What is multiculturalism?

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What is multiculturalism?

#1  Postby Ihavenofingerprints » Jun 17, 2011 3:55 pm

It is central to political discussion in many countries. But hardly anyone seems to know what it means because we have no set definition for the word (nothing even close). Even our government's seem completely confused. Here is the best effort the Australian government could come up with:

The Commonwealth Government has identified three dimensions of multicultural policy:

cultural identity: the right of all Australians, within carefully defined limits, to express and share their individual cultural heritage, including their language and religion;

social justice: the right of all Australians to equality of treatment and opportunity, and the removal of barriers of race, ethnicity, culture, religion, language, gender or place of birth; and

economic efficiency: the need to maintain, develop and utilize effectively the skills and talents of all Australians, regardless of background.

http://www.immi.gov.au/media/publications/multicultural/agenda/agenda89/whatismu.htm


From what i can infer in the definition quoted above. Multiculturalism, is pretty much secularism in a nutshell. Everyone is treated equally and lives under the same law (ditto for organisations), there are strong anti discrimination laws and immigrants are not chosen on race/religious grounds.

Do others agree/disagree?

If this is the case, why the hell don't we just;

- Implement anti-discrimination laws
- Bring all organisations under the same law (bye bye religious tax breaks) &
- Implement a few lines into the constitution giving citizens "freedom to believe in any religion or ideology they choose" (if we haven't already).

Then we can move on with life and more important political issues?
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Re: What is multiculturalism?

#2  Postby Sankari » Jun 17, 2011 4:12 pm

Ihavenofingerprints wrote:- Bring all organisations under the same law (bye bye religious tax breaks)


Secular charities and aid organisations might have something to say about that. I'm thinking particularly of the Fred Hollows Foundation and the Royal Flying Doctor Service of Australia. They're both non-profit, so I'm not sure how they'd survive without tax breaks.
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Re: What is multiculturalism?

#3  Postby Ihavenofingerprints » Jun 17, 2011 4:26 pm

Sankari wrote:
Ihavenofingerprints wrote:- Bring all organisations under the same law (bye bye religious tax breaks)


Secular charities and aid organisations might have something to say about that. I'm thinking particularly of the Fred Hollows Foundation and the Royal Flying Doctor Service of Australia. They're both non-profit, so I'm not sure how they'd survive without tax breaks.


I am all for charitable tax breaks. Any charitable activity should be tax-deductible as far as i'm concerned. The problem with the current law is; that religious institutions get these tax breaks, regardless of whether they are providing charitable work or not.

If there is to be no discrimination on religious grounds. Then providing tax breaks to organisations on religious grounds must go. This would entail the desired result of all organisations are being treated equally. *note that any charitable organisations (religious or not) can, and should get tax breaks.
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Re: What is multiculturalism?

#4  Postby Sankari » Jun 17, 2011 4:52 pm

Ihavenofingerprints wrote:
Sankari wrote:
Ihavenofingerprints wrote:- Bring all organisations under the same law (bye bye religious tax breaks)


Secular charities and aid organisations might have something to say about that. I'm thinking particularly of the Fred Hollows Foundation and the Royal Flying Doctor Service of Australia. They're both non-profit, so I'm not sure how they'd survive without tax breaks.


I am all for charitable tax breaks. Any charitable activity should be tax-deductible as far as i'm concerned.


OK, so we can scrap "bring all organisations under the same law", because you obviously want to make exceptions for certain types of organisation.

The problem with the current law is; that religious institutions get these tax breaks, regardless of whether they are providing charitable work or not.


Well yes, but is that a problem? Last time I checked, non-profit organisations were not required to perform charitable work in order to qualify for tax free status. A museum is a tax-free, non-profit organisation. Ever heard of a museum performing charity work? No, neither have I.

If there is to be no discrimination on religious grounds. Then providing tax breaks to organisations on religious grounds must go. This would entail the desired result of all organisations are being treated equally. *note that any charitable organisations (religious or not) can, and should get tax breaks.


It would mean all charitable organisations are treated equally. That still leaves many other types of non-profit organisation, such as trade unions, public libraries, and cultural societies. These are all currently tax-free. And do religious institutions really receive tax free status on religious grounds? I'm open to correction, but I thought they received tax free status on non-profit grounds.

Something like this:

ATO wrote:A non-profit organisation is one which is not operating for the profit or gain of its individual members, whether these gains would have been direct or indirect. This applies both while the organisation is operating and when it winds up.

Any profit made by the organisation goes back into the operation of the organisation to carry out its purposes and is not distributed to any of its members.

The Tax Office accepts an organisation as non-profit where its constituent or governing documents prevent it from distributing profits or assets for the benefit of particular people - both while it is operating and when it winds up. These documents should contain acceptable clauses showing the organisation's non-profit character. The organisation's actions must be consistent with this requirement.

Acceptable clauses to indicate non-profit character are:

    Non-profit clause

    'The assets and income of the organisation shall be applied solely in furtherance of its above-mentioned objects and no portion shall be distributed directly or indirectly to the members of the organisation except as bona fide compensation for services rendered or expenses incurred on behalf of the organisation.'

...

A non-profit organisation can still make a profit, but this profit must be used to carry out its purposes and must not be distributed to owners, members or other private people.


(Source).

It seems to me that most religious organisations meet these criteria pretty well.
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Re: What is multiculturalism?

#5  Postby Ihavenofingerprints » Jun 17, 2011 5:05 pm

Sankari wrote:
Ihavenofingerprints wrote:
Sankari wrote:

Secular charities and aid organisations might have something to say about that. I'm thinking particularly of the Fred Hollows Foundation and the Royal Flying Doctor Service of Australia. They're both non-profit, so I'm not sure how they'd survive without tax breaks.


I am all for charitable tax breaks. Any charitable activity should be tax-deductible as far as i'm concerned.


OK, so we can scrap "bring all organisations under the same law", because you obviously want to make exceptions for certain types of organisation.

The problem with the current law is; that religious institutions get these tax breaks, regardless of whether they are providing charitable work or not.


Well yes, but is that a problem? Last time I checked, non-profit organisations were not required to perform charitable work in order to qualify for tax free status. A museum is a tax-free, non-profit organisation. Ever heard of a museum performing charity work? No, neither have I.

If there is to be no discrimination on religious grounds. Then providing tax breaks to organisations on religious grounds must go. This would entail the desired result of all organisations are being treated equally. *note that any charitable organisations (religious or not) can, and should get tax breaks.


It would mean all charitable organisations are treated equally. That still leaves many other types of non-profit organisation, such as trade unions, public libraries, and cultural societies. These are all currently tax-free. And do religious institutions really receive tax free status on religious grounds? I'm open to correction, but I thought they received tax free status on non-profit grounds.

Something like this:

ATO wrote:A non-profit organisation is one which is not operating for the profit or gain of its individual members, whether these gains would have been direct or indirect. This applies both while the organisation is operating and when it winds up.

Any profit made by the organisation goes back into the operation of the organisation to carry out its purposes and is not distributed to any of its members.

The Tax Office accepts an organisation as non-profit where its constituent or governing documents prevent it from distributing profits or assets for the benefit of particular people - both while it is operating and when it winds up. These documents should contain acceptable clauses showing the organisation's non-profit character. The organisation's actions must be consistent with this requirement.

Acceptable clauses to indicate non-profit character are:

    Non-profit clause

    'The assets and income of the organisation shall be applied solely in furtherance of its above-mentioned objects and no portion shall be distributed directly or indirectly to the members of the organisation except as bona fide compensation for services rendered or expenses incurred on behalf of the organisation.'

...

A non-profit organisation can still make a profit, but this profit must be used to carry out its purposes and must not be distributed to owners, members or other private people.


(Source).

It seems to me that most religious organisations meet these criteria pretty well.


Sorry i should probably re-word my stance. I never meant to say that only charitable work should be tax-exempt. Obviously educational, community and non-profit organisations should get tax breaks. I just thought you were comparing religious work to charitable work with your examples before.

Your average church would meet the required standards easily. Unfortunately, some major religious organisations/corporations in this country get away with acting like a full on business though. I don't understand why they deserve special treatment.
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Re: What is multiculturalism?

#6  Postby Sankari » Jun 17, 2011 5:12 pm

Ihavenofingerprints wrote:Sorry i should probably re-word my stance. I never meant to say that only charitable work should be tax-exempt. Obviously educational, community and non-profit organisations should get tax breaks. I just thought you were comparing religious work to charitable work with your examples before.


No worries, it's my fault for dragging this thread off topic in the first place.

Your average church would meet the required standards easily. Unfortunately, some major religious organisations/corporations in this country get away with acting like a full on business though. I don't understand why they deserve special treatment.


I agree. Hillsong Church has an annual income of >$30 million, yet they still qualify for non-profit tax-free status, and they receive government grants to help fund any charity work! It makes my blood boil.

:yuk: :nono:

Back on topic... some years ago, I had a stab at defining multiculturalism myself. I came up with:

A pluralistic society in which the national culture consists of different races, ethnicities and cultures, mutually integrated into a greater whole, harmoniously co-existing in a state of equality, enabled, promoted and endorsed by government policy.


This is clumsy, but I think the key elements are there: government policy, cultural pluralism, integration, harmonious co-existence, and equality. Without these, you do not have a national multiculture; you merely have a homogeneous monoculture, or a variety of different cultures co-existing within a larger monoculture.
Last edited by Sankari on Jun 17, 2011 5:18 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: What is multiculturalism?

#7  Postby Ihavenofingerprints » Jun 17, 2011 5:18 pm

:cheers: Yea, it is frustrating. In my OP, all i mean is to take out whatever clause is granting these corporations the right to avoid tax.
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Re: What is multiculturalism?

#8  Postby Sankari » Jun 17, 2011 5:25 pm

Ihavenofingerprints wrote::cheers: Yea, that and the stuff "religions" like Scientology get away with. In my OP, all i mean is to take out whatever clause is granting these corporations the right to avoid tax.


I think (and I'm no tax expert, so don't quote me on this) the answer is non-profit status. Hillsong gets around it by a variety of dodges, including the nifty trick of classifying certain income as "donations" (e.g. "the recommended donation for this autographed Hillsong double album twin CD set is $54.99...")

Presumably they also have a phalanx of tax lawyers ready to defend their honour at the drop of a credit card.

:rolleyes:
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Re: What is multiculturalism?

#9  Postby Ihavenofingerprints » Jun 17, 2011 5:31 pm

Sankari wrote:A pluralistic society in which the national culture consists of different races, ethnicities and cultures, mutually integrated into a greater whole, harmoniously co-existing in a state of equality, enabled, promoted and endorsed by government policy.


This is the most accurate definition i've seen. If most people agree the definition is something along the lines of a state that promotes equality and enforces anti-discrimination laws, that would be a step in the right direction. Which is why i get confused whenever politicians or journalists claim that "multiculturalism has failed". When really, how can protecting the basic human rights of citizens fail?

What confuses me even more, is the large amount of Islamic support for multiculturalism. They must have a completely different idea of a multicultural society.
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Re: What is multiculturalism?

#10  Postby Saim » Jul 03, 2011 6:49 am

Ihavenofingerprints wrote:What confuses me even more, is the large amount of Islamic support for multiculturalism. They must have a completely different idea of a multicultural society.

What Islamic support for multiculturalism? Islamic states have always discriminated against minorities. I'm not talking about pluralistic Muslim-majority states (Malaysia is a decent example, even with all its problems and discrimination in favour of Malay-speaking Muslims) in which support for multiculturalism comes from the same reasoning as anywhere else, I mean actualy Islamic states which are by definition discriminatory.

If you mean Muslim minorities in Western countries, that's because none of them want to be discriminated against as a minority.
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Re: What is multiculturalism?

#11  Postby epepke » Jul 03, 2011 2:19 pm

Saim wrote:
Ihavenofingerprints wrote:What confuses me even more, is the large amount of Islamic support for multiculturalism. They must have a completely different idea of a multicultural society.

What Islamic support for multiculturalism? Islamic states have always discriminated against minorities. I'm not talking about pluralistic Muslim-majority states (Malaysia is a decent example, even with all its problems and discrimination in favour of Malay-speaking Muslims) in which support for multiculturalism comes from the same reasoning as anywhere else, I mean actualy Islamic states which are by definition discriminatory.


Even if you ignore Islamic states, there's a naivete in multiculturalism in the expectation that there will be no serious issues about cultural differences, inequality, and lack of respect between cultures. It's not even possible to make Belgium a multicultural state only considering the people whose families have lived there for centuries.
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Re: What is multiculturalism?

#12  Postby maik » Jul 03, 2011 4:32 pm

There is no such thing as multiculturalism nowadays. This is my opinion, based on what defines multiculturalism and state- nations.
I mean.. Multiculturalism is the right for a group of people to maintain their cultural characteristics (language, religion etc.), while sharing the same basic administrative typical institutions (membership of state, bureaucracy etc) with other groups.

In the meantime, nowadays' states favor the existence of a single and common culture within them (for many reasons). What is going on in many phenomenically "multicultural" countries (USA, Australia) is nothing but the main (and probably more licit) policy against multiculturalism: Encorporation. Which leaves the right to a group of people to maintain their cultural identity, as long as they participate to the common social institutions (schools, for example).
So there is a contradiction here. For example, in this case, people are allowed to speak their mother language at home, but there is only one (or two at most) official language, so their kids must be taught the official language at school; and themselves are obliged to use this language, say, at a law- court.
Encorporation seems more "multiculturalistic" than separation (see South Africa in the past), but it's still not multiculturalism. Real multiculturalism ended along with the last great multiethnic empires, Ottoman and Austrohungarian, in the 19th century.
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Re: What is multiculturalism?

#13  Postby Sankari » Jul 04, 2011 8:57 am

maik wrote:For example, in this case, people are allowed to speak their mother language at home, but there is only one (or two at most) official language, so their kids must be taught the official language at school; and themselves are obliged to use this language, say, at a law- court.


FWIW, Australia has no official language.
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Re: What is multiculturalism?

#14  Postby HomerJay » Jul 04, 2011 1:06 pm

Ihavenofingerprints wrote:
Sankari wrote:A pluralistic society in which the national culture consists of different races, ethnicities and cultures, mutually integrated into a greater whole, harmoniously co-existing in a state of equality, enabled, promoted and endorsed by government policy.


This is the most accurate definition i've seen. If most people agree the definition is something along the lines of a state that promotes equality and enforces anti-discrimination laws,

The problem is that is just not clear what equality means or anti-discrimination or plurality "enabled, promoted and endorsed by government policy"(!)

Pluralism means something very different in a political sense, if you look at the example of India, you have different laws according to the faith of the adherent.

The concept that groups that have particular ideas that define their culture should have different legal systems, should be "enabled, promoted and endorsed by government policy" can be very reactionary and self contradictory.

Even promoting equality, as you put it, can be reactionary in some cases if different religious grooups decide (like India) that equality means they get to live by their own laws.

Multiculturalism is a spectrum or range of mechanisms, so perhaps the problem is looking for a nice bite-sized one size fits all definition?
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Re: What is multiculturalism?

#15  Postby Sankari » Jul 04, 2011 1:41 pm

HomerJay wrote:The problem is that is just not clear what equality means or anti-discrimination or plurality "enabled, promoted and endorsed by government policy"(!)


It's not a problem, because these terms are already defined by legislation and enshrined in law. For example, discrimination on the grounds of race is illegal. We don't have to quibble about what that means, because there's already a legal definition.

That's what I mean by "enabled, promoted and endorsed by government policy." Government policy in this case including freedom of religion, anti-discrimination, etc. Where cultural and religious teachings are contrary to law, it is the law that prevails.

Pluralism means something very different in a political sense, if you look at the example of India, you have different laws according to the faith of the adherent.

The concept that groups that have particular ideas that define their culture should have different legal systems, should be "enabled, promoted and endorsed by government policy" can be very reactionary and self contradictory.


I agree. Fortunately, the idea of different legal systems for different people is not part of multiculturalism. In fact, it is in direct opposition to the multicultural ideal, which upholds the state legal system against any cultural or religious preferences. For example, if your culture tells you wife-beating is permissible, you'll get a nasty shock when the police come calling, because multiculturalism does not give you carte blanche to beat your wife.

Even promoting equality, as you put it, can be reactionary in some cases if different religious grooups decide (like India) that equality means they get to live by their own laws.


But that's not the kind of equality being referred to.

Multiculturalism is a spectrum or range of mechanisms, so perhaps the problem is looking for a nice bite-sized one size fits all definition?


Yes, that's definitely part of the problem.
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Re:

#16  Postby maik » Jul 04, 2011 2:36 pm

Sankari wrote:
maik wrote:For example, in this case, people are allowed to speak their mother language at home, but there is only one (or two at most) official language, so their kids must be taught the official language at school; and themselves are obliged to use this language, say, at a law- court.


FWIW, Australia has no official language.

Yeah, ok. Most countries have an official language. Seems that Australia has no official language, but it does have a de facto "official" language, english. However, i think that my main point was clear. The "officiality" of english in Australia is not the issue itself. The issue is multiculturalism. So, what i am mostly interested in is to know whether the aboriginals, for example, are judged by an aboriginal judge at a law- court and, if not, whether they can use their mother language (if it's still "alive"; i am not informed on the matter) at the court and in public services in general. Also, are there aboriginal schools or classes, recognised by the state, where the aboriginal culture and language are learned in practice (and not just in a theoritical, historical way)?

Edit 1: Mind you, i am not saying that the aboriginals- or any other cultural group- are oppressed in any way, in Australia. I am saying that multiculturalism has no place in the present reality, mainly for practical reasons that regard the function of a modern state.
Edit 2: And, what is "FWIW"?
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Re: What is multiculturalism?

#17  Postby HomerJay » Jul 04, 2011 10:30 pm

Sankari wrote:
HomerJay wrote:The problem is that is just not clear what equality means or anti-discrimination or plurality "enabled, promoted and endorsed by government policy"(!)


It's not a problem, because these terms are already defined by legislation and enshrined in law. For example, discrimination on the grounds of race is illegal. We don't have to quibble about what that means, because there's already a legal definition.

That's what I mean by "enabled, promoted and endorsed by government policy." Government policy in this case including freedom of religion, anti-discrimination, etc. Where cultural and religious teachings are contrary to law, it is the law that prevails.

I'm not sure we are at all clear about the law on discrimination not being a problem, because the law is open to interpretation. Certainly here in the UK there is a multilayered legal system that is still open to interpretation (employment law, immigration law, public order law) and case law is still vital.

Even then it is possible to be critical of the law, so we don't have agreement on how to interpret the law, even within the judiciary.

Ifr you look at the UNDHR, the European CHR, then there is a lot of flexibility to allow for very different localisms as to what constitues discrmination.

'Freedom of Religion' depends very much on the eye of the beholder, with some religionists claiming that separate legal systems are necessary for freedom of religion.
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Re: What is multiculturalism?

#18  Postby King Hazza » Oct 11, 2011 1:16 pm

Ironically, it's multiculturalism short of the fact that you are actually living within the nation's culture. You follow the same work hours, commercial practices, laws, zoning requirements, minimal and maximum clothing requirements, interpersonal etiquette, civil requirements, road rules as everyone else (or you should); but within this system are permitted to worship whatever deity you choose, wear the style of between-parameter clothing you choose, and eat food whose ingredients are partially different.

In some ways it has never NOT existed in a country, and in some ways we don't actually have it at all (except countries that are subdivided among sovereign nations who can practice their own systems at their own discretion from the main country's)
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Re: What is multiculturalism?

#19  Postby epepke » Oct 12, 2011 3:05 am

King Hazza wrote:Ironically, it's multiculturalism short of the fact that you are actually living within the nation's culture. You follow the same work hours, commercial practices, laws, zoning requirements, minimal and maximum clothing requirements, interpersonal etiquette, civil requirements, road rules as everyone else (or you should); but within this system are permitted to worship whatever deity you choose, wear the style of between-parameter clothing you choose, and eat food whose ingredients are partially different.

In some ways it has never NOT existed in a country, and in some ways we don't actually have it at all (except countries that are subdivided among sovereign nations who can practice their own systems at their own discretion from the main country's)


To me, that assumes knowing what multiculturalism is and adopting a particular definition. The definition you're giving is interesting, but I don't know that this is what people mean when they say "multiculturalism." It might be something like that, and it might be something different, or the definition might vary from person to person.

In any event, it seems to me that people have made grandiose claims for the goodness of multiculturalism that seem to me a lot more than your definition would support.
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Re: What is multiculturalism?

#20  Postby mindhack » Oct 13, 2011 1:28 pm

In my perception multiculturalism popped into existence when political figures pushed diffuse and ill defined feelings of social insecurity into a little box and labeled it “the failings of multiculturalism” as the source of it all.

As I see it, its use is to appeal to a supposedly threatened national ideal, using people’s feelings of insecurity or to their ill defined search for belonging.

Used by these politicians it’s a loaded, normative concept, used to express an opinion of rejection, with political intend.

Written out it would be something like this:

Multiculturalism is brought about by party X. It is the source of many problems you people have. We, part Y oppose it. Vote for us!
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