Eclectic Grounds

conflicts and conversation

Archive for the ‘In-groups and Out-groups’ Category

Cultural traditions as instruments of opposition

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On TED, yet another interesting talk on one of the main themes of this blog: how to embrace religious and cultural traditions while at the same time remaking them as instruments for opposition and empowerment.

Kavita Ramdas tells three stories of quite remarkable women who do just that.

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Written by henrik

April 29, 2010 at 11:05 am

Ubuntu: A person is a person through other persons

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Archbishop Desmond Tutu explains the principles of the Southern African philosophy Ubuntu, which stresses community, consensus and the interconnectedness of people.

Via Institut für Friedenspädagogik

Martin Luther King’s words

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Jay Smooth put together some memorable Martin Luther King quotations:

(from IllDoctrine)

Update: On the same subject, I just came across an impressive illustration putting in today’s context what Dr. King and many others have fought for (talking about post-racial USA…):

Lest We Forget

By RJ Matson (via NoCaptionNeeded)

Cornel West: channeling the rage

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A short talk by the great Cornel West, Princeton professor and author of “Race Matters”, on his childhood and how he learned to channel his feelings of rage into a productive direction.

(via Situationist)

Tariq Ramadan: Symbols of Fear and the Swiss referendum

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In the Guardian, Tariq Ramadan gives his perspective on the question I posed here yesterday:

There are only four minarets in Switzerland, so why is it that it is there that this initiative has been launched? My country, like many in Europe, is facing a national reaction to the new visibility of European Muslims. The minarets are but a pretext – the UDC wanted first to launch a campaign against the traditional Islamic methods of slaughtering animals but were afraid of testing the sensitivity of Swiss Jews, and instead turned their sights on the minaret as a suitable symbol.

Every European country has its specific symbols or topics through which European Muslims are targeted. In France it is the headscarf or burka; in Germany, mosques; in Britain, violence; cartoons in Denmark; homosexuality in the Netherlands – and so on. It is important to look beyond these symbols and understand what is really happening in Europe in general and in Switzerland in particular: while European countries and citizens are going through a real and deep identity crisis, the new visibility of Muslims is problematic – and it is scary.

At the very moment Europeans find themselves asking, in a globalising, migratory world, “What are our roots?”, “Who are we?”, “What will our future look like?”, they see around them new citizens, new skin colours, new symbols to which they are unaccustomed.

Over the last two decades Islam has become connected to so many controversial debates – violence, extremism, freedom of speech, gender discrimination, forced marriage, to name a few – it is difficult for ordinary citizens to embrace this new Muslim presence as a positive factor. There is a great deal of fear and a palpable mistrust. Who are they? What do they want? And the questions are charged with further suspicion as the idea of Islam being an expansionist religion is intoned. Do these people want to Islamise our country?

Why did Switzerland decide to ban minarets?

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Some reactions by the victorious camp in favour of the ban on minarets after the referendum on Sunday, 29 October:

“Forced marriages and other things like cemeteries separating the pure and impure – we don’t have that in Switzerland and we don’t want to introduce it.”
Ulrich Schlüer, co-president of the Initiative Committee to ban minarets.

“Society wants to put a safeguard on the political-legal wing of Islam, for which there is no separation between state and religion.”
Oskar Freysinger, member of the Swiss People’s Party and a driving force in the campaign

“People who settle here have to realise that they can’t turn up to work in a head scarf or get special dispensation from swimming lessons.”
Toni Brunner, president of the People’s Party

(all quotes from SwissInfo)

If one listens to its initiators, yesterday’s referendum was not about the construction of new minarets in Switzerland at all. The organizers of the campaign admit quite frankly what was really rejected: their image of a Muslim religion and culture and what they perceive as an assault on Swiss values.

With only four minarets existing in the country is hard to argue that the referendum is justified. Yet, the campaign poster speaks a clear language where minarets are used symbolically for a hostile attack: missile-sharp minarets riddle a Swiss flag. The rationale behind the campaign is “a” culturally pure Switzerland and “a” hostile culture of Islam.

So as of Sunday, the Swiss have joined the exclusive club of Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan as the world’s only countries that have laws which to prohibit the construction of towers on religious buildings (In S.A. and Afghanistan, it’s Christian churches though). With the outcome and implementation of the ban, Switzerland breaches the European Convention on Human Rights and is likely to face expulsion from the Council of Europe.

Just to be clear: a debate concentrated on issues (dispensation from swimming lessons, head scarfs, etc) is necessary for communities as a negotiation of shared communal values. However, in such debates the majority often drifts of to racial and cultural stereotyping of minorities. It looks as if the anti-minaret campaign is the most extreme example of this in a European country to date.

The question that the organisers of the winning side will have to ask themselves is whether their success will really help their goal of driving back “traditional Islam” and the construction of “parallel societies”.

The campaign has highlighted a massive stigma of Muslims in Switzerland as culturally inferior and ultimately unwanted. On top of that, Muslims will now be more marginalised than ever before. Discrimination will no longer be limited to the social level but also reflected in the legal structure as soon as the words ‘the construction of minarets is prohibited’ will enter article 72 of the Swiss constitution.

With this decision, the liberal and integrated majority of Muslims in Switzerland is under attack and extremist groups will gain momentum. If the initiators of the referendum were genuinely interested in the integration of religious and ethnic minorities they would see the outcome of their campaign as a catastrophe.

New study compares levels of prejudice, racism and discrimination in several European countries

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A new study by by the Amadeu Antonio Foundation and University Bielefeld compared levels and nature of prejudice against immigrants, ethnic-cultural minorities, Jews, Muslims, women, gay men and lesbian women, homeless and disabled people in several European countries. Eight countries were selected for the study: Britain, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, Portugal, Poland and Hungary. The results are alarming.

These are some results of the study:

50,4% of the Europeans somewhat or strongly agree that “there are too many immigrants” in their country. This statement indicates a generalized and blind rejection of immigrants.

24.5% supposes that “Jews have too much influence in [country]“. Here, a traditional facet of anti-Semitism appears that mirrors anti-Semitic conspiracy myths.

54.4% of the Europeans believe that “the Islam is a religion of intolerance.” This makes obvious that many Europeans share a generalized negative image of the Islam (and of Muslims as the agreement to additional statements reveals).

Nearly one third (31,3%) of the Europeans somewhat or strongly agree that “there is a natural hierarchy between black and white people”. Thus, they agree to a very blatant and direct statement indicating the belief in ethnic hierarchies legitimised by implied natural differences.

A majority of Europeans of 60.2% stick to traditional gender roles that result in economical and power gender inequality as they are demanding that “women should take their role as wives and mothers more seriously.”

42,6% deny equal value of gay men and lesbian women and judge homosexuality as ‘immoral’.

Download the press release and short report here.