Professor Tariq Modood is the founding director of the Bristol University Research Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Citizenship. He has received numerous grants and consultations, and has written numerous publications on political philosophy, sociology, and public order. He is a co-founder of the international journal Ethnicities and his work is widely cited by policy makers and practitioners. Prof. Modood has worked in various functions in the public order sector, including advising the Muslim Council of Britain. He was elected a Fellow of the British Academy in 2017 and is currently a Visiting Fellow at Cumberland Lodge in Windsor. For the past 25 years he has worked on: theory and politics of racism, racial equality, multiculturalism and secularism, particularly in relation to British-Asian Muslims; ethnic identities, national identities and the “second generation”; ethnic disadvantage and advances in employment and education; Comparisons within and between Western Europe and North America; the politics of being Muslim in the West. The topics on which he is currently most focused are the political theory and sociology of multiculturalism, interculturalism, and secularism.
How has the way you understand the world changed over time and what (or who) has triggered the most important changes in your thinking?
There are two major changes that have made a big impact on my thinking about multiculturalism in a country like the UK. First, the emergence of religion or religious identity is considered very important for some minority groups, especially groups of South Asian descent (e.g. Sikhs, Hindus and Muslims) like my own family. If you look at theories of multiculturalism as they emerged in the 1980s, they actually didn’t have much to say about religion. Multiculturalism was believed to be more about race, ethnicity, and related culture – the latter more or less kept religion on the sidelines. I also think that politically very few politicians wanted religion to have the profile and centrality that it has in so-called majority-minority relations in Western Europe, but perhaps in other parts of the world, such as Canada, in many countries hat ways launched the idea of state multiculturalism.
I began to address these issues of racial equality, ethnic minorities and identity. Nor did I expect religion to be as outstanding as she was. Everything has shifted for me in relation to one particular controversy, which is the novel by Salman Rushdie The satanic verses There has been a lot of anger from some Muslims, demonstrations and much controversy both in the UK and internationally. I realized how important Muslim identity is for Muslims and that multiculturalism needs to take this into account.
The second shift for me is that before the importance of religion was the importance of identity. This goes back to the new social movements of the 1960s and 70s, which include feminism, gay pride and – especially from the US – the struggle for black dignity. That, and political theorists like Bhikhu Parekh, Charles Taylor and Iris Marion Young, influenced me a lot when I saw these identity issues as issues that couldn’t be reduced to the more classic arguments about equality that tended to be economic in nature. Identity seemed to be something people cherished for themselves, not because of their relationship to economic equality, for example. When I read the book Justice and the Politics of Difference From the American political theorist Iris Marion Young in particular, it became clear to me that these identities are identities that people should be able to assert in the general politics of their country. They were not just for what might be called a community of their own, but identities that were part of arguments about equality. This is because if people didn’t really respect you as an equal citizen if they didn’t respect your identity that was important to you, and that identity was historically the basis for racism or inferiority. For me, these are the two important changes and changes in the world: the emphasis of both politics and theorists on the fact that minorities can assert their identity in public space, and secondly what I saw as the Muslim assertiveness that gave me this religion Indicative and religious identity had to be central to multiculturalism.
Where do you see the most exciting research / debate in your field?
One of the limits of multiculturalism has to do with the place of religion in public life. This connects us with the issue of political secularism. I do not interpret secularism as a complete separation of church and state or of religion and politics. However, secularism clearly assumes that there are two types of authority – religion and politics – and that political authority, reasoning and purposes have their own autonomy and independent character and cannot be reduced to these or are not governed by them should – religious authority. This type of secularism is a very common idea and political practice in so many parts of the world, as long as we do not assume that it means an absolute separation of church and state, as this hardly exists anywhere. The relationship between religion, especially religious minority identities, and political secularism is one of the exciting areas for me.
Another exciting area is that over a number of years I have come to the conclusion that multiculturalism should not be seen as the absolute, only type of integration or the type of minority-majority relationship. Depending on the context and area of activity (e.g. workplace, schools, hospitals, universities, parliament), different types of integration may need to be considered and worked in combination with one another. This is related to a project called PLURISPACE, in which I am currently looking at four different -isms together: multiculturalism, interculturalism, transnationalism and cosmopolitanism. We look at them together to see if we can find paths that either already overlap or might complement each other and therefore possibly have a new normative perspective on integration and minority issues or “differences”. We both wanted to develop a normative theory or perspective and a basis for looking at four countries (UK, Spain, France and Norway) to determine the extent to which one or more of these -isms existed in either government policy or government activism Civil society – the latter perhaps in the aspirations of associations and activists of ethnic minorities.
The third area of exciting research is a bit difficult for me, namely the fact that multiculturalism has by default focused on minority rights or the recognition of minority identities. But what exactly should multiculturalism take in the majority position? It is difficult to separate what we might call majority culture or cultures from national identity. Still, I think we need to have some sort of view of the majority’s place in multiculturalism. I haven’t made much progress because it’s a pretty tough question. I also don’t see any other people who have made great strides except those who are very anti-multicultural because for them the idea of protecting majority culture is actually the basis for rejecting multiculturalism. I think they are completely wrong and I want to find a multicultural view of the majority.
The last thing I will mention, which is also difficult for me, is that the subjects I have spoken about are often referred to as those of appreciation. The standard questions of politics, especially when class is a central feature of a society and a political conflict or negotiation, speak of the redistribution of wealth by the state (e.g. collecting taxes, spending money on welfare and the poor). So many people like Nancy Fraser have tried to develop a theory of recognition and redistribution as an integrated political theory or project. I’m not particularly happy with what she has to say about recognition because I don’t think she has enough multiculturalism. However, I see the challenge of linking issues of identity equality (e.g. anti-racism, feminism) with economic equality or so-called redistribution. These are the four exciting but difficult areas for research and thinking.
In your last book Essays on secularism and multiculturalismYou discussed the relationship between secularism and multiculturalism. Can you tell us more about this relationship and its nuances? Is secularism compatible with a multicultural society?
When I began to wonder that religious identity really needs to be included in multiculturalism along with ethno-racial and ethno-cultural identities, I saw that this presented a challenge to those who believe religion should be a private matter – that it shouldn’t should be the case. It has nothing to do with politics or public life, and the state should not endorse or interfere with any religion. This, by and large, is what we call secularism. Realizing that there was a challenge, I started with the UK as I do with all of my work. I thought that we already have religion in public to a much greater extent than many secularists, intellectuals, and theorists seem or might like to believe. That was a positive understanding for me because if that is the case then those who say that multiculturalism is not possible because it contradicts secularism – that religion has to be kept out of politics – is completely wrong. They may not want religion to be in politics, but they can’t say the problem with Muslims is that they want to bring religion into politics when a country like Britain, regardless of Muslims, already has a religion, which is related to politics in all ways. We have an established church, bishops of the Church of England sitting in the House of Lords, and massive government funding for religious schools. All of these things are actually not unique to Great Britain, they can be found in one form or another in most of the countries of the European Union. I thought this was a positive result; it means that I can now try to create a space for multiculturalism in the secularist arrangements that actually exist, as opposed to an abstract ideal of secularism. I call these existing regulations, at least in Western Europe, moderate secularism.
Moderate secularism and multiculturalism generally seemed to go hand in hand without any difficulty in principle. The question then was how minority beliefs such as Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, and Buddhists can be incorporated into a Christian-dominated secularist public order that is either dominated by Christian heritage or by secular perspectives. This is, therefore, a confirmation of the idea that multiculturalism and secularism are complementary. I could see that multiculturalism could be a problem for you if you had subscribed to harsh secularism – what I call radical secularism, which I believe is exemplified by aspects of laïcité in France. Yes, radical secularism and multiculturalism are likely to be incompatible. You will have to choose or compromise between the two. But multiculturalism and moderate secularism – the secularism of Western Europe and beyond – are compatible.
Why do you think secular institutions should take religious diversity into account?
Multiculturalism is based on the idea of equal citizenship, a citizenship that is not a culturally privatized citizenship or just a civic culture. I think there are much thicker national cultures that politics, including our notions of citizenship and national identity, associate with, shape, and are shaped by (how they shape each other). If so, equal citizenship for minorities means that they can bring their cultural and religious identities into a dialogue with and a synthetic relationship with existing national cultures. I think that this project of expanding our public understanding of religion from one form of Christianity to a much more multi-faith situation is essential to our equal citizenship.
It’s not just about recognition and national identity, it also has to be translated into politics, institutional change and adaptation. Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs should feel at home in schools, hospitals, at work and in participating in the country’s civic and political life. They should not feel that just because they are Muslim they are somehow second class citizens and that only Christianity is involved in determining how public life is shaped. For example, how public ceremonies take place and which days of the calendar are public holidays such as Christmas and Easter. What about Eid and Diwali? Therefore, I think that multiculturalism means that religious minorities have to take their presence and needs into account from civil society and state institutions.
What are the common points of friction in the debates about freedom of speech and respect for religious and cultural sensitivities? How can governments intervene to reduce the risk of conflict?
We have different types of boundaries on freedom of expression. I think most people appreciate free speech, and I definitely do. At the same time, most, if not all, of the people realize that there are and should be limits to freedom of expression. For example, we have laws against incitement to racial hatred, racist language, cartoons and pictures and so on. Most people accept this now, but in one controversial area it should be said that this should also apply to religious minorities because they do not have to put up with incitement to hatred and aggressive language, which can also take on some form of racism. You can have racism against Muslims in parallel with racism against Jewish people or any other racialized group.
Some people define free speech as the ability to say what you like about other people’s religion. I started talking about it The satanic verseswho have favourited Danish cartoons and then a reminder of the Charlie Hebdo affair last year. We know from so much controversy that has taken place over the past few years that some groups of people, especially Muslims, can get very angry when certain types of satire and aggressive language are directed at them, and especially where the Prophet Mohammad is involved . I think we need some laws here, just like we do for the race, but I understand that a lot of these controversies cannot be controlled solely by the law. Perhaps the most extreme elements can, but most of them cannot. That certainly applies to the case of The satanic verses.
I propose that if we feel the law is of limited use or may restrict freedom of speech, it inadvertently restricts freedom of speech. We should censure – not censorship – what we believe degrades other people’s religious identity and beliefs, just as we do when we label something as racist or sexist. I think we need a law, but we can take a more “freeness approach” to legislation if we combine this with criticism, especially with people in leadership positions, with political authority and with public figures. Then the law will not be quite as necessary because the minorities feel that some people will speak up and realize that they are hurt and that their dignity is being attacked. I think this really happened with regards to racism against blacks, forms of sexism and homophobia. Most of it is not legally controlled, but it is heavily controlled by public criticism – what we might call the norms of public speaking. I think this is the way to deal with these controversies related to religion in general and Muslims specifically.
What is the ideal role of political satire in a tolerant and democratic society? What are their limits?
Satire should be used to criticize or draw attention to abuse of power, excessive power, or forms of oppression. Most satires are aimed at politicians, governments, and powerful people. It makes a lot of sense and is a very good feature of a democratic life where this is part of democratic culture. But when the same tools of satire are directed against minorities – a people who are not powerful – I think this is the wrong kind of satire. This offensive attitude towards minorities is more like racism than political satire or political criticism. I would make this fundamental distinction between satirizing the powerful and satirizing the powerless. In any case, I would say that any satirist or editor who publishes satire should have some social responsibility for what effect their satire would have. This goes back to my previous point about the importance of criticism and public norms aimed at not attacking the dignity of minority groups or powerless groups in general.
In one (n items You wrote a decade ago describing a shift from a multiculturalism of hope to a multiculturalism of fear. Where are we now?
I think there is a lot of fear and associated distrust. One of the sources is security issues, which are then linked to aspects of international relations. Many people say that this multiculturalism of fear or death of multiculturalism took place due to September 11th. It was when people said, “Look, it’s not just about respecting minorities, some minorities want to blow us all up. They hate our way of life, they want to take over” and so on – that’s definitely a multiculturalism of the Anxiety.
What are the sources of hope? Well, many minorities – people with recent migratory flows – in countries like the UK, Canada, France, Germany and the US actually want to be part of those countries. They want to be German, Canadian or British and so on. This was in the 1970s or 80s, which many British anti-racists thought was impossible. They thought that ethnic minorities would not be accepted as British and they would not want to try to be British that they would be positioned as invaders within the nation rather than the nation. But I think here is a sign of optimism because most white Britons actually accept ethnic minorities as British; They don’t believe that you have to be white or Christian or hide your religion to be British. This is a very positive development.
Linked to this is the idea that there are different ways of being British, American, French, etc. Americans introduced the term “hyphenated nationality or identity” (e.g. Black American, Irish American) to describe this, and the idea has caught on in the UK as well. Many people say they are British Indians or Black British and some say they are Scottish and British or Welsh and British. We are able to restore our sense of national belonging by adding another important outstanding identity and associating it with or being part of a common nationality. I think this is another positive development and we have moved in that direction. So these are some sources of hope.
I also think that when you look at political activism, we go through periods of apathy. Overall, however, and certainly in the last few months with Black Lives Matter, the topics we discussed here have sparked a lot of passion, commitment and the desire to get involved in politics. That in itself is a sign of hope, but what is especially hopeful is that it takes a multi-ethnic form. Black Lives Matter demonstrations in the US and UK were multiethnic and many whites were part of these protests and organizations. These are some of the factors that make up a multiculturalism of hope.
What is the most important advice you can give young scientists?
One piece of advice is that people want their work to be important beyond the academic world. Sometimes this takes time and cannot be implemented immediately. Striving to be relevant to public life, political controversies, and movements like multiculturalism and anti-racism has been very important to me personally, and I try to encourage this in my PhD students and postdocs. Similarly, but somehow independent, I put a lot of emphasis on clarity of expression – writing as clearly as possible, because it makes our writing more accessible to more people, especially people outside of our own narrow specializations. I would advise if you want to have any impact on life outside of science you definitely need to be able to write non-technical and non-jargon.
My third piece of advice would be not to be afraid to use your own experience and knowledge to try out ideas in your scientific and theoretical work. Certainly my own experience with a boy with a Pakistani Muslim background who grew up in the UK and had a family background had a major impact on my work. For most of the people who know, it’s pretty obvious that this experience affects my work. I would offer this advice to others as well, but with an important qualification: do not reduce yourself or your work to a single identity (such as woman, black, Muslim). Think more about yourself. Some people would talk about intersectionality as the connection of different types of identities and positionalities, and that would be relevant here. Don’t just push an identity in such a way that the others – which may actually be important to you – are theorized in the way you do your job. Be aware of this risk and try to avoid it.
After all, I don’t know if everyone wants this advice, but at least it was true to me. A very important feature of my work and public engagement has been to build a bridge between different identities (e.g. Muslims and British, religious people and social scientists). I think it’s important when groups don’t metaphorically and literally speak the same language [using the same concepts and having the same sensibilities]to help them relate to each other when you are on both sides of that bridge, these identities and social places. One of the central things in my work is how I have tried to link the worries and well-being of British Muslims and the worries and well-being of the rest of British society in a way that they are not threatening each other but are entertaining and hopefully Find common ground.
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