@MoralCourage founder Irshad Manji says its time for multiculturalism to evolve
Here’s a dense and wide ranging conversation about updating how we view multiculturalism.
On this segment from Canadian television’s the Agenda, NYU professor Irshad Manji, founder of Moral Courage, addresses the role multiculturalism has played in Canada since the early 1970’s. The conversation explores how multiculturalism has changed, triggering Manji’s call for the kind of difficult conversations we need to engage if individuals are not to fall prey to what Manji describes as multiculturalism’s “group think”. Its a conversation that carries implications far outside of Canada.
The conversation begins with the following question from The Agenda’s host Steve Paikin. “By accepting and respecting all cultures, has Canada also accepted certain cultural ideals that denigrate women?”
Professor Manji, a Muslim Reformist, has said, “Harmful customs and traditions have been hiding under the protective curtain of multiculturalism. It’s time to pull back that curtain and have a difficult conversation about what’s been hidden.” She dives into the complex issues surrounding privilege, culture, the necessity for unfettered person to person dialogues, the difference between multiculturalism and diversity, and much more.
Professor Manji, author of Allah, Liberty and Love: The Courage to Reconcile Faith and Freedom has a number of remarkable things to say. Here are just a few of them:
“We’ve come to a point in Canada where we’re afraid. We’re afraid of being called racist and bigoted if we point out that not all cultural differences deserve to be tolerated.”
“Multiculturalism as an idea is wonderful… but because multiculturalism seeks to preserve, not challenge, but preserve all that is part of culture, what we sometimes find is that the ideal of women’s equality bumps up against the aspiration to diversity. And I think there is a way of going forward that builds on multiculturalism, but doesn’t stay where we are now.”
“One thing educators tell me routinely is how fearful they are of starting honest conversations about the right and wrong of cultural preservation. Within their own classrooms. They’re afraid that parents will complain, they’re afraid that peers will sort of dishonor them as being prejudiced, when in fact what they want to do is liberate the classroom space to be about critical thinking, about independent thinking…”
“When you pair that fact about living in male dominated societies, when you pair that fact with what multiculturalism is about, mainly preserving cultures, in fact what you have is an ultra patriarchal model.”
“We have the opportunity to love diversity more than we love multiculturalism.”
“Offense is not something to be avoided at all costs. Offense is the cost of honest diversity.”
“If you love diversity, then also love the fact that all of us will have a different point of view.”
Manji: “As I was going though a number of examples (of the shortcomings of multiculturalism) he said to me, ‘You know what I just realized, as a white guy, I wouldn’t be able to say this. I could, but I know what would be coming my way if I did.'”
Paikin: What’s that?
Manji: (Summing up what would be said to the white guy:) “You’re a racist dude. How can you possibly do that? Don’t you know? Don’t you know you’re not allowed to go there? At which point, I think the white dude should be asking why, ‘why are you reducing me to my skin color? Let’s engage. I’m not saying I’m right. I’m not saying you’re right. Lets actually have an honest discussion about this and see where we end up.'”
Watch the video and tell us your thoughts on this difficult conversation we all need to have.