The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'multiculturalism'
The Graun has an article on the phenomenon of fried chicken shops in Britain, tying in the class aspect (fried chicken as a signifier of underclass status), the racial and cultural dimensions and the connection with Islam:
The increasing number of halal fried chicken shops in the UK is testament to changing demographic and eating patterns. "The Muslim community here is growing," says Enam Ali, chair of the Guild of Bangladeshi Restaurateurs. "Fried chicken is cheap - [people who eat it] are young, students, with limited pocket money." Masood Khawaja, president of the Halal Food Authority, says, "A great percentage of third generation Muslims are not eating the original cuisine of their families - they want more takeaways, more convenience foods."
"Let's just grasp the nettle here," says black comic Paul Ricketts, whose stand-up observations often turn to this issue. "All black areas have loads of fried chicken outlets. It is a socio-economic thing. Chicken is one of the cheapest birds you can get. When people go on about smelly food, what they really mean is fried chicken, and they're having a dig at the people eating it - we have an era where we don't mention class any more, we just call them chavs or hoodies - it's a term for working-class scum."
At Halal Southern Fried Chicken in London's Brick Lane, they lace their hot wing batter with chilli powder, turmeric, cumin and coriander. Most customers are men in their 20s. The story is the same further down the road at Al-Badar Fried Chicken and Curry Restaurant, where their hot wings are coated in cinnamon, coriander and fresh and crushed chillies. Manager Amer Salim differentiates his product from the nearby KFC, which, he says, caters to another market. "In London's Tower Hamlets, the Bangladeshi community like spicy with more and more chilli," he says. "Fried chicken in KFC is not spicy."It doesn't mention the iconographic idiosyncracies of these shops, with their varyingly plausible faux-Americanisms (from "_ Fried Chicken" shops named after random US states to shops whose signage evokes images of cowboys frying chicken over campfires on the Rio Grande to the ubiquitous cartoon mascots of chickens in cowboy hats.
A bus company in Yorkshire is facing accusations of discrimination against alternative lifestyles after a Goth leading his girlfriend on a leash was stopped from boarding a bus:
"Our primary concern is passenger safety and while the couple are very welcome to travel on our buses, we are asking that Miss Maltby remove her dog lead before boarding the bus.
"It could be dangerous for the couple and other passengers if a driver had to brake sharply while Miss Maltby was wearing the lead."Which raises the issue of when does something becomes discrimination. Is there a difference between Goths (who, in this case, are presumably BDSM fetishists or Goreans or something as well; AFAIK, this sort of thing is not a fundamental part of the Goth subculture) leading each other on leashes and, say, some Muslim women covering their faces? Both behaviours are at odds with the accepted social norms. If there is a difference, is it because religious justficiations automatically bear more weight than non-religious ones?
While we're on the subject of multiculturalism in the UK: a childrens' educational CD-ROM based on the story of the Three Little Pigs has been rejected from a government agency's annual awards because it may offend Muslims.
Banks in Britain are getting rid of piggy banks, because they may offend Muslims. Pigs are considered unclean under Islam. Some Muslims have applauded the move, while others have joined criticism of it as taking political correctness to absurd lengths:
"We live in a multicultural society and the traditions and symbols of one community should not be obliterated just to accommodate another," Mr Mahmoud said. "I doubt many Muslims would be seriously offended by piggy banks."
From a BBC article, asking what could motivate normal young men from Leeds to become suicide bombers:
"Then the government aren't helping that either because they approach people by putting labels on them.
"These kids, whoever they are, want to create their own identities but are being told they are Muslim, white, black or whatever.
"The majority of the lads just want to be British but ever since 9/11 they've been pushed back time and again onto a Muslim identity.And elsewhere, questions are being asked about multiculturalism and its present implementation.
Could it be that multiculturalism, as practiced in Britain, overemphasises the rights of cultures over the rights of individuals to choose their own identities, discouraging them from joining the mainstream of British culture in the interest of diversity? In the multicultural age, the concept of assimilation is considered unfashionable, bordering on racism; the alternative, however, seems to encourage the formation of enclaves and ghettos, and the sorting of individuals into those by their ancestry or background. Could it be time to reassess this balance?
If someone is, say, Catholic or Jewish, that is treated as incidental to everything else they are, rather than as a primary and core part of who/what they are. (Well, except possibly by various Ulster unionists and BNP neo-Nazis). If someone is Muslim, however, that seems to be regarded as a fundamental part of their identity, an indicator of difference. The subtext seems to be "they're not like us": they pray differently, eat differently, drink differently, dress differently, and even if they don't, they have different values. Over time, this could become a self-fulfilling prophecy, an internalised mechanism of segregation.
Part of this is due to the legacy of 1960s New Left identity politics, with its emphasis of empowerment through collective identity and condemnation of any privileging of a mainstream culture over subcultures as "hegemonic". Taken to its extreme, this would end up with disjoint, ghettoised communities, each with their own cultures and values. And when there is little meaningful interaction between communities (and impersonal transactions in kebab shops and minicab offices don't count as meaningful), it is easy for radical elements within either community (be they Islamist militants or the BNP) to dehumanise the other community as a faceless collective enemy, rather than a large number of different individuals, some of whom one could probably get on with rather well.