Describe the main issues in the Rushdie affair and suggest ways in which it should be resolved.
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Describe the main issues in the Rushdie affair and suggest ways in which it should be resolved. Modern day Britain can be called a good example of a multi-cultural society, there are a number of different ethnic groups, all with diverse religious, cultural values and practices. There are fundamental differences, which distinguish such groups, but it is widely accepted that all individuals living in the United Kingdom should also abide by a common set of laws and values that maintain the structure of our modern liberal framework of society. The impact of the 'Rushdie affair' created much controversy surrounding the Muslim community, their allegiance to their faith and how they responded to attacks on it. In addition, questions surrounding apparent cultural difficulties in accepting liberal values and an inability for the Muslim community to both live side by side and become accepted within British society were asked. Parekh B sums up his point with 'From time to time a multicultural society is bound throw up situations in which deep cultural and moral disagreements between its different communities come to the fore and create a crisis' (B Parekh, 1991, p295) This 'crisis', as it is called by Parekh, came in the form a book. The Satanic Verses (1988) is a novel written in the style of 'magic - realism', where fantastical themes, scenes and plots are set along side a realistic and believable story line.
In the UK, Muslim objections were seen as un-reasonable and their motives seen as backwards and uncivilised. The media portrayal of Muslim feelings was quick to re-affirm the apparent harm and de-stabilization that Muslims were causing mainstream British society. Parekh emphasises this media portrayal of Muslims during the 'Rushdie affair' with, 'They (Muslim protestors) were called 'barbarians', 'uncivilised, 'fanatics' and compared to the Nazis. Many a writer, some of impeccable liberal credentials, openly wondered how Britain could 'civilise' them and protect their progeny from their 'medieval fundamentalism''. (B Parekh, 1991, p300) This led objectors of Rushdie to note that such views were not held by a majority of the Muslim community and the media was not portraying an accurate picture of community feelings or reactions. Sardar and Davies (1990) call this a 'Distorted imagination' (Sardar & Davies, 1990) and therefore a distorted reality of reactions and anti Rushdie feelings. The fundamentalist picture painted by the fatwah of Khomeini and the unbalanced portrayal of the media gave a picture of general Muslim feelings and helped enforce stereotypes of a fundamentalist unreasonable community. Sardar and Davies point out the unbalanced stance which the media took when debating opinions about issues raised by the 'affair' by noting that during such media interviews ' a rough calculation shows, a ratio of 10 to 1, non Muslims to Muslims' (Sardar & Davies, 1990, Media). The picture which the media portrayed, and helped impose and sustain, is summed up by Parekh, ' Most of the liberal and Conservative press was hostile, accusing Muslims of preferring a theocratic to a liberal secular society and bringing Britain nothing but shame'.
Much of my acceptance and understanding of other cultures comes from childhood experiences and friendships with a diverse range of peers within my educational environment. Schools should promote a diverse ethnic, cultural and social mix. This will go a long way in abolishing untrue stereotypes, and administer a better personal understanding of the many diverse cultural and social backgrounds within society. Examples of integration being promoted within schools can be seen with the schemes adopted by certain LEA's (e.g. Glasgow) to promote an understanding of the diverse cultures of political asylum children, this is done by the whole class taking part in a pantomime about the cultural and religious backgrounds of the children. Many such initiatives are required, but Integration must not stop at the education system. Only through a whole national consensus backed by all channels of society including the media, politicians and the general public as a whole, will we be able to accept and understand the many diverse cultures, religious practices and their traditions and histories. Debates should (and hopefully are) attempt to create new and accepted definitions of being British, without challenging morally acceptable cultural practices wherever they may originate from. Only with this acceptance and openness being administrated thorough society will we break down cultural barriers and non-acceptance as seen with the Rushdie affair. Otherwise such questions, issues and events will continue to take place for another decade and beyond, with actions and consequences I would not wish to predict.
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