What’s multi about it?

Agnes Poirier decided to give Ken Livingstone’s multicultural jamboree a miss after all.

The multicultural London motion at that point included Jonathan Freedland, Tariq Ramadan and myself, and therefore offered three different points of view: in a nutshell, English liberal, fundamentalist Islamist and French republican. Are you surprised that I define Tariq Ramadan as a fundamentalist Islamist? Perhaps you thought that, as an adviser to Tony Blair on multiculturalism and a visiting senior research fellow at Oxford, he represented the face of moderate Islam? Forget his reassuring manner. Read Caroline Fourest’s remarkable study of his speeches and audio cassettes in which he asks young Muslims not to mix or marry outside their religion. Or note that he thoughtfully proposed “a moratorium on the lapidation of adulterous women”. Yes, a “moratorium”.

I wonder how many people do think Tariq Ramadan is not an Islamist. Probably quite a few, unfortunately.

On the right to religious dress debate, organisers had clearly another agenda. First, I was told Salma Yaqoob from Respect and French feminist Christine Delphy would speak alongside me. I didn’t know them so I thought I’d research a little. What I found was illuminating. I read scripts of speeches they made over the last three years, which all seemed to concentrate on the veil issue. What inflammatory tone, what incendiary statements about “France’s institutionalised racism”. Having campaigned together against what they called “the ban on Islamic veils”, they seemed to focus exclusively on the French colonial past, mother of all evils. I also learnt that Christine Delphy’s association “School for everyone” had been set up with Tariq Ramadan. This was shrewd of him: as in all matters of “women things”, it’s good to have a back-up who has been a buddy of Simone de Beauvoir: it usually unsettles and quietens the liberal left…Actually, since the law was passed two years ago, the question is not an issue any more in France. Beyond the law, what is fascinating is to see how the French position on religious dress is used by Islamo-leftists, revealing all too clearly the current British malaise rather than proving the existence of a French scandal.

Multiculturalism in this case boils down to Islamism, it seems.

Last thing, at the end of the programme, there was a mention of facilities “available during the day”: a crèche (great, that’s always handy), a “female prayer room” and “a male prayer room”…And is it Ken Livingstone’s idea of multiculturalism, one that acknowledges and condones segregation? Perhaps, you now see the point of French republicanism: don’t give in to any specific religious demands. And let everybody go down the café if they want a change of scenery.

Yes, apparently it is exactly Ken Livingstone’s idea of multiculturalism, one that acknowledges and condones segregation. How depressing it is.

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