Thursday, February 01, 2007

Muslim Hottie
The Truth

This woman is on her way to becoming one of my favorite people in the world:

Munira Mirza , an expert on identity, multi-culturalism and radical Islam knows what she is talking about. You might have caught her recent series The Business of Race on Radio 4, or heard her contributions to such programmes as Start The Week on the very same subjects. Or perhaps you may have read one of her articles or think tank reports. Munira is much in demand.
'I'm not quite sure how to explain what I do,' she laughs, when I ask her.

This turns out to be a PhD, freelance research and writing, and a project on the rise of UK radical Islam for much in demand think tank, Policy Exchange. Oh, and then there is are the media appearances.


No matter, because for a woman in such demand, Munira is in no hurry. So we sip milky coffee in a café along from the House of Commons, complain about the miserable weather, and then get down to the subject of race.

Q: I realised the other day that I don't actually understand what multi-culturalism is.

A: There are two ways that you can look at it. First there is the lived experience; we live in a country that has an enormous amount of ethnic and cultural diversity. In London, in particular, there are a lot of languages spoken, different food and arts, etc. That's the cosmopolitan experience of living in a society with lots of differences and that's great. But then there is multi-culturalism as a political idea, which is quite different and which elevates the importance of difference above what we have in common. The message off multi-culturalism is that your cultural identity as an individual is the most important thing, and that we should organise society around that principle. So rather than looking for the things that we might have in common, we instead take all these differences and relate to people through this filter. It is a way of making sense of the relationships between us, and it is also a view of culture that is, in a sense, fixed in the multi-cultural model. So the fact that I am Asian means that my identity, if you are a multi-culturalist, is something that is created for me, and something that I am born with, rather than something that I make for myself.

Q: What was 7-7 about, do you think?

A: I think the terrorists were looking for meaning too. They can't find it here; being British is so discredited in this country that they look for that identity elsewhere. But the most compelling thing about the al-Qaeda identity is its victimhood status; it is the ultimate logic of multi-culturalism, with its claim that it represents an oppressed minority.

Q: But what makes a group of apparently well educated young men put explosives in backpacks and explode themselves on crowded underground trains?

A: You won't find the answer to that question abroad; you'll find it here in the vacuum of meaning in the West. The only value such people believe in is an entirely nihilistic one, which is the philosophy which dominates much of our current western culture. The anti-western sentiment of those bombers was not that dissimilar to the anti-western characteristics of the Left; anti-capitalist and anti-globalist. The almost emotional attachment to hating the West is much stronger than any kind of rational political analysis.

But to combat terrorism we have to present an alternative, to confidently state that we have values, to be clear that they are strong and to not accept the characterisation of the West as something that is entirely destructive. The West has made remarkable strides and its ideas can be universal and understood around the world.