Written by Husain Al-Qadi
Friday, 26 October 2007
Following on from his alarmist calls last year about Britain needing to regain pride in its identity, the Chief Rabbi of the UK, Jonathan Sacks, published his latest book on Saturday. In it he argued that multiculturalism promotes segregation, stifles free speech and threatens liberal democracy.
He wrote that "multiculturalism has led not to integration but to segregation", "liberal democracy is in danger" and that "a culture of victimhood sets group against group". So, about whom is the Rabbi speaking?
We know you mean Muslims
It is no secret that when people shout about the failure of multiculturalism today, what they actually mean is the perceived failure of the Muslim community "to integrate into wider society". Multiculturalism is now a euphemism for "Muslim ghettos and the Islamic threat to the British way of life". Ask the average the person in the street what is meant when we say "multiculturalism has failed" and the first answer you will receive is "those immigrant Muslims".
Indeed, you do not even have to use the word "multiculturalism". It is enough simply to ask: "Tell me who I am talking about when I say 'people who do not want to integrate and who threaten our way of life?'" and the response "Muslims" immediately springs to mind. Of course, this unfortunate linkage did not enter into public consciousness through any basis in fact or any scientific reasoning, which in fact happens to prove the contrary. Rather, thanks to the Neocon myth-production-machine and the Murdoch global media empire, Britain is now one of the most Islamophobic nations on the planet.
Into this rising storm of anti-Muslim hysteria steps the Chief Rabbi to do his bit in maintaining the momentum of hate currently hurtling down the road to a Muslim holocaust. This is consistent, of course, with his actions in 2003, when he was the only faith leader in this country to have supported the illegal invasion of Iraq.
Whilst considering Rabbi Sacks' diatribe on multiculturalism, I think it is pertinent to note what he says in a rather revealing book which he wrote as a wedding gift for his son Joshua some years ago. In defending the idea of Jews being the "Chosen People" of God, he argued that:
"What lies behind the idea of a chosen people? The answer is given by the Bible itself by the two stories of the Flood and the Tower of Babel. Imperialism, the desire to place all people under a single rule, ends in a world filled with violence (the Flood) or in a civilization that arrogates to itself godlike powers (Babel)... God set his image on the only creature for whom difference is a source of identity, namely man. And to exemplify this truth, He chooses Israel, the people who are called on to be different, to show that for God, difference matters." (Jonathan Sacks (2000), Radical then, radical now. Continuum Compacts, p. 89-90.)
In denouncing modern day Jews, Rabbi Sacks wrote that, "We are still, today, uneasier about who we are than any other group in the Western world. There is nothing natural about the rates of outmarriages in the Diaspora, or the extent of secularization in Israel". (Jonathan Sacks (2000), Radical then, radical now, p.189.)
The ideal Jewish community in his mind is clearly enunciated by his admiration for the values and standards adopted by his predecessors. He wrote: "What was remarkable, even unique about Jews in the past was that they did not assimilate. They preserved their traditions and customs and way of life. Jews were different and stayed different. They kept their identity, and so their community did not disappear." (Jonathan Sacks (2000), Radical then, radical now, p. 191.)
As a Muslim member of a community under siege that is facing calls from every quarter to abandon Muslim schools and institutions because it is "too multicultural" for Britain to bear, what am I to make of the Rabbi's startling statements above in the light of his new book?
Is the Rabbi trying to preserve his community by calling on it to recognise the importance of "difference" and the need to preserve "tradition" and "identity" while cleverly demanding that Muslims be denied those very privileges offered to them in a multicultural context? It certainly seems so, especially when we note that he also bizarrely stressed, in an interview with The Times, that he "led the drive for more Jewish schools in the early 1990s by alarming the Jewish community about their imminent demise. I decided to use shock-horror tactics... And since then we've built more Jewish day schools than ever in our 350-year plus history".
Denying the victim the right to cry?
One of the most despicable demands on Muslims today is the call to avoid "victimhood". This is especially so when almost all of the key architects in this wicked ploy are members of Rabbi Sacks' Jewish community, who themselves have spent the last 60 years building an industry that protests the victimisation of their people. Rabbi Sacks insinuates that Muslims have developed a "culture of victimhood" but reserves the right to speak and write about the suffering of his own community on a continuous basis.
Yet later in the book, in his advice to his son, he admits that "In the past, Jews left Judaism to avoid prejudice and discrimination. Today, in countries where intermarriage rates are highest, there is no terror and no threat – Jews have freedom and equality". (Jonathan Sacks (2000), Radical then, radical now, p. 192.)
Unleashing the monsters of the past
For a community that has suffered so much at the hands of xenophobic, fascist and racist propaganda in the past, it is ironic that some prominent Jews, of all people, would seek to promote similar rhetoric about Muslims in today's Europe. Aside from the fallacy and immorality of such pursuits, self interest should have given rise to caution. What if this monster of xenophobia and fascism we are nurturing with our words of encouragement and books of applause were to turn its ugly head towards us once again as it did in Nazi Germany?
Multiculturalism was the principle that made it possible for the Jewish community to settle and prosper in Britain, as its members have been doing since the 17th Century. In this new drive to deny Muslims the right to those same privileges, we find, ironically, that a disproportionate number of activists are drawn from the Jewish community.
What the Jewish community needs to remember is that xenophobia and racism are more sensitive to pressures of economic inequality than they are to vacuous notions of "values". Muslim schools, mosques and institutions may get burnt in temporary fits of rage instigated by the Neocon myth-makers and Muslims may even have to leave these lands, but when it comes to the unceasing fury precipitated by any economic downturns that will follow the Muslim backlash, the Jewish-led business institutions that dominate the financial world will once again attract the attention of the xenophobes.