Inherent problem of multiculturalism

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Lesley Riddoch omits from her discourse (Perspective, 12 January) one significant issue: she fails to properly address multiculturalism.

If it means welcoming and celebrating the culture of people from another land, it’s fine and desirable, but when it means importing 
anti-democratic and theocratic ideas into a secular 
democracy in the name of “tolerance and diversity”, then we have a problem.

The kind of multiculturalism that Charlie Hebdo opposed and saw as undermining French values is that which is increasingly problematic here and elsewhere.

It includes the incursion of Sharia law into the mainstream (even the venerable Law Society got in on the Islamic theology business recently before withdrawing, suitably chastened).

It also includes an approach to the role of women which some would label subjugation; belief in capital punishment for apostasy, homosexuality and adultery; and a demand for blasphemy laws to be extended to cover Islam (the Muslim Council of Britain wanted the incitement to religious hatred law precisely so it could prosecute anyone who used the expression “Islamic terrorists”, as such a term was “deeply offensive”).

Several surveys of “ordinary” Muslims in the UK, whom we presume to be those who condemn outright the Paris atrocities, have revealed worrying levels of support for these very features.

Cartoon controversies detract from these everyday issues. The reality is that hard-won secular principles are the target of an aggressive religious ideology which sees the onus of compromise as a one-way exercise.

Is aggressive secularism responsible for the actions of Boko Haram in Nigeria, or IS in Iraq, or the Taleban in Afghanistan?

Of course the actions of these groups, or of a lone Sydney gunman, or three executioners in Paris do not represent the average Muslim.

But that doesn’t mean religious dogma isn’t a significant factor in their world view, be they extremist or moderate, or that its tenets should be accommodated in a secular democracy, in the name of tolerance and diversity, where they are in stark contrast to the values of the Enlightenment.

Alistair McBay

National Secular Society


Malcolm Parkin (Letters, 12 January) dislikes the Charlie Hebdo cartoons, which he finds non-satirical, unfunny, rude and French, but failure to please Malcolm Parkin is, fortunately, not grounds for denying expressive freedom.

Nor is the causing of offence to Muslims.

If it were, we would not be able to buy a complete version of Dante’s Divine Comedy, which depicts Mohammad in a highly derogatory manner.

Mr Parkin contends that the right of free speech applies “to factual and informative journalism”.

As The Bible and The Qur’an do not fall into this category and contain verses offensive to atheists and homosexuals, would he support censoring them?

Robert Canning

Bridge of Earn