Malik: To live in a diverse society means to live with debate. Bring it on

To my mind, it is more how one engages in discussion and debate, not in the raising of uncomfortable issues:

No one has a right not to be offended. All of us have a duty to challenge bigotry. These two claims are not just compatible, they are often interconnected. Today, though, many view these as conflicting perspectives. To give offence to other cultures or faiths, they argue, is to foment racism; to challenge racism, one should refrain from giving offence.

It’s a belief at the heart of the controversy engulfing Batley grammar school. The facts are still unclear. A teacher apparently showed an image of the Prophet Muhammad in a religious education class. Some parents have demanded the teacher be sacked, holding protests outside the school. The school has apologised and suspended the teacher involved. At the heart of the affair, the former Tory cabinet minister Sayeeda Warsi insists, is the issue of “child safeguarding”, of protecting children from racist bullying.

It is inevitable in plural societies that we offend the sensibilities of others. Where different beliefs are deeply held, disagreement is unavoidable. Almost by definition, that’s what it means to live in a plural society. If we cherish diversity, we should establish ways of having such debates and conversations in a civil manner, not try to suppress them. A structured discussion in a classroom, properly done, seems an ideal approach.

It is inevitable, too, that in pursuing social change, we often offend deeply held sensibilities. Many groups struggling for justice and equality – women, gays, non-believers – within religious communities cannot but be blasphemous. In this context, to accept that certain things cannot be said is to accept that certain forms of power cannot be challenged. Fighting for social justice, in other words, often requires us to offend others. The boundaries of speech are different in a classroom than in the world outside. Here, a teacher is dealing with minors, building a relationship of trust with them, encouraging them to think, and to think about issues that they may not have thought about or may not have wanted to think about.

Source: To live in a diverse society means to live with debate. Bring it on

Pluralism is a path to lasting peace and prosperity: Outgoing Governor General Johnston

Well stated:

A predecessor, Vincent Massey, once said: “Canada is not a melting pot. Canada is an association of peoples who have, and cherish, great differences but who work together because they can respect themselves and each other.” Today we call this pluralism, and I believe Canada’s opportunity lies in its ability to show the world how pluralism is a viable path to lasting peace and prosperity. Canada is a social innovation, a constantly evolving work-in-progress based upon the notion that diverse peoples can live and work together toward an ever-more inclusive, fair and just society.

Of course, we have no cause for complacency. Intolerance does exist here and it is essential that we resist efforts to reduce diversity and restrict inclusiveness. Canada’s progress as a country has always grown from a commitment to diversity, inclusiveness and pluralism. Success in such a vast, diverse and challenging land requires that we work together. This is the story of our country and it’s important that we know and understand its uniqueness, significance and how embedded the principles of partnership and compromise are in the very fabric of Canada. This is the path forward.

There are two related, critical elements that Canada should pay close attention to in the years to come: learning and trust. As a lifelong student and teacher, I believe education is the key to ensuring equality of opportunity for all Canadians and to achieving the pinnacles of excellence that allow us to innovate and lead in a technologically advanced world. From early-childhood education and literacy to reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples to research at the outer limits of knowledge, we must make learning a central part of our lives. Doing so will reinforce the second critical element – trust – by which I mean trust in one another and in the institutions which are the glue that binds Canadians together. Inequalities and the rapid changes brought about by globalization have undermined trust in Canada and throughout much of the world, but a society that learns and works together in an inclusive manner will see the basis for that sense of mistrust replaced by a sense of hope.

So, what have I learned as Governor-General? One, while Canada still has much work to do in building a more inclusive society, our diversity is a strength and a comparative advantage in the world. Two, in Canada, past, present and no doubt future, we’re stronger and more prosperous when we compromise and work together. And three, despite our many cultures, ethnic origins and languages spoken, we all have a great deal in common – a great deal called Canada. Let this be a country that draws on the diverse talents and abilities of all its peoples in steering a course through this complex, changing world.

Source: Pluralism is a path to lasting peace and prosperity – The Globe and Mail

Aga Khan’s Global Centre for Pluralism moves in to heritage digs after decade of delays

I remember being involved in the closing of the lease negotiations. Nice to see this being realized:

A think-tank founded by the Aga Khan with $30 million from taxpayers has finally moved into a prime heritage building in Ottawa 10 years after the federal government gave it a 99-year lease.

The Global Centre for Pluralism (GCP) pays the federal government $1 a year to use the building at 330 Sussex Dr., formerly the Canadian War Museum. The agreement also allows the GCP to lease out office space in the building at commercial rates.

And it already has a tenant: the Royal Canadian Mint, a Crown corporation.

The centre’s opening comes after a decade of false starts and missed deadlines.

It also highlights the close relationship successive Canadian governments have sought to foster with the Aga Khan, the hereditary leader of the world’s Ismaili Muslims and a well-known philanthropist.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has been forced to defend his recent visitto the Ismaili spiritual leader’s private island in the Bahamas. Trudeau, who through his father has a long personal relationship with the Aga Khan, has said the visit and a similar one in 2014 were personal.

But the Aga Khan and his charitable organizations have a long-standing relationship with the government of Canada, which sees their development work as aligned with Canada’s objectives and has contributed money to their projects for decades.

The Global Centre for Pluralism got its start in 2006, when the government of Stephen Harper gave $30 million to establish an operating fund for the think-tank, which is supposed to spread Canadian values of pluralistic democracy around the world.

Source: Aga Khan’s Global Centre for Pluralism moves in to heritage digs after decade of delays – Politics – CBC News

Inaugural Adrienne Clarkson Prize for Global Citizenship Awarded to the Aga Khan for His Commitment to Advancing Pluralism 

Always worth noting the Aga Khan’s comments on multiculturalism, diversity and pluralism:

“One enormous challenge, of course,” observed the Aga Khan, “is the simple fact that diversity is increasing around the world. The task is not merely learning to live with that diversity, but learning to live with greater diversity with each passing year.” The Aga Khan fully recognizes the frustrations of the pluralism story. The challenge, he noted, was that as we become aware of the diversity of the world we live in and come into contact with people who are different than us, difference becomes a source of conflict rather than an opportunity. “We talk sincerely about the values of diversity, about living with complexity. But in too many cases more diversity seems to mean more division; greater complexity, more fragmentation, and more fragmentation can bring us closer to conflict.”

It is not just proximity that creates this awareness, and often tension. Technology and media, while seemingly bringing us together, recognized the Aga Khan, often pull us apart, feeding ignorance and insularity. The antidote, however, isn’t ignoring difference. “We often hear in discussions of Global Citizenship that people are basically alike. Under the skin, deep in our hearts, we are all brothers and sisters – we are told – and the secret to a harmonious world is to ignore our differences and to emphasize our similarities. What worries me, however,” said the Aga Khan “is when some take that message to mean that our differences are trivial, that they can be ignored, and eventually erased. And that is not good advice. In fact, it is impossible.”

“Pretending that our differences are trivial will not persuade most people to embrace pluralistic attitudes. In fact, it might frighten them away. People know that differences can be challenging, that disagreements are inevitable, that our fellow-humans can sometimes be disagreeable,” he continued.

Too often people think that embracing the values of Global Citizenship means diluting or compromising one’s own bonds to country or peoples. This is not the case emphasized His Highness. Rather, “the call of pluralism should ask us to respect our differences, but not to ignore them, to integrate diversity, not to depreciate diversity. The call for cosmopolitanism is not a call to homogenization. It means affirming social solidarity, without imposing social conformity. One’s identity need not be diluted in a pluralistic world, but rather fulfilled, as one bright thread in a cloth of many colours.”

How one goes about achieving this is no easy task. He ended the evening with a recipe-of-clarity-and-wisdom in charting a future for global citizenship: “a vital sense of balance, an abundant capacity for compromise, more than a little sense of patience, an appropriate degree of humility, a good measure of forgiveness, and, of course, a genuine welcoming of human difference.”

The Aga Khan’s full speech can be found here.

Source: Inaugural Adrienne Clarkson Prize for Global Citizenship Awarded to the Aga Khan for His Commitment to Advancing Pluralism | Huffington Post

Not your grandparents’ world: Canada needs to rethink foreign policy – Stephen J. Toope

Good overview of some of the challenges and opportunities facing Canadian foreign policy and domestic linkages by Stephen J. Toope, the director of the Munk School of Global Affairs at UofT.

Excerpts of his piece on leveraging Canada’s diversity, echoing the Trudeau Foundation’s The Pluralism Project focussing on the economic dimension of pluralism, diversity and the future of citizenship.

But can we please stop trying to rebrand multiculturalism as pluralism as the previous government tried but ultimately realized that multiculturalism was in the Charter and was embraced by a majority of Canadians. The word may be ‘tainted’ in the USA and Europe, reflecting their very different histories and experiences, but isn’t here.

Pluralism should only be used in the Canadian context in an overarching sense, capturing the diversity between and among indigenous peoples, anglophones and francophones, and the diversity created by successive waves of immigration:

The new government has already declared that our pluralism is a primary asset to bring to our global engagements. This is true if we move beyond the lofty and too-often smug assertions that “diversity is our strength.”

Although our historical record is by no means pure, by world standards Canada has created a society that is generally inclusive of newcomers. Sadly, we have done far worse as concerns indigenous peoples. Our relative success with social pluralism is an asset only if we avoid preaching and use our diversity constructively.

That means making investments in development assistance that allow us to showcase and share how Canadian pluralism works. It means contributing actively in intergovernmental forums where migration and refugee issues are thrashed out. Above all, it means finding ways to mobilize our diaspora communities to create stronger linkages for Canadian business, culture and educational institutions with countries around the world. That is not the same as cynically pandering to narrow foreign-policy interests of those same communities in the hope of gaining domestic electoral advantage.

….The French, the British, the Germans, the Spanish, the Scandinavians and the Australians have all used culture, educational exchange, people-to-people ties, online communication campaigns, and tourism promotion to create a strong public awareness of their countries all around the world. We have no Canadian equivalent to the British Council or the Goethe Institute. Canadian embassies and high commissions effectively have no program budgets. The last government cut funding to the Commonwealth Scholarship, and reduced support to Canadian studies programs around the world so much that they are now on drip feed.

We shouldn’t resurrect tired models, but a new approach to promoting the creativity of Canadians globally is sorely needed, backed with increased resources. Canadian culture could be connected to that much-vaunted pluralism to create excitement around contemporary Canada. That is a major asset. We should strike while the positive and fresh Trudeau brand is putting Canada back on the global radar screen.

After identifying and focusing upon our assets, we then need to connect those assets to the projection of both interests and values. In a world where more and more Canadians are connected beyond our borders in value-based environmental, religious or human-rights networks, and where devastating events that take place halfway around the world are known immediately, it is no longer plausible to argue that nations have only economic or other material interests. One picture of a little Syrian boy dead on a Turkish beach forced a Canadian response. Our foreign-policy calculations are not only rational, but emotional as well, rooted in shared perceptions of who we are as Canadians and, increasingly, by who we define as allies, partners and friends.

Source: Not your grandparents’ world: Canada needs to rethink foreign policy – The Globe and Mail

Global Centre for Pluralism 2016 Corporate Plan

GCP Drivers of PluralismThe 2016 Corporate Plan is out and worth a quick read. The most interesting aspect is their effort to develop pluralism indicators as per the framework above.

Will be interesting to see how this adds to other indicator efforts, more focussed on OECD countries (e.g., MIPEX, OECD), and the ability to obtain good comparative and consistent data.

Some of the elements in the GCP framework will pose particular challenges in this regard (e.g., education, religion and media, history and memory).

Download the 2016 Corporate Plan >

Three Cheers for Pluralism Over Separatism – Friedman

Friedman on pluralism vs. separatism (or federalism vs separatism):

Why is pluralism such a big advantage today? Two reasons: politics and innovation. Before I explain, though, it’s worth recalling: What is pluralism? I like the definition that the Pluralism Project at Harvard offers on its website: “pluralism is not diversity alone, but the energetic engagement with diversity” because “mere diversity without real encounter and relationship will yield increasing tensions in our societies.” A society being “pluralistic” is a reality see Syria and Iraq. A society with pluralism “is an achievement” see America.

Pluralism, it also notes, “does not require us to leave our identities and our commitments behind. … It means holding our deepest differences, even our religious differences, not in isolation, but in relationship to one another.” And, it posits that real pluralism is built on “dialogue” and “give and take, criticism and self-criticism” — and “dialogue means both speaking and listening.”

Or, as we would say with respect to multiculturalism, integration and accommodation, rather than more Cartesian fixed ideas of how the world should be.

But pluralism, like multiculturalism and interculturalism, have a certain plastic quality and can be interpreted differently, ranging from deep (parallel social institutions like faith-based schools and laws) and shallow (common institutions like public schools and common legal framework).

So the question becomes less the term used, but rather what it means or how it is interpreted (a mistake that most critics of multiculturalism make).

Three Cheers for Pluralism Over Separatism – NYTimes.com.

Citizenship and the Prophet principle – FT.com

An interesting summary of a collection of essays on citizenship and sharia, largely written from the perspective that it is preferable not to go down the road of separate religious tribunals, and ending up on the need for greater engagement by Muslim men and women with mainstream life, rather than the more esoteric debates over English law and sharia.

Citizenship and the Prophet principle – FT.com.