Amartya Sen Critical of Britain’s Religious Identity Politics and “Plural Monoculturalism”

Source: The Guardian

http://www.guardian.co.uk/religion/Story/0,,1712446,00.html

On February 18, 2006 The Guardian reported, “Nobel-winning economist Amartya Sen’s… concerns have outgrown those of economics to dwell on questions of democracy and culture. In the light of the recent furores over Islam and multiculturalism, Sen has written a new book, Identity and Violence, to be published in this country in July, which will take a trenchantly critical look at the British interpretation of multiculturalism. Sen sees it as his mission is to rescue what he sees as valuable in the idea of multiculturalism from the prevailing British idea of “plural monoculturalism”, which he takes to be damaging and divisive. What grates on Sen is the idea that individuals should be ushered like sheep into pens according to their religious faith, a mode of classification that too often trumps all others and ignores the fact that people are always complex, multi-faceted individuals who choose their identities from a wide range of economic, cultural and ideological alternatives…’ What begins by giving people room to express themselves, he argues, may force people into an identity chosen by the authorities…Sen is also critical of the growing consultative power given to the religious organisations of Muslims, Sikhs and Hindus. It does, he believes, magnify the power and authority of religious leaders at the expense of a healthy democratic debate. ‘Suddenly the Jewish, Hindu and Muslim organisations are in charge of all Jews, Hindus and Muslims. Whether you are an extremist mullah or a moderate mullah, whether you’re Blair’s friend or Blair’s enemy, you might relish the idea of being able to speak for all people with a Muslim background – no matter how religious they are – but this may be in direct competition with the role of Muslims in British civil society.'”