moral thought procedure. Their culture, for centuries prior to colonial rule, revolved around preteens devoting their lives to a goddess, thereby affording them lifelong kudos unavailable to anyone else from their lowly caste. The catch? Sex slaves for life. The bonus? Women who would otherwise be owned for life by a husband and whose purpose is to serve him and the children born of this now have matriarchal rights over children born to them as a concubine to a wealthy individual, whose pleasure charms they now become another one amidst a collection of.

So here we have children, being devoted for life to prostitution, which affords them privilege and respect and the unique blessings of the goddess whom they serve. An absolute mutation of standard definitions for respect, layered with western taboos!

Comment 24 by Helga Vierich :

....... It is, therefore, looking at cultural practices relative to their environments. It is not a basis for social activism or policy.

The world over, is it any wonder conformity to a sustainable standard is so elusive.

What has always seemed odd, to me, is the overlooking of the fact that human beings can and do readily adopt new practices to fit in to cultures that they seek refuge in. They learn the language, the behavioural and legal codes, learn to conform to dress codes and so on. It is most unusual to see immigrant groups demanding to retain those aspects of their original culture, which actively defy their new setting, in a situation where this would likely get them expelled (or worse) from the society which has offered them a home.

Ahem?

So it is imperative to be very clear what is acceptable and what is not. In a multicultural society, it cannot always be easy to make the kinds of rules that permit, on the one hand, freedom of religion, while on the other hand, apply a uniform standard of law - especially of human rights and individual freedoms. But it must be done, and be seen to be strictly upheld. This is not a moral minefield. It is a simple matter of applying the legal system equally. Any politician who panders special interests, be they ethnic or religious - or class - should be publicly challenged and shamed. People have fought too hard for those rights and freedoms, now enshrined in the legal system of most democratic countries, to risk losing these now because some member of parliament cannot, or will not, see that this balancing of the rights of the individual against those of the state must apply to all citizens, regardless of their origins or beliefs.

In the case cited (devadasi), children go on record as saying,

"You cannot even trust your own family not to sell your life."

From an empirical position you see women, often themselves sold as sex charms around 7 yrs old, now with families in a welfare void, needing monies for sons to start a family, with daughters who can earn enough to pay for medicines and 'family norms' by sacrificing their less affluent 'wife and mother' choice to a more affluent 'sex charm' option.

As one of these lowly life philosophers stated,

"For the poor, choice is a very cruel mirage."

If you interfere in their fabric, minus a sustainable long term liberation, all you often do is reduce whatever ill wind was already blowing in their direction. Stagnation and suffering seem their only rewards for ALL capitalist agendas.

With this in mind, it seems less strange that religious irrationalities prevail amidst peoples whose multigenerational realities are hardwired to systems of thinking we would consider represent all that is to be avoided of the human experience.

In fact, when you think about it, it's only power and affluence which preserve such moral reversals of culture and belief. And this from a government set to become one of the global big players in the not too distant future.

Some big questions lie begging as to what promotes power and affluence, predominantly absent equitable opportunity. It seems a formulae we in the west know well, behind our pretentious morals!

Thu, 02 Feb 2012 08:45:34 UTC | #913715

oferdesade's Avatar Comment 30 by oferdesade

what bothers me is that by reading this article, my ip is available to saudi hackers who can now target me... oh, s***, there goes my facebook account.

Thu, 02 Feb 2012 09:35:02 UTC | #913724