Sometimes I wonder whether there will ever be a day that Johann Hari writes something I wholly agree with. I know that such a circumstance is unlikely barring a sudden shift in his thinking away from ideological grand narratives but it might happen. This morning it nearly did. In his commentary piece in the Independent he has written a stinging critique of multiculturalism which by and large I agree with, but, and isn't there always a but? The piece is not free of error and valid criticism.
Starting with what I agree with, Hari writes about the situation in Germany where rampant belief in multiculturalism has led to men quite literally getting away with rape and murder. He cites a number of cases where Judges have been exceptionally lenient on men through the use of cultural relativism. The argument of "well his culture let's him beat his wife" appears to be occurring as part of judgements. In one case, says Hari, a Muslim woman even found herself being a given a lesson by a Judge in the Koran. The woman was told that the Koran gave Muslim husbands the "right to use corporal punishment", therefore she had little case to argue.
Clearly this sort of thing is plainly absurd, wrong, and frankly outrageous, and Hari is absolutely right to say so, as too are others on the Left who question the direction that rampant belief inmulticulturalism is leading us. However, where I think Hari fails is that his entire article is framed around the question of whether you support women or multiculturalism. It ought really be framed around the question of whether you support the rule of law or multiculturalism. The second problem is a purely political one. Hari argues that,
The right loves mashing "mass immigration and multiculturalism" into one sound-bite. Well, I think Britain should take more immigrants and refugees, not fewer - but multiculturalism is a disastrous way to greet them.This is a misdirected view of the right. If he had said "some on the right" it would've been accurate. Much the same as "some on the left" loves mashing criticism of multiculturalism with racism into one sound-bite. To be honest, up until that point of his article I was actually nodding in agreement throughout.
Now to be fair one might say, what do you expect? After all Hari is of the Left, and whether I like it or not, a sly dig at the Right is to be expected. The same is true in reverse for me. However, on the issue that Hari raises, which as I said, I think is more about multicultural versus the rule of law, rather than the support of women per se, is it correct to frame it within the traditional political dichotomy?
There is clearly a growing movement, certainly in Britain, that is pro-Enlightenment and anti-relativist which transcends the traditional positioning which has been defined by economic theory. The debate that Hari, and some others on the Left are engaging in is one that has been going on on the Right for some time - although until the likes of Hari et al intervened those on the Right were subjected to charges of racism which says more about the intellectual times in which we live than many other things.