Valentina Colombo / May 01, 2010

The Netherlands in the late 19th Century developed a Dutch version of multiculturalism called “Pillarization,” with the aim of enabling peaceful cooperation between the leaders of the various "pillars” but with their constituencies remaining largely segregated. Even If some of these strategies could become a policy, those regarding dress and different codes of law, such as sharia, invariably lead to a deep and dangerous discrimination towards women.

The problem is the belief that these atrocities are a matter solely for immigrants more unfortunate, and do not involve society as a whole.

Multiculturalism can be defined as the acceptance of multiple ethnic cultures - both for practical reasons and for the sake of diversity -- and applied to the demographic make-up of specific places, such as schools, businesses, neighborhoods, cities or nations.

Multiculturalists advocate extending equal status to differing ethnic and religious groups, but without promoting any ethnic, religious, or cultural values.

Government multicultural policies usually include: recognition of multiple citizenship; support for newspapers, television and radio in minority languages; support for minority festivals, holidays and celebrations; acceptance of traditional and religious dress in schools, the military and society in general; support for music and arts from minority cultures; the study of programs to encourage minority representation in politics and the workforce in general; and the enforcement of different codes of law on members of each ethnic group.

Two recent books by Muslim women define multiculturalism as “a deceit” and “a mistake.”
“The Multicultural Mistake” published in Germany in 2007, is by Seran Ates, a lawyer, born in Istanbul and raised in Germany.

“The Deceit: Victims of Multiculturalism,” pubished in Italy in 2010, is by Souad Sbai, and Italian MP born in Morocco and living in Italy. And grown in Germany; Souad Sbai, an Italian MP born in Morocco and living in Italy.

Both, in different ways, have been working with immigrant women. And both declare that multiculturalism is not only outdated, but mainly that it is against women’s rights.

Seyran Ates, increasingly stifled by her authoritarian home environment, decided to run away from her family when she was seventeen, and sought refuge in a women’s shelter where she lived in a community of battered Turkish and German women. An ultra-nationalist band of Turkish youths invaded the women’s center in 1984, guns blazing. Ates was shot in the throat and severely wounded; the woman next to her was killed.

It took Ates five years to recover from the wounds and the trauma of the attack. After this attempt to kill her, she decided that no man had the right to destroy her dream of becoming a lawyer and fighting for women’s rights. She decided to stop her activity as a lawyer defending Turkish immigrant women in 2007 after receiving another death threat. Her engagement, however, did not stop: She started writing to change the situation in Germany; her book, “The Multicultural Mistake How we in Germany Can Live Better Together” is a clear analysis of the situation there.

Ates considers left-wing activists particularly culpable for the mistakes made in the current integration policy: for a long time they hindered any debate. Despite all that left-wing activists aspire to, she maintains that they never look closely enough at what is actually happening in the communities that have settled in Germany.

She writes that a close look at the third generation shows the results of what Germany has failed to accomplish in the past decades: a large part of her book is devoted to women and violence -- forced marriages, honor killings and violence in general.

Ates writes that “we need to recognize forced marriage as a criminal offense, and in the area of domestic violence we need to acknowledge what has been proven by many studies. The studies show that migrants who are exposed to violence need a different kind of victim protection. They need facilities that respond to their special situation”.

As an immigrant who has experienced on her flesh what integration means and the consequences of a bad model of integration, Ates is firmly convinced that “multiculturalism, as it has been lived until today, is just organized irresponsibility, since it is an unrestricted tolerance towards the others.”

Her words sound like those pronounced by most Dutch people after Theo Van Gogh’s murder in Amsterdam several years ago, and even more true when referring to a multicultural approach to immigrant women.

Souad Sbai, the Italian MP who has been working for years with immigrant women, agrees. She sees the condition of Muslim women in the West as failure of the “multicultural society” as a whole.

Multiculturalism, in Sbai’s opinion, is a terrible monster with multiple faces, and embodied in two main phenomena:

    • The instrumental use of religion by fundamentalists to pursue their political will and their submission of women, and
    • The abolition of civil liberties and dignity of the human being.

The subtitle of her book, "Victims of Multiculturalism," identifies the main problem as the outcome of a legal and political abdication both to promote universal human rights and to respect the centrality and inviolability the person.

Although the word "victims" can sound as if it refers to immigrant women in the West and their segregation in a world of ignorance and violence, the term has a universal value: The message of her book is that any person, man or woman, of any religion can be a victim of fundamentalism and fanaticism.

In Sbai’s opinion, deceit is the dazzling illusion of multiculturalism -- the refusal to recognize the nature of an ideology and its disastrous consequences, and people’s tendency to confuse it with “positive multiculturalism.”

Deceit, according to Sbai, is the promotion of abstract ideas and ideologies of human rights and universal brotherhood so that ironically they degenerate into perverse indifference and the denial of rights.
Deceit is a legal and cultural relativism that absolves the guilty and leaves defenseless women beaten, raped, burned, and exploited.

Both Ates and Sbai invite people in the West to open their eyes and look without ideology at immigration and integration in order to give immigrants in general -- and immigrant women in particular -- a chance in their new land.

Another author, Susanna Moller Okin, in a 1999 article, “Is Multiculturalism Bad for Women?” wrote: “Suppose, then, that a culture endorses and facilitates the control of men over women in various ways (even if informally, in the private sphere of domestic life). Suppose, too, that there are fairly clear disparities of power between the sexes, such that the more powerful, male members are those who are generally in a position to determine and articulate the group's beliefs, practices, and interests. Under such conditions, group rights are potentially, and in many cases actually, antifeminist. They substantially limit the capacities of women and girls of that culture to live with human dignity equal to that of men and boys, and to live as freely chosen lives as they can. […] When a woman from a more patriarchal culture comes to the United States (or some other Western, basically liberal, state), why should she be less protected from male violence than other women are?”

We cannot accept that some women in the West are discriminated against in their homeland, or, as Sbai puts it, that women in Europe get sent “back to the Middle Ages.”

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