Who Needs Multiculturalism? We Do!

The Prime Minister David Cameron yesterday challenged “the doctrine of state multiculturalism”, which he claims to have been misguidedly introduced by the previous British government. In an address to the 47th Munich Security Conference, after taking the utmost care to repeatedly stress the differences between the peacefully practiced faith of Islam and the political ideology of Islamic extremism, the PM proceeded to conclude that the “hands-off” and “passive” tolerance contained within the ideal of multiculturalism in fact seeds tensions between groups by allowing them to live “separate lives, apart from each other and apart from the mainstream”. The PM demanded that the Islamic population in Britain begin to adopt British values, a position he named “muscular liberalism”. Unsurprisingly, the attack on multiculturalism has provoked angered responses, not least because it coincides with the anti-Islamic protests of the nationalist English Defence League in Luton this weekend.

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Extreme Religious Beliefs?

A man was barred from entering the UK this week because he holds “extreme beliefs”. An oversimplification? Well, yes. But it is certainly interesting to look at the story of Pastor Terry Jones, the infamous Qur’an burning provocateur and his recently denied entrance to the UK, from a strictly philosophical point of view.

As I play at being Socrates, let’s begin with the facts. A Home Office spokesman said: “The government opposes extremism in all its forms which is why we have excluded Pastor Terry Jones from the UK.” So Terry Jones – incidentally, a gift of a name for satirists who can manage a Monty Python impression – is denied entrance to the UK because he is an ‘extremist’. What is an extremist? My dictionary (the Oxford English) says: “Extremist: a person who holds extreme political or religious views.” So Terry Jones was denied entry to the UK because he holds extreme political or religious views. We might ask, is it his political or religious views that have condemned him? Richard Dawkins holds extreme religious views, compared to the Archbishop of Canterbury for example, yet Dawkins is welcome in this country (as far as I’m aware…). What is ‘extreme? “Furthest from the centre or a given point” (my dictionary is working hard today), or “far from moderate”. Both of these could be true of Dawkins’ religious views. But there are no cries to deport Dawkins, so Terry Jones’ rejection can’t be simply because of his ‘extreme religious views’. Continue reading “Extreme Religious Beliefs?”

The Underlying Assumptions of the Digital Economy Bill

April 7th 2010 was the date on which the Digital Economy Bill (now Act) was crow-barred through the Houses of Parliament. Aside from the obvious unfairness of the Act’s methodology (see here), the underlying principles of intellectual property which it seeks to defend require careful revaluation in themselves.

To begin with, it is based on the notion of authorship. This idea was extensively critiqued by Roland Barthes and Michel Foucault in the 20th century. For Barthes, the figure of the author closed down the possibilities of a text. By killing the author and birthing the reader, limitless interpretations of a given text are possible. Foucault meanwhile saw the author as a potential figure for blame if a text is offensive, controversial, dangerous. The author can be punished for the text he/she created. Both are united in their view that authorship acts as a form of control, though one saw this as artistic control, the other social. (Ironically, it is not the nominal authors of a creative work that are likely to benefit from the Digital Economy Act; rather, it is the owners.)

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