Hanif Kureishi Speaks Out on "British Multiculturalism"

British Asian writer Hanif Kureishi speaks out on race, identity and culture in post-colonial Europe. In his August 4 editorial piece in the Guardian, Kureishi takes issue with young Muslim men who "believed they had access to the Truth, as stated in the Qur'an" and that "the source of all virtue and vice was the pleasure and displeasure of Allah." Kureishi recounts a time he visited a the home of a young 'fundamentalist' whose Yemeni wife entered the living room with tea walking backwards as sign of respect for the men, who, by the way, were discussing "training" as in learning how to kill.

Kureishi is shocked by the sheer number of young people in the mosques that are run by radical clerics. He not only blames the violent behavior of the young Muslims on the 'demagogues' who preach hatred of the West in the mosques, but also on Blair adminstration for setting up so called 'faith' schools that allows these ideas to fester. While the prime minister now wants to take a tougher stand on Islamic extremism in the country, he also "has pledged to set up more of these schools, as though a "moderate" closed system is completely different to an "extreme" one.

Roughly about 35 percent of schools in Britain fall under the 'faith' category. At one time most faith schools were run by the Anglican or Catholic Churches, but as the country has become more multicultural in recent years, there are now schools that revolve around Judaism, Hinduism, Sikhism and, of course, Islam. It should be noted that one doesn't have to take a religious test to get into most of these schools. Unlike in the United States, Britain funds religious institutions, despite President Bush's endorsement of "intelligent design." Statistically students who attend faith schools tend to outperform students at non-religious institutions, and this is why the British government is open to seeing more Muslim schools. Furthermore the Labor not only sees this as a way to reach out(or being politically correct, appeasing, white liberal guilt) to the Muslim community, but to also instruct Islamic 'moderation' to counter the extremism in the mosques. However, the argument about Muslim schools Kureishi is making is the fact most Muslims in the UK are immigrants and thus these schools do not provide much instruction on assimilation into British society, which contributes to monoculturalism.

Kureishi ends by saying that true multiculturalism is a committed exchange of ideas, not just a "superficial exchange of festivals or food." "When it comes to teaching the young," said Kureishi, "we have the human duty to inform them that there is more than one book in the world, and more than one voice, and that if they wish to have their voices heard by others, everyone else is entitled to the same thing. These children deserve better than an education that comes from liberal guilt."


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