The Failure of Multiculturalism: Kenan Malik

While much of Kenan Malik’s arguments reflects the European experience (rather than Canadian or Australian multiculturalism with its integration and participation focus), he largely ends up in the right place in noting that it is the particular variant of multiculturalism that is important, and that it needs the assimilationist (or integrationist) element to succeed:

Multiculturalism and assimilationism are different policy responses to the same problem: the fracturing of society. And yet both have had the effect of making things worse. It’s time, then, to move beyond the increasingly sterile debate between the two approaches. And that requires making three kinds 
of distinctions.

First, Europe should separate diversity as a lived experience from multiculturalism as a political process. The experience of living in a society made diverse by mass immigration should be welcomed. Attempts to institutionalize such diversity through the formal recognition of cultural differences should be resisted.

Second, Europe should distinguish colorblindness from blindness to racism. The assimilationist resolve to treat everyone equally as citizens, rather than as bearers of specific racial or cultural histories, is valuable. But that does not mean that the state should ignore discrimination against particular groups. Citizenship has no meaning if different classes of citizens are treated differently, whether because of multicultural policies or because of racism.

Finally, Europe should differentiate between peoples and values. Multiculturalists argue that societal diversity erodes the possibility of common values. Similarly, assimilationists suggest that such values are possible only within a more culturally—and, for some, ethnically—homogeneous society. Both regard minority communities as homogeneous wholes, attached to a particular set of cultural traits, faiths, beliefs, and values, rather than as constituent parts of a modern democracy.

The real debate should be not between multiculturalism and assimilationism but between two forms of the former and two forms of the latter. An ideal policy would marry multiculturalism’s embrace of actual diversity, rather than its tendency to institutionalize differences, and assimilationism’s resolve to treat everyone as citizens, rather than its tendency to construct a national identity by characterizing certain groups as alien to the nation. In practice, European countries have done the opposite. They have enacted either multicultural policies that place communities in constricting boxes or assimilationist ones that distance minorities from the mainstream.

Moving forward, Europe must rediscover a progressive sense of universal values, something that the continent’s liberals have largely abandoned, albeit in different ways. On the one hand, there is a section of the left that has combined relativism and multiculturalism, arguing that the very notion of universal values is in some sense racist. On the other, there are those, exemplified by such French assimilationists as the philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy, who insist on upholding traditional Enlightenment values but who do so in a tribal fashion that presumes a clash of civilizations.

There has also been a guiding assumption throughout Europe that immigration and integration must be managed through state policies and institutions. Yet real integration, whether of immigrants or of indigenous groups, is rarely brought about by the actions of the state; it is shaped primarily by civil society, by the individual bonds that people form with one another, and by the organizations they establish to further their shared political and social interests. It is the erosion of such bonds and institutions that has proved so problematic—that links assimilationist policy failures to multicultural ones and that explains why social disengagement is a feature not simply of immigrant communities but of the wider society, too. To repair the damage that disengagement has done, and to revive a progressive universalism, Europe needs not so much new state policies as a renewal of civil society.

The Failure of Multiculturalism.

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It’s not about Islam, it’s about courage: Authors protesting Charlie Hebdo’s PEN award are missing the point – Salon.com

One of the better commentaries on the Charlie Hebdo and PEN controversy by Laura Miller:

It isn’t always easy to judge where power resides. Islamophobia is a real problem, but so is Islamic fundamentalism — and even just good ol’ fashioned patriarchal religious authoritarianism. Most of the targets of Muslim extremism are other Muslims. Muslim writers, artists and cartoonists are subject to religious censorship on a routine basis across the Muslim world. Islam cannot be simply or easily equated with victimhood, even if Muslims are discriminated against in French society.

And yet even in France, extremist Muslims seized the power to impose the ultimate punishment on the staff of Charlie Hebdo for, in the words of Salman Rushdie, “drawing pictures.” They were able to do so only with the backing of an organized, well-funded international network that, when it comes to criticism of their beliefs, would gladly shut down the speech rights of everyone, regardless of faith or nationality. The attack on Charlie Hebdo was a significant initiative in their campaign to do just that. It was not a one-off, or an uprising of the powerless, even if its organizers are able to play on real grievances to hoodwink young men into executing homicidal and suicidal actions.

As I’ve written before, Charlie Hebdo’s humor is too crude and obvious to appeal to me, but I’m predisposed to favor anyone who takes religious authorities down a peg. Raised in the Catholic Church, I regard anti-clerical campaigns as anything but passé; my own experience suggests to me that some French Muslims might find irreverent portrayals of the prophet, however crass, to be a crowbar prying open the confining box of tradition and piety. I don’t think anyone should be forced into secularism, but history tells us that this is far less of a threat than the compulsion — enforced by the state or by a more intimate community — to believe and observe. For this reason, I feel that no religion should be shielded from ridicule and satire; organized religion is always a form of power.

Rushdie has excellent cause to fear violent Islamic extremism, which Charlie Hebdo always maintained was the true object of its mockery. It’s likely that Eisenberg, a Jew, and Cole, a black man, have a heightened sensitivity to scenarios in which racial caricatures appear in publications indulged or encouraged by a prejudiced state. And from what my French friends tell me, there are all kinds of cultural signals in those cartoons that Anglophones miss, leading them to radically misinterpret the jokes. We’re all entitled to interpret them in our own way, of course, and even to repudiate them for what we think we see there. But what we can’t do with any real credibility is decide what they mean to somebody else.

It’s not about Islam, it’s about courage: Authors protesting Charlie Hebdo’s PEN award are missing the point – Salon.com.

And the contrary view by Philip Slayton and Tasleem Thawar of PEN Canada which I find less convincing, as it only focuses on one community, not recognizing that Charlie Hebdo, as noted above, aims for equity among the largely religious groups it offends:

Clearly, Charlie Hebdo’s right to publish should be defended. But does an obligation to defend something entail an obligation to celebrate it? We often recognize and celebrate writers who are silenced by the state or other powerful groups – still the primary threats to free speech around the world. And PEN has always been committed, as stated in the PEN charter, to dispelling race, class and national hatreds. This is why celebrating Charlie Hebdo is complicated. While Charlie Hebdo journalists were victims of a horrific attack on free expression, there are good arguments that regardless of their intentions, their work can be used to promote hate and further marginalize an already disenfranchised community.

The same argument holds true for PEN American’s impending celebration of Charlie Hebdo. Certainly Charlie Hebdo was courageous in continuing to publish, despite threats and, indeed, the murders of its journalists. In awarding this prize, PEN American clearly distinguishes between agreeing with Charlie Hebdo’s message, and applauding their bravery. But, as the six writers who are boycotting the PEN Gala are aware, despite intentions, the PEN award may very well be perceived as an endorsement of a magazine that continues to lampoon a disempowered group with scathing and provocative cartoons, and used to bolster the arguments of those who seek to further marginalize them. No organization can expect unwavering support from within its ranks when it makes difficult choices on sensitive matters. PEN represents writers with widely differing viewpoints – it has always embraced controversy and encouraged dissent.

 We celebrated Charlie Hebdo’s right to offend – and some took offence 

Scant evidence prisons are terrorist breeding grounds – Macleans.ca

Sharp contrast to France (and likely UK) where this is a serious issue and good to see this kind of research taking place notwithstanding some of the political fearmongering:

Federal prisons are not the hotbeds of radical extremism some make them out to be, according to research by the Correctional Service of Canada.

And compared to other inmates, radicalized offenders are more likely to have moderate-to-high potential for rejoining society.

The preliminary findings emerge from an ongoing, multi-year collaboration between the prison service and Defence Research and Development Canada aimed at developing a solid basis to assess and manage jailed extremists.

The Canadian Press used the Access to Information Act to obtain a 2014 summary of a series of academic studies undertaken by the Correctional Service’s research branch. Internal notes suggest the presentation, Radicalized Offenders, was prepared for the deputy ministers’ committee on national security.

“Though concern over the spread of violent ideologies has been expressed, this concern is supported by limited qualitative, anecdotal evidence,” says the presentation.

“Researchers have concluded that many of those who adopt extremist Islamist ideologies during incarceration often disregard these beliefs upon release.”

However, the presentation adds, there is a need for a greater understanding of just how susceptible inmates are to being radicalized behind bars.

One of the gunmen in the bloody attack on Paris-based satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo last January had come under the sway of a convicted terrorist while in prison – the sort of incident that has fuelled concern about the spread of radical ideas in jail.

As of this month, there were 19 offenders in Canadian federal prisons who had at least one affiliation with an extremist or terrorist organization, including racial extremists, the Correctional Service says. Of these, nine had been convicted of at least one terrorism-related offence.

Researchers found that compared to other inmates, radicalized offenders are less likely to be Canadian citizens and more likely to belong to a visible minority group.

They are also younger, better educated, more likely to have a history of stable employment and less likely to have had previous tangles with the criminal justice system. Radicalized offenders also have fewer mental health issues and problems with substance abuse.

Overall, they are more likely “to be assessed as having moderate-high reintegration potential,” the presentation says.

A review of the research literature identified several factors that might make someone vulnerable to being radicalized, including poor support at home, a history of family violence, negative attitudes towards conventional society and a tendency to lodge grievances.

Though more research is needed, focus group discussions with staff working in prisons and the community identified two distinct groups of susceptible offenders.

The first type were socially unattached, unskilled and likely to be recruited to carry out a group’s mundane “dirty work.” The second kind were socially connected, educated and recruited for their skills and abilities.

Scant evidence prisons are terrorist breeding grounds – Macleans.ca.

Auditor General: Billions in tax breaks given without proper oversight

I always remember the smugness and sometimes even arrogance of Finance officials in their criticism of MCs, TB submissions and other issues in pointing out weaknesses. The issue was not so much pointing out weaknesses (that is their role) but rather the tone and manner in making their points (TBS shared this trait).

So it is with some satisfaction to see Finance on the receiving end, recognizing that some of this reflects political, not official decisions.

Finance Canada is failing to properly manage billions of dollars in tax credits it offers to Canadians and, in many cases, does not know if they are relevant, effective or achieving the government’s goals, says the federal auditor general.

The Finance Department also does not provide adequate information to parliamentarians on the tens of billions of dollars in so-called tax-based expenditures, Auditor General Michael Ferguson says in a stinging report released Tuesday.

Among his criticisms – which, coincidentally, come at the height of the tax season and just a week after a federal budget touting tax relief – is the government’s failure to include the projected future cost of its many tax breaks.

Opposition parties, spending watchdogs and many economists have for years criticized some of the “boutique” tax credits offered up by the Conservative government, and have instead called for more broad-based tax relief rather than the targeted measures they say are being used to buy votes.

… In its audit, Ferguson’s office examined the relevance, efficiency, effectiveness, equity, implementation costs and how frequently the credits were evaluated, among other factors.

The auditor general found examples of where Finance Canada identified issues with certain tax credits before implementing them, but – despite those potential problems – has yet to evaluate the tax measures.

“Overall, we concluded that the department fell short on managing tax-based expenditures. We reached this conclusion because these expenditures were not systematically evaluated and the information reported did not adequately support parliamentary oversight,” Ferguson says in his report.

The auditor general made three recommendations to Finance Canada, which have been accepted by the government.

They include conducting “systematic and ongoing” evaluations that assess a tax measure’s relevance and appropriateness, determining whether the tax system is the most effective way to meet the desired policy objective, and establishing whether to retain, abolish or modify certain tax credits.

Ferguson also recommended the government improve its reporting practices on the billions of dollars in tax credits, including providing projected cost estimates in future years, and more timely and relevant information for parliamentarians.

Auditor General: Billions in tax breaks given without proper oversight | Ottawa Citizen.

Baltimore shows police killings America’s real state of emergency

Neil MacDonald on police killings in the US and the relative risk of being killed in the US by the police is much greater than being killed by terrorists. Of course, as all the numbers show, the likelihood is much greater for Blacks:

Today, though, even the conservative voices that have for so long defended law enforcement are wavering.

Take some time and browse the libertarian Cato Institute’s online National Police Misconduct Reporting Project.

It’s a scholarly work, and evidence gathered is weighed carefully; in fact, the last full year for which they have issued a definitive report is 2010.

That report identified 4,861 formal incidents of police misconduct involving 6,613 law enforcement officers and 247 civilian fatalities for that year alone.

If just a fraction of those fatalities were criminal, then the inescapable conclusion is that more people have been murdered by police in America in the last 10 years than by terrorists.

Of course, we are told, we don’t know how many terrorists have been thwarted by vigilant behind-the-scenes enforcement.

Well, true. But given the minuscule number of prosecutions, let alone convictions, neither do we know how many of the people who are supposed to be guarding us have gotten away with murder.

Baltimore shows police killings America’s real state of emergency – World – CBC News.

Groening Holocaust Trial: He was a link in the chain of genocide – Erna Paris

Erna Paris on the trial of the former SS guard whose job it was to go through the belongings of new arrivals at Auschwitz and the evolution in defining complicity in international law:

For the past two decades, the UN ad hoc international criminal tribunals and the ICC have been incrementally refining the meaning of complicity in major crimes, including the degree of active participation, including non-violent participation, in a criminal enterprise. The German court will have to decide whether the charges against Oskar Groening meet the criteria broadly known as “contribution” or “aiding and abetting.” He has openly admitted witnessing the gassing of prisoners whose possessions he had earlier stolen.

Given the evolution of the law, not least in Germany, it’s hard to imagine an acquittal. He has acknowledged having been briefed by the SS about his “difficult” posting to Auschwitz. He was told the camp was central to Hitler’s plan to exterminate the Jews. And he went there freely, proud to serve. An acquittal would reverse Germany’s renewed attempts to try Holocaust-related cases before the last of the perpetrators dies. It would suggest a return to the problematic ways of old. This would be complicated. More than seven decades later, Germans remain haunted by the 12 years that fractured their society and bifurcated the 20th century.

Conversely, a conviction would reaffirm that there is no statute of limitations for crimes against humanity, and that accountability remains possible. For example, there are now optimistic signs in Bosnia, where 10 former Bosnian-Serb soldiers were recently indicted for war crimes committed in 1993. Remarkably, given the history of that conflict, it was co-operation with Serbian prosecutors that made this possible.

Oskar Groening is neither insensitive nor dishonest. Years ago he refuted the Holocaust-deniers. He has expressed shock at the atrocities he witnessed in the Auschwitz camp. He has requested forgiveness for his “moral complicity.” Perhaps he has compared his untroubled postwar life to the murders of millions in his former workplace.

Perhaps he would welcome the justice of a conviction.

In that he would resemble the few elderly men and women who survived the Auschwitz hell and have travelled to the Lunenburg courtroom; or the adult children who have come in the name of traumatized parents who did not live long enough to see – to hope for – a small measure of justice in the closing days of their lives.

He was a link in the chain of genocide – The Globe and Mail.

Salman Rushdie Slams Critics of Charlie Hebdo’s PEN Award

A fair amount of coverage and commentary with respect to Charlie Hebdo’s PEN award on both sides of the issue (I lean towards Rushdie’s position):

Six writers have withdrawn as literary hosts of the 2015 PEN American Center gala, criticizing the organization’s choice to honor satirical weekly newspaper Charlie Hebdo with the Freedom of Expression Courage award—a move author Salman Rushdie calls “horribly wrong.”

The writers—Peter Carey, Teju Cole, Rachel Kushner, Michael Ondaatje, Francine Prose and Taiye Selasi—believe it’s wrong to reward the publication for free speech, since they feel its depiction of Islam was often offensive, the New York Times reports. Carey acknowledged that the terrorist act that killed many of Charlie Hebdo‘s staff members was “a hideous crime,” but also noted that France as a nation “does not recognize its moral obligation to a large and disempowered segment of their population.”

Though Rushdie (whose death was called for by a Muslim leader over his book The Satanic Verses) calls both Carey and Ondaatje “old friends,” he said the choice of Charlie Hebdo was perfectly appropriate. “What I would say to both Peter and Michael and the others,” he told the Times, “is, I hope nobody ever comes after them.”

Salman Rushdie Slams Critics of Charlie Hebdo’s PEN Award | TIME.

Commentary magazine, while predictably using this to assail the left, nevertheless has a point:

“If PEN as a free speech organization can’t defend and celebrate people who have been murdered for drawing pictures, then frankly the organization is not worth the name,” Mr. Rushdie said. “What I would say to both Peter and Michael and the others is, I hope nobody ever comes after them.”

Indeed. Liberals have apparently graduated from telling Muslims what is and isn’t truly Islamic to telling Muslims (and their victims) what is and isn’t blasphemy. According to the left, blasphemy is not a religious term so much as it just shouldn’t be applied to people who draw yucky pictures. This is, to say the least, a standard that bodes poorly for those who truly do support free speech. Where are their allies going to come from if not from free-speech organizations?

And there’s also something quite hilarious in the don’t-worry-Rushdie-you’re-still-good defensiveness in the anti-Charlie Hebdo group. That may be true today, but for how long will it continue to be true? At what point will the left finally throw Rushdie under that bus? Because that moment is coming, and I suspect everyone knows it.

The Left Will Disown Rushdie Too; the Only Question Is When

The Globe’s editorial board tries to find a middle approach:

For writers who deal in human complexity like Mr. Ondaatje, context matters. If an awards night is to be more than a self-congratulatory fundraiser, abstract notions like freedom of expression and courage must defer to a harder literary question: Should the boundaries of both free speech and courage necessarily adapt to local realities?

Charlie Hebdo’s cartoonists, working in the persistent French spirit of secularism and anticlericalism, saw themselves as caricaturing a monolithic sect that consistently behaves with barbaric cruelty and unreason. Islam, for Charlie Hebdo, became an updated version of the Catholic Church, and so a deserving target of ferocious satire.

But for the dissenting authors at PEN, these broad-brushed satirical attacks necessarily had damaging consequences at the human level. France’s colonial past has produced a modern culture of inequality, they say. In Paris, where encouraging anti-Islamic sentiments shades too easily into racism, Muslims are much more likely to be the oppressed than the oppressors PEN normally rails against.

For other prominent PEN members, all this literary ambivalence is a weak-kneed diversion from the no-compromise ideals of free speech. Salman Rushdie, who knows a thing or two about attempts to limit free expression, said his old friend Mr. Ondaatje was “horribly wrong.” But he’s not wrong, just different – and right to avoid the gala’s awkward culture of unanimity.

 Charlie Hebdo deserves praise, but not at all costs 

In this election year, it’s cop versus cop: Akin

Not so sure that the dynamics will be as clear cut as presented by Akin.

There is a range of views within the police community on approaches. The Conservative one-sided (and overly simplistic) approach that runs counter to most of the evidence may not come out as well as Conservative MPs hope:

“The focus on being tough on crime — and I’ve been tough on crime, personally — but I think the focus needs to be on preventing our kids from choosing a life of crime and I don’t think that focus has been there.”

Sajjan and Blair — should Blair win his nomination fight — will help boost the Liberal profile on public safety issues. And many Conservatives couldn’t be happier. They believe a voter thinking about law and order puts their ‘X’ beside the Conservative candidate on the ballot.

“I would be just delighted,” said Daryl Kramp, an eastern Ontario Conservative MP. Kramp is the chairman of the House of Commons Public Safety and Security committee and, before a long career as a businessman, spent some time as a constable with the OPP.

Kramp, in fact, is one of at least eight Conservative MPs, including two in cabinet, to have worn a police uniform.

And that thin blue line in the House of Commons exists only on the government side. Not a single opposition MP has a background as a police officer.

“We’ve been identified as the law-and-order party and now (Bill Blair) wants to join a party that has voted against just about every measure we’ve put forward,” Kramp said Monday.

Those measures include new laws to help victims of crime, increasing sentences for some crimes, removing some judicial discretion and giving more power and resources to police.

In this election year, it’s cop versus cop | AKIN | Columnists | Opinion | Toron.

Foreign funds promoting ‘extreme Islamic jihadist’ views in Canada, Evolving terror threat justifies need for Bill C-51, national security advisor says

Always uncomfortable, given that some of our current allies in the fight against ISIS such as Saudi Arabia are a source of funding of fundamentalists and extremists:

Richard Fadden said the money often goes through religious institutions, which helps to shield it from further scrutiny.

“Without commenting on a particular country of origin, there are monies coming into this country which are advocating this kind of approach to life,” Mr. Fadden said on Monday before the Senate Committee on National Security and Defence. “Finding out where it all goes in the end, and for what purpose, is in fact quite difficult. A lot of these funds are directed through religious institutions, quasi-religious institutions, and it’s very difficult in this country to start poking about religious institutions, because of the respect that we have for freedom of religion.”

Mr. Fadden was answering a question from Conservative Senator Daniel Lang, who asked about the government’s response to funding from countries such as Saudi Arabia that promotes an “extreme jihadist” interpretation of the Koran.

Mr. Fadden said the federal government is aware of the problem, but noted that his discussions with allies have shown that “nobody has found a systemic solution.”

“The difficulty in most cases is that the monies are not coming from governments, they are coming from fairly wealthy institutions and individuals, which makes it doubly difficult to track,” he said.

In his appearance, Mr. Fadden argued that the evolving terror threat helps to justify the need for Bill C-51, the proposed anti-terrorism legislation.

“Our enemies have continued to refine their methods and adapt; so must we.”

Mr. Fadden said the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) needs new powers to disrupt potential terrorist activities, in addition to collecting intelligence on the threats facing Canada.

He said the goal of the new disruption measures is to allow CSIS to take action before criminal activities take place, arguing that the RCMP should not be called in these events.

“The police cannot get involved, by the nature of their work, if they cannot see something concrete in terms of criminal activity,” Mr. Fadden said. “Otherwise, we are living in a police state.”

The new disruption powers would allow CSIS to advise family members that someone is being radicalized to violence or take actions to neutralize a terrorist plot.

Mr. Fadden added the public and the media’s concerns over Bill C-51 are exaggerated, referring specifically to the notion that non-governmental organizations will become the target of counterterrorism agencies.

“A number of people in the media and elsewhere have been reported as saying, ‘The Girl Guides will be hit next.’ Well there has to be an actual threat to national security,” he said.

Too bad no question regarding Fadden’s views on the need for oversight (although he would not be in a position to speak other than the government line). His comments “otherwise we are living in a police state” are ironic given his silence on the oversight issue.

Evolving terror threat justifies need for Bill C-51, security adviser says – The Globe and Mail.

Ethnic and Multicultural Media Training Offered

One of the more interesting initiatives from New Canadian Media. Letter from publisher George Abraham to current and developing journalists:

Dear fellow journalist,

Greetings from Ottawa!

It is an honour for me to roll out Canada’s first nation-wide training program aimed specifically at journalists who work with “ethnic” or “multicultural” media organizations.

This accompanying questionnaire will help us determine locations and the specific workshops we will offer. All the information you provide is confidential and will only be used for research and training purposes.

These in-person training sessions build on our successful mentoring program, launched in February, as part of seeking out “new voices”.

Here is some more information that may be helpful:

This training program will be offered free-of-cost and is funded through a federal government grant

NCM will offer up to three individual workshops (two hours each) in each location. Topics for the workshops will be chosen based on responses to the questionnaire

Workshops will most likely be hosted at the nearest journalism school, subject to space availability

A light lunch and refreshments will be provided to all participants

I’d be more than happy to respond to any questions you may have relating to your participation. And, please do forward the questionnaire to your friends as well.

Ethnic and Multicultural Media Training  – New Canadian Media.