Are our cosmopolitan wires cracking

under the strain of toxic and exotic values?

By Samad Ramoly

Is there such thing as “valeurs universelles”? Should we not rather try to identify values we share and strive to live and breathe them with no supremacist and proselytistic zeal whatsoever? Est-ce que les valeurs proclamées par la “république” française sont effectivement plus citoyennes que celles vécues dans la “monarchie” suédoise par exemple? Should policies be “blind” or “neutral”? Should the institutionalisation of religion be singled out for fomenting the nu-bann and bann-là divide? Or is it rather its instrumentalisation?

The following insights may help shed light on what is merely lunacy and what is truly inspirational…

La vraie division du monde n’est pas entre Orient et Occident, entre Nord et Sud, mais entre les cons et pas cons.
Marjane Satrapi, auteur de bande dessinée The ability to think critically; to transcend local loyalties and to approach world problems as “a citizen of the world”; and, finally, to empathise make or break democracy.

Martha Nussbaum, philosophe 

Je dirai que c’est la cohérence de la pensée complexe qui contient la diversité et permet de la comprendre. J’adhère à ce qui peut être dit sur la diversité des psychologies, des héritages culturels. Cependant, la diversité doit être pensée en se fondant sur la cohérence et la compréhension.

Edgar Morin, philosophe 

“Tolerance” is not only a question of enacting and applying laws; it must be practiced in everyday life. Tolerance means that believers of one faith, of a different faith and non-believers must mutually concede one another the right to those convictions, practices and ways of living that they themselves reject. This concession must be supported by a shared basis of mutual recognition from which repugnant dissonances can be overcome. This recognition should not be confused with an appreciation of an alien culture and way of living, or of rejected convictions and practices.

Jurgen Habermas, philosophe 

The “toleration” that was the watchword of the Enlightenment philosophers is not enough, thinker Tariq Ramadan argues. Toleration literally means “to suffer” or “to endure” the presence of others and implies a relationship of domination; the powerful are requested “to moderate their strength and to limit their ability to do harm”. But such grudging acceptance is detrimental to both the person who tolerates and the one whose presence is merely endured. What is required is respect, based on a relationship of equality. Tolerance can “reduce the other to a mere presence” but “respect opens up to us the complexity of his being”.

Karen Armstrong, écrivain 

Too many countries still cling to the hope that once societies democratize, modernize, and develop economically, then ethnic politics will disappear. So far as I can tell, there is no evidence for believing this, and much evidence to the contrary. Some of the deepest values of liberal democracy – including foundational commitments to individual freedom, political equality and human rights – operate to support and sustain ethnic politics. We need to acknowledge this and to prepare for it when thinking about the sort of democratic society we wish to build.

Will Kymlicka, philosophe 

Nous avons besoin d’un nouveau modèle de société où les différences religieuses ou culturelles sont mises en avant et où elles sont reconnues et valorisées. C’est très sain ces différences, il ne faut pas les diaboliser. Nous sommes certes différents mais la construction de notre mauricianisme ne se fera pas en dehors de nos différences mais à partir de ces différences.

Jonathan Ravat, étudiant chercheur

Le modèle républicain français postule que les citoyens français possèdent tous la même identité culturelle. En fait, c’est même la seule identité acceptable.

Ezra Suleiman, professeur de science politique


Only primitive societies that allow no differences of any kind, and dictatorships, which control all aspects of life, are free of parallel societies.

Henryk Broder, journaliste

Les responsables politiques ont accordé une reconnaissance inédite aux autorités religieuses, devenues les porte-parole des différentes communautés. Résultat, ces voix se confondent aujourd’hui avec celle du clergé. Et l’on assiste à un phénomène nouveau : le développement de la pratique religieuse chez des gens qui n’étaient pas spécialement pratiquants jusque-là. Mais comme on ne cesse de leur répéter que c’est leur origine religieuse qui les définit, ils finissent par y croire.

Amartya Sen, professeur d’économie et de philosophie  


In France debates about multiculturalism occur under the overarching canopy of laïcité, a term that loosely but inadequately translates into English as “secularism”. With laïcité the state actively expels religious life beyond a border that the state itself has defined by law. Laïcité actually fosters religion by making it a separate category. It reinforces religious identities rather than allowing them to dissolve into more diversified social practices.

Malise Ruthven, historien 


Le mot “république” n’est-il pas désormais trop contaminé par une acception nationaliste, réactionnaire, xénophobe, raciste? Le “communautarisme”, c’est la visibilité de gens dont on voudrait qu’ils soient invisibles. C’est ainsi que, grâce à l’usage de “république” et de “communautarisme”, se dessine en creux, l’image d’une nation composée exclusivement de gens d’apparence européenne, quelle que soit leur nationalité.

Christine Delphy, sociologue 


C’est notre modèle culturel-catholique-français de l’imaginaire de “La France Éternelle”, qui nous a empêchés et continue de nous empêcher de comprendre ce qui se passe ici et de développer une stratégie.

Filip Fanchette, prêtre 

A force de rouler les mécaniques, les intellectuels normalisés par l’idéologie christiano-laïque à la française se sont enfermés dans une attitude qui évacue tout ce qui n’est pas digérable en France.

Pierre Legendre, psychanalyste 


Aujourd’hui, force est de constater que le républicanisme français a fait faillite, car il ne sait pas gérer une société pluriculturelle. Le républicanisme n’a aucune perspective d’avenir; il ne sait pas raconter ce que peut être l’avenir.

Jean Baubérot, historien 

Simple notions of “Laïcité”, à la française, which simply tried to marginalize religion, are no longer adequate to our situation. We can no longer have a civil religion – not one based on God, nor on laïcité and the rights of man, nor, indeed, on any particular view. We live, today, in uncharted territory. We face a challenge that is unprecedented in human history: creation of a powerful political ethic of solidarity self-consciously grounded on the presence and acceptance of very different views.

Charles Taylor, professeur de science politique et de philosophie 

If racism has been the subtext of the foulard controversy in France, historian Joan Wallach Scott argues, then laïcité was its expression. Those who supported the ban on headscarves argued that laïcité was not simply secularism but a universal notion that was also unique to France. They called it une singularité française. Upon closer scrutiny, however, this particular notion seemed to be quite accommodating to Catholics and rather intransigent to others.

Laila Lalami, romancière  

The social and political measures taken by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk were very much influenced by the French laïcité, which more than being pluralist and inclusive was monolithic and exclusivist. Turkish elites asserted that religion was an “obstacle to progress” and, therefore, they incorporated the French laïcité, rather than the less confrontational Anglo-Saxon secularism, which allowed no role whatsoever for faith in public life.

Ramin Jahanbegloo, philosophe 


I must point out that the great killers and ethno-nationalists of our times, strangely enough, have come not from among religious fanatics but from non-believing secular-rationalists or ideologues using religion and ethnicity instrumentally. Adolf Hitler was not religious at all nor was Joseph Stalin. In South Asia, the great theoretician of Hindutva, Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, was a secularist who thought it irrational to consider the cow sacred and refused a Hindu funeral to his wife and to himself.

Ashis Nandy, sociologue 


In contrast with laïcité, for example — often described as the most extreme interpretation of western secularism –, the Indian model does not see a wall of separation between politics and faith but, instead, insists on the neutrality of the state towards religion. Indian secularism does not require the state to be irreligious or anti-religious; nor does it ban religion from the public sphere.

Mehdi Hasan, éditorialiste 


La conception laïque de séparation public/privé n’est qu’un modèle d’État-nation parmi d’autres. Pour les systèmes de pensée de l’Hindouisme ou de l’Islam, cette séparation n’a même pas lieu d’être. Il existe, par exemple, des prescriptions politiques dans les Vedas.

Belall Maudarbux, universitaire


Lorsqu’on dit que la laïcité est le fait que le religieux doit rester dans le privé, on n’est plus dans la définition juridique de la laïcité mais dans la définition idéologique.

Olivier Roy, politologue  


La laïcité est un principe qui devrait s’appliquer aux institutions et non aux citoyens.

Cécile Laborde, politologue 

My parents are Indian and proud of it. They have Indian friends whom they meet regularly at weekends, eating Indian food, sometimes in Indian dress and speaking in Hindi. But they have just as many close friends who are white and British. Their next-door neighbours – the Hallows – are one of the most wonderful families I have ever met. They created a gap in the fence between the two homes so they could come easily into ours and my parents go into theirs. It is a tiny but perfect example of integration – and it relies wholly on the fact that every person involved embraces multiculturalism.When I was growing up, people in India used to call me a “coconut”: brown on the outside and white on the inside. I hope they never do that again.

Anushka Asthana, éditorialiste

Le défaut de tous ces programmes d’études pseudo-universitaires, ce n’est pas qu’ils se concentrent sur telle ou telle minorité sexuelle, ethnique ou géographique, c’est qu’ils encouragent les membres de cette minorité à n’étudier qu’eux-mêmes, ce qui non seulement sape l’objectif même d’une éducation humaniste mais renforce la mentalité sectaire et les réflexes de ghettoïsation qu’ils prétendent éradiquer.

— Tony Judt, historien 

We have crafted a set of very intricate rules, no housing blocks shall have more than a percentage of so many Chinese, so many percent Malays, Indians. All are thoroughly mixed. Willy-nilly, your neighbors are Indians, Malays, etc. You go to the same shopping malls, you go to the same schools, the same playing fields, you go up and down the same lifts. We cannot allow segregation

Lee Kuan Yew, ancien Premier ministre 

Il n’est pas sain pour un être humain de passer trop de temps à contempler son propre reflet. Ironie du sort, les communautés de gens d’esprit semblable représentent l’un des plus grands dangers de notre univers mondialisé d’aujourd’hui. Et cela se passe partout, chez les libéraux et les conservateurs, les agnostiques et les croyants, les riches et les pauvres, en Orient comme en Occident. Nous avons tendance à former des groupes, fondés sur la similitude, et puis nous produisons des stéréotypes au sujet d’autres groupes de personnes.

Elif Shafak, écrivain

* Published in print edition on 14 January 2011

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