Peter Tatchell: Not all cultures are equally valid and commendable

Share
Related Topics

A good, beneficial multicultural society is one in which everyone has the freedom to pursue their own different ethics and lifestyles, while in the public sphere all citizens are treated as equals and are bound together by a shared commitment to universal human rights, regardless of the differences in their personal morality and private lives. I do not, for example, insist that people of faith approve of homosexuality, but I do expect them to not discriminate on the grounds of sexual orientation.

Where some strands of multiculturalism have gone off the rails is in their institutionalisation of difference through initiatives like the state funding of faith schools, which factionalises pupils along religious lines.

Another big error by some multiculturalists has been to bow to demands for cultural sensitivity by tacitly accepting that some peoples and communities can be exempt from the norms of universal human rights.

Moral and cultural relativism have gained ground. We are told every community is different. All these differences are equally valid and must be respected. To question them, we are admonished, is to impose our way of life on others – a form of cultural imperialism.

It is true there is no one-size-fits-all blueprint for all societies and communities. But are there no universal humanitarian values that should be defended in all cultures at all times? Is everything relative? Should we accept practices in other communities that we would never accept in our own? Allowing people in developing countries to suffer indignities that we would never tolerate in our society is a shameless double standard. It smacks of racism.

All peoples possess a culture, but this does not mean all cultures are equally valid and commendable. Some values and ideas are better than others. The Enlightenment was better than the Dark Ages. Freedom is better than slavery. Democracy is better than fascism. Scientific knowledge is better than superstition.

While all human beings deserve human rights, not everyone's beliefs and traditions deserve respect. Political and religious ideas based on racism, patriarchy and homophobia are unworthy of respect. They need to be challenged, not tolerated.



This is an extract from a lecture at the Gallery of Modern Art, Glasgow, last week

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: IT Support Analyst - Urgent - Cheshire - £25p/h

£20 - £25 per hour: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group have been engaged by a hu...

Sauce Recruitment: Partnership Sales Executive - TV

competitive + benefits: Sauce Recruitment: An award-winning global multi-media...

Sauce Recruitment: Account Director

£26017.21 - £32521.19 per annum + OTE $90,000: Sauce Recruitment: My client is...

Recruitment Genius: Linux Systems Administrator

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of UK Magento hosting so...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

I loathe the term ‘hard-working people’. It's patronising, snobbish and wrong

Simon Kelner
Auschwitz death camp survivor Jadwiga Bogucka, 89, holds a picture of herself from 1944  

Holocaust Memorial Day: This isn't the time to mark just another historical event, but to remember humanity at its worst

Jennifer Lipman
Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea