Multiculturalism creates racism

Culture, identity, religion, migration: these are issues that are currently being hotly debated in many countries. And these are the topics that the publicist Kenan Malik has been thinking about and researching for decades. Malik was born in India in 1960 and grew up in Manchester. He studied neurobiology, history and philosophy of science in London and taught at Oxford and Cambridge.

SZ: A German national player resigns from the national team. Because of racism. In 2018. A declaration of bankruptcy for Germany?

Kenan Malik: Whether or not racism was involved in the way the DFB treated it is impossible to say. Racism is all too easy to become an indictment today. And Özil was very naive when he met Erdoğan. Still, the criticism of him is completely exaggerated. He's a footballer, not a politician.

Özil says the DFB officials treated him as a German as long as the team won - and as an immigrant when it lost.

That sounds believable to me. Also in a larger social context: The relationships between German society and the Turkish minority were and are a problem. These problems exist all over Europe. The first black footballers played for the English national team from the late 1970s. Many football fans refused to accept them as English. Some even said the black players' goals weren't real goals. People accept minorities in good times, but not necessarily in bad.


There is no easy answer to that. That is often the problem too: believing that there are simple answers. We have to talk about multiculturalism. The term has taken on different meanings. Multiculturalism stands for the diversity that we experience in our societies every day. But it also stands for the political process with which states try to manage this diversity. And the political process often undermines what is good about the diversity experienced.

You have to explain that in more detail.

Living in a cosmopolitan society is absolutely to be welcomed. Such societies stand for cultural diversity, for openness, for open borders, regardless of whether they are physical, cultural or ethnic borders. Multiculturalism as a political process is something completely different. Diversity is managed there, people are put into ethnic, cultural or religious drawers. This multiculturalism does not stand for open-mindedness, but creates new boundaries.

So multiculturalism does not mean: Everyone can live the way they want, as long as they respect the law and their fellow citizens? Some kind of categorical imperative of living together?

No. We have to separate diversity and multiculturalism. Diversity is the raw material for an open, dynamic society. It is extremely problematic to equate diversity and the political management of multiculturalism. On the one hand, this allows many people to blame immigration for the mistakes in social policy and to make minorities a problem. And on the other hand, it drives many traditional liberals and leftists to abandon classic ideas of the Enlightenment.

What ideas do you mean?

The idea of ​​freedom, for example, especially freedom of expression. It is often said that everything can no longer be said in the name of the defense of diversity.

You mean, for example, the question: May religions be criticized?

Today many are concerned about the clash between the West and Islam. They fear that Muslim values ​​are incompatible with Western values. It is believed that these fears are new. But there have always been huge religious conflicts in Europe. In Northern Europe, until not so long ago, Catholics were viewed in the same way as Muslims are viewed today. They were seen as the enemy within, as incompatible with European culture. Jews were perceived even more strongly as a threat to European identity and values, and in the end they fell victim to the greatest genocide in history.

Conflict and confrontation. Regardless of the consequences. Everyone should always be able to say everything?

It is now accepted that freedom of expression is curtailed in the name of tolerance or respect - otherwise minorities could be injured. I have a completely different opinion. Precisely because we live in a plural society, we need the greatest possible freedom of expression. It is inevitable and necessary for people to offend themselves. All social progress or change occurs by attacking attitudes that are important to the individual or a particular group.

There are things that cannot be said.

'You can't say that', this sentence is far too often the answer from those in power when someone has challenged their power. Accepting that certain things are not to be said means accepting that certain forms of power cannot be challenged.

But can there be a fair competition of ideas under the current conditions? Minorities suffer from structural disadvantages. They do not have the same power, the same resources as the majority, they are discriminated against. There is no equality of arms.

There is no more important weapon for minorities than freedom of expression. It was always the case that the playing field was not fair. But ask yourself: who benefits most from censorship? It's the ones who have the power and think they need to censor what people are saying. And who benefits most from freedom of expression? Those whose ideas have to be heard, who have to convince others.

Again: isn't there a point where you have to say: enough. This is no longer an opinion, this is hate.

Those in favor of freedom of expression must face bigotry every time it comes out. But: If you forbid hideous, hateful ideas, do they go away? No! They keep spreading in secret. It is better if these ideas are visible so that they can be attacked. Censorship absorbs our responsibility to face hatred and anger.

The AfD in Germany makes politics by pushing the boundaries of what can be said to the right.

Germany and France have some of the strongest restrictions on freedom of expression in Europe. That didn't stop the extreme right. One reason why the AfD has grown so big: mainstream politicians parrot their arguments, arguments that often revolve around immigration or Islam. So they give them legitimacy. That needs to change.

After Özil's resignation from the national team, many people reported under the hashtag #MeTwo how they were being discriminated against in Germany. Then the demand arose: Biodeutsche, just don't say anything, listen to what is happening in your country. And finally learn from it. That's right.

I did not follow this debate. Basically it seems like this to me: the last thing you should do is say to the Germans, the French or the British: 'Don't say anything, just listen.' Of course, not everything that non-migrants say is racist and should often be heard as an important contribution. We can only debate if we identify and refute racist ideas as such. But that does not work if these ideas are not expressed at all.