Friday, June 27, 2008
Lawson, Dominic. "Review of Kenan Malik's STRANGE FRUIT." TIMES June 22, 2008.
Malik, Kenan. Strange Fruit: Why Both Sides Are Wrong in the Race Debate. Oxford: Oneworld, 2008. Malik seeks to develop a more interesting version of the debate — between those who say we should all be judged indiscriminately as equals, and those who believe that ethnicity within western society should be treated as something discrete and special, with members of minority races being judged by different standards, according to their “culture”. As Malik observes, the latter view — sometimes called “multiculturalism” — is now associated entirely with the left, even though the notion of separate racial cultures and separate legal frameworks is something we would have associated in the past with the far right — notably apartheid South Africa. Such a parallel will scandalise the supporters of the multicultural ideal but Malik has a point, to this extent at least: the consequences of drawing these “cultural” distinctions can be vicious. . . . Malik dredges up some foul examples from across what one might once have been allowed to describe as “the civilised world”: in 2002, a 50-year-old Aboriginal man was given a 24-hour prison sentence for raping a 15-year-old girl. According to the (white) Australian judge, because the girl was an Aborigine, she “knew what was expected of her. It’s very surprising to me that he was charged at all”. The prevailing official attitude in cases such as these suggests not just an underlying racism masquerading as cultural sensitivity, but also a deep lack of confidence in the values — sometimes called Judeo-Christian — on which western society is supposedly based. It represents a failure of cultural nerve on a colossal scale. Strangely, Malik does not attempt a thorough explanation of what has caused this collapse of confidence. There is the odd reference to the loss of faith in western civilisation stemming from the first world war — and that’s it. It is especially strange that Malik — who was born in India — does not examine in any detail the phenomenon of post-colonial guilt, which surely lies behind this disfiguration of the middle-class social conscience. The view has taken hold that because, in the 19th century, we settled in their countries and behaved as if we were still in our English villages, ignoring local sensibilities and rituals, so the descendants of those whom we once ruled should be able to lead their lives in England exactly as they would have in rural Pakistan. Thus, the Archbishop of Canterbury, as well-meaning a character as you will find, advocates official recognition of sharia law as a way of making Muslim immigrants feel more at home in the United Kingdom. On a more sinister note, you have the West Midlands police menacing Channel 4 for broadcasting a programme that revealed the violent nature of what passes for theology in some of our mosques. If a Church of England vicar had said that homosexuals should be thrown off cliffs, his critics would not be told that to publicise his sermons was an unforgivable risk to “community relations”; but “anti-racism”, as it has evolved, makes exactly this racist distinction. . . . Read the rest here: http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/books/book_reviews/article4164438.ece.