Free & Equal: What It Really Means

In the west, the patriarchy of immigrants from cultures that have not caught on the freedom and equality ideal for women, is not subjected to the same critical scrutiny as is the patriarchy of the white man. Now; why? There are different reasons but the most salient is multiculturalism. If to some of you, multiculturalism means that people of different ethnic, religious and cultural backgrounds can live together in a liberal society where they all uphold the rule of law, then that’s one thing. No rational person is opposed to that arrangement. Human diversity can sometimes be enlightening, enthralling and otherwise enjoyable; but multiculturalism in liberal societies has morphed into something else altogether: as a harmonious model of ‘live and let live’ where every community asserts only those aspects of their identity – such as food, fashion and spirituality that are compatible with the norms, values and rule of law that exists in liberal societies – is only in theory. You’ll find that in text books of academic institutions that are out of touch; you find it in the editorial rooms of leading newspapers, radio and television channels that are even more out of touch; and in the narrow minds of politicians who court immigrant self-appointed leaders so that they can mobilise the vote of those communities who are least likely to educate themselves on the political choices of the day. Multiculturalism is no longer a model of racial, religious and cultural harmony, if it ever was that. Multiculturalism is indifference disguised as tolerance. It allows the free and affluent person to turn his back on those whose freedoms and rights are compromised; on the poor and the most vulnerable. It gives people an excuse to claim tolerance in the face of intolerance. Multiculturalism is moral racism disguised as broad-mindedness. The left leaning white man and woman hold [themselves] and other white people to the highest of moral standards but employ[s] five-or-more syllable words and lengthy sentences to justify why the Indonesian, the Iranian, the Nigerian, the Arab, the Aborigine, the African-American, the Native-American must be excused for observing peculiar customs.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali
Sydney Opera House, 7 April 2013

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