The multicultural Issue

The multicultural Issue is the headline of a discussion series which developed over the last months on the signandsight.com website around the controversy how to deal and react to islamic traditions and views throughout Europe or more generally the West.

Who should the West support: moderate Islamists like Tariq Ramadan, or Islamic dissidents like Ayaan Hirsi Ali? Are the rights of the group higher than those of the individual? With a fiery polemic against Ian Buruma’s “Murder in Amsterdam” and Timothy Garton Ash’s review of this book in the New York Review of Books, Pascal Bruckner has kindled an international debate. By now Ian Buruma, Timothy Garton Ash, Necla Kelek, Paul Cliteur, Lars Gustafsson, Stuart Sim, Ulrike Ackermann and Adam Krzeminski have all stepped into the ring.
Readworthy at parts, though I am a bit disturbed by the one-sided selection (mainly westeners) of the autors. The same impression developed by following a panel discussion with Ian Buruma at the Berlin Literaturfestival last week. Eventhough Buruma here made indeed the better figure by being constantly approached from a very convinced west-orientated audience about their own right of point of view. Not that I – want to defend conservative and fundamentalist views in Islam, but I neither want to support them in Christianity nor any other conviction.
For example there are surely much more reasons for a young woman to rediscover traditions (also religious ones) of her culture then just pressure from the family or surrounding community.
In contrary I know a case where the daughter became more conservative, than her mother or grandmother would support it right away. Not to defend this case, but I think the speechlessness my former friend and I am trapped in concerning our different point of views has a lot to do with a general anxiety which keeps us from having a real discussion. A defense against a certain european or western intolerance towards Islam (here I agree with Buruma), as well as an impossibility to look at the deep impression of one’s own culture and its eventual rigidness.
It is sad that these unflexibilities keep us from discussing more profoundly and just allow to let prevail already known convictions on either side.
Despite the somewhat annoying discussion, following this Literaturtage panel, it was at least worth to get some experience of Buruma’s wider understanding of the impact of cultural coinings, which leads him in my view to be more tolerant versus any other experiments of finding one’s way, unless it becomes extremist.

UPDATE: two further links concerning the featured theme of ‘Islam in Europe’ from signandsight.com:
– ‘Islam in Europe Special ‘ (August 2005)
– ‘Alarm bells in Muslim hearts‘ by M. de Moor (April 2007)

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