03 July 2006

Wednesday June 28, 2006
True meaning of pluralism
If there’s one thing that can be said about globalisation, it’s that sometimes you wonder where you are. You look out your window, whether you’re in KL, New York or Manila and you see McDonald’s and for a minute there, you’re not sure what country you’re in.
I was just reading about my fellow women writers around the world and came across one who would make Attila the Hun look like a lamb. Ann Coulter is a conservative writer with a capital C.
On Sept 12, 2001, she responded to the World Trade Centre attack by saying, “we should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity.” She told a Vietnam War veteran that “people like you caused us to lose that war”.
In 2001, she said, “women should be armed but should not be allowed to vote.” Or what about this: “I have to say I’m all for public flogging. One type of criminal that a public humiliation might work particularly well with are the juvenile delinquents, a lot of whom consider it a badge of honor to be sent to juvenile detention. And it might not be such a cool thing in the ‘hood to be flogged publicly.”
And in case we don’t know where her political sentiments lie: “The thing I like about Bush is I think he hates liberals.” Most recently she called 9/11 widows “witches” just because they want to know what happened.
In case anyone thinks she’s just joking, I met a reporter who actually interviewed her and she told him that what gives liberals chills is that she actually means everything she says. And he believes her.
Now what gave me that feeling of not knowing where I am is when I open our own newspapers and read about people warning about the dangers of liberalism and pluralism.
Oh my, Ann Coulter on my own doorstep! They should get together, the blonde with a penchant for high slit dresses and the guys in long gowns. So much in common to talk about!
I looked up pluralism and this is what it is defined as: “Pluralism is, in the general sense, the affirmation and acceptance of diversity. The concept is used, often in different ways, in a wide range of issues. In politics, the affirmation of diversity in the interests and beliefs of the citizenry, is one of the most important features of modern democracy”.
Religious pluralism is somewhat trickier. Islam, like most other monotheistic faiths, views itself as the only true path for following the will of God and going to Paradise. But the Quran also accepts diversity of religions as created by God:
“For every one of you did We appoint a law and a way, and if Allah had pleased He would have made you (all) a single people, but that He might try you in what He gave you, therefore strive with one another to hasten to virtuous deeds; to Allah is your return, of all (of you), so He will let you know that in which you differed”. (Surah 5, verse 48).
So it’s a bit difficult to be Ann Coulter if you’re a faithful Muslim. What more if you live in a pluralistic multicultural multi-religious country like ours.
Liberalism is also another of Ann Coulter’s targets, which puts her exactly in the same camp as some people here.
According to my encyclopaedia, “Liberalism is an ideology, philosophy, and political tradition that holds liberty as the primary political value. Broadly speaking, liberalism seeks a society characterized by freedom of thought for individuals, limitations on power, especially of government and religion, the rule of law, the free exchange of ideas, a market economy that supports relatively free private enterprise, and a transparent system of government in which the rights of minorities are guaranteed. In modern society, liberals favour a liberal democracy with open and fair elections, where all citizens have equal rights by law and an equal opportunity to succeed.”
I can’t argue with that really, although there are people who claim that liberalism is the freedom to wear bikinis in Parliament. Which goes to show how shallow some people are. The only problem with liberalism is that people who are liberal tend to be very liberal with the people who aren’t and who are certainly not grateful for that courtesy in any case.
Imagine an international convention of the Illiberals and the Anti-Pluralists. Just think who would be there. President Bush would deliver the keynote opening address titled “There is No Room for Pluralism: Everyone Should be the Same.” Some of our guys could speak on “Liberalism: The Devil’s Way – Forget about Caring for Other People”. There would be workshops where different fundamentalists can compare notes.
In one room photographs of prominent liberals would be pinned up so that delegates can throw mud at them. Everyone would be united in their common hatred.
Guess that’s what globalisation means.