Who's afraid of human rights?

Multiculturalist and secular models are profoundly different because the former focuses on the protection of minorities, while the latter protects the human rights of individuals.

Cinzia Sciuto
Cinzia Sciuto MicroMega, Italy
Source: MicroMega
Who's afraid of human rights? - NewsMavens
Non c'è fede che tenga by Cinzia Scuto

Why this story matters:

"Multiculturalism" is a misleading word because it initially suggests a colorful melting pot of traditions, customs, food, fashions and music. But beyond these superficial associations, however, multiculturalism is also a political model for managing diverse societies founded on the principle that members of society must be treated in accordance with their different ethno-cultural/religious "communities" and that minority "cultures" should be preserved. But cultures -- by their very essence -- are indefinable, continually changing, never static.

As I try to explain in my book, "Non c'è fede che tenga" (Feltrinelli, 2018), a secular "Manifesto" against multiculturalism, the contradictions of the multiculturalist approach can be resolved in two ways. We can adopt reactionary identity politics -- like those of Salvini, Orban and their ilk -- claiming that "our" culture should be defended as a fortress against external attacks. Or we can respond from a secular and universalist perspective, and focus on the fundamental rights of all, rather than the rights of groups.

The quintessential difference between the multiculturalist and secular model is that the former focuses on the protection of minorities, while secularism defends the freedom and human rights of every individual, regardless of cultural affiliation.

There is a certain leftist mentality that tends to see human rights as one thing, and political and social rights as another. But why accept this stale differentiation? What is it that would make them incompatible or even alternative?

The human rights of the exploited and the oppressed are always violated first, starting with the rights of women. And it seems to me that rights are indivisible.

This same left often accuses human rights of being a Western paradigm that cannot be "exported" to other regions. Leftist critics of human rights are somewhat hypocritical -- when human rights are violated by "one of us", they are immediately ready to take to the streets. When these violations occur elsewhere, they turn a blind eye.

The truth of the matter is that human rights are not a concept to be exported, but rather a path towards emancipation -- a path the whole world should take together. Let us support Iranian women who want the freedom not to wear headscarves, or atheist bloggers in Bengal who risk being killed with machetes, or women in the Indian Muslim community who are demanding the ban on talaq -- the law allowing a husband to divorce his wife instantaneously. This would be international solidarity, and it ought to be a flagship policy of the left.

Details from the story:

  • European societies are increasingly uneven from an ethnic, religious and cultural point of view.
  • There are three possible approaches to this issue: identitarian, multicultural or secular.
  • European countries oscillate between the first two models: on the one hand we have the identitarian-reactionary isolationism of Italy, Poland and Hungary, on the other the acceptance of any practice in the name of multiculturalism, such as Sharia courts operating in the United Kingdom.

Project #Femfacts co-financed by European Commission Directorate-General for Communications Networks, Content and Technology as part of the Pilot Project – Media Literacy For All

The information and views set out on this website are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official opinion of the European Union. Neither the European Union institutions and bodies nor any person acting on their behalf may be held responsible for the use which may be made of the information contained therein.

NewsMavens is a media start-up within Gazeta Wyborcza, Poland's largest liberal broadsheet published by Agora S.A. NewsMavens is currently financed by Gazeta Wyborcza and Google DNI Fund.
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