The Wrong Socks
Multiculturalism has encouraged the politicisation of identity in ethnic or religious terms…[T]he children of immigrants from the Indian subcontinent or the Middle East have little option but to adopt the label of Muslim, which is thrust upon them by British society as much as by their own parents. If young Muslim women have embraced the hijab as a badge of identity in a way their mothers never did, as a public political symbol, this is more a result of the demands of British multiculturalism than a spontaneous assertion of allegiance.
Thrust upon them by the British media as well as by British society. The default assumption seems to be that if you look as if you come from the Indian subcontinent and you’re not actually wearing a sari, then you’re a Muslim. Secularism and atheism are not on the menu.
The elevation of victimhood has a corrupting and infantilising effect: it encourages members of ethnic minorities to exaggerate and parade their sufferings as a means towards personal and communal advancement. The result is to unleash a sense of grievance that is unlikely to be assuaged by the meagre offerings of the state to the local mosque or temple…When in 1989 Islamic fundamentalists issued a fatwa against Salman Rushdie over his allegedly blasphemous book The Satanic Verses, the first instinct of the advocates of multiculturalism was to criticise Rushdie for his insensitivity towards the devout Muslims who took offence at his book…The potent forces unleashed by multiculturalism provide the context for the lurch towards narcissistic violence among second-generation immigrants in British society.
I feel a bit squirmy agreeing with all that. It has a depressing, blimpish, ‘pull your socks up’ ring to it. But – it seems to be true, that does seem to be what has happened, so it’s cognitively difficult not to agree. It’s really hard not to think that that ‘lurch towards narcissistic violence’ was indeed rooted in a worked-up sense of grievance that does indeed have a lot to do with the identity-massaging and victimhood-brandishing of multiculturalism.
In the past, second-generation immigrants often found new sources of identity through the trade unions, socialist and communist movements (which would have scarcely existed in Britain without Irish, Jewish and other immigrants). The disappearance of such sources of collective identification and aspiration is another factor that has encouraged the retreat of some young people into the mindset that culminated in the London bombings.
Yes. Nick Cohen talked about that on ‘Talking Politics’ the other day. Sources of collective aspiration other than religious or ethnic identities would be a good idea, it seems reasonable to think.