Wednesday, February 2, 2011

"Commonality","difference"- two different sides of... but still co-existing on the same coin?

Tariq Modood’s recent Open Democracy article “Multiculturalism, Britishness and Muslims” appeared on my “Seen Elsewhere”. If you haven’t done so already, you should really give it a read.

We live in a multicultural (small ‘m”) society where the policy of Multiculturalism (big “M”) has too often dictated that individual ethnic, national and religious identity, in order to survive and then thrive, must exist outside the wider umbrella of (a? the?) British identity.But Mohood argues convinvingly in order for the “majority” and “minority” and the “whole” to prosper in our multi-cultural society “"where there is “difference” there must also be commonality””.

And that "commonality"?:
That commonality is citizenship, a citizenship seen in a plural and dispersed way. There is no contradiction here, for emphasising and cultivating what we have in common is not a denial of difference - it all depends upon what kind of commonality is arrived at, something that cannot be taken for granted. Difference and commonality are not either-or opposites but are complementary and have to be made - lived - together, giving to each its due.

More than that, commonality must be difference-friendly, and if it is not, it must be remade to be so. This does not mean as a corollary weak or indifferent national identities; on the contrary, multiculturalism requires a framework of dynamic national narratives and the ceremonies and rituals which give expression to a national identity. Minority identities are capable of generating a sense of attachment and belonging, even a sense of a “cause” for many people. If multicultural citizenship is to be equally attractive to those people, it needs a comparable (and counterbalancing) set of emotions; it cannot be merely about a legal status or a passport.
A sense of belonging to one’s country is necessary to make a success of a multicultural society. An inclusive national identity is respectful of and builds upon the identities that people value and does not trample upon them. So integration is not simply or even primarily a “minority problem”. For central to it is a citizenship and the right to make a claim on the national identity in the direction of positive difference.

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