Kenan Malik on Multiculturalism

February 5, 2011

Malik is tremendously insightful throughout this whole interview. Here is one of many admirable statements:-

it is precisely because we live in a plural society that we need the most robust defence of free speech possible. It seems to me that in a plural society, the giving of offence is both inevitable and necessary. It is inevitable because we do have societies with deep-seated, conflicting views. But it’s far better to have those conflicts out in the open than to suppress them in the name of respect and tolerance. But most importantly, the giving of offence is necessary because no kind of social change or social progress is possible without offending some group of other. When people say, “you are offending me”, what they are really saying is, “you can’t say that because I don’t want my beliefs to be questioned or ridiculed or abused.” That seems to me deeply problematic.

http://www.eurozine.com/articles/2011-01-18-debate-en.html

The real issue is not actually the threat of violence from Islamists. It is something much more internal to western societies, the sense that it is morally wrong to give offence to other groups and cultures. People are frightened of doing things because they fear the repercussions, but they are also frightened of doing things because they think it is morally wrong to offend other people and other cultures. And I think that is a much greater problem. We should say it is morally right to offend people. That is what a plural society is.

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