Muslims who can lead in multicultural societies
SHELINA JAMMOHAMEDMulticulturalism has come under increasing attack in the last few years in Europe, as societies struggle to make sense of how to bring together communities of diverse backgrounds. German Chancellor Angela Merkel declared multiculturalism a “failure” and her sentiments were echoed by British, Italian and French leaders. Their comments came following rising far-right sentiment against the growing Muslim populations in these countries.
Theos, a public theology think tank based in the U.K., released a report in October, “Multiculturalism: A Christian Retrieval,” which calls on political leaders to support multiculturalism, asserting that it is the only way to deal with today’s diverse societies. The Theos report argues from a Christian perspective to “not lose sight of its [multiculturalism’s] indispensable contribution to realizing a just society.”
The report also says that multicultural justice is a concept that offers governments a method to deal with the challenges of establishing “fair and respectful public relationships among the minorities.”
Establishing justice is also a priority for all religions, as well as for modern society. If multicultural societies hold the key to realizing a more just society, then the only wise option is to harness their vitality.
Interestingly, the report highlights that a just multicultural democracy best emerges when moral bonds are nurtured within wider civic society rather than by government alone. This means civil society needs to take up the important work of protecting its minorities and establishing their place at a leadership level to achieve the kind of justice the report refers to.
One initiative that draws its inspiration from Muslims, in order to address exactly these challenges of multicultural societies, is the Mosaic International Summit, which began on Nov. 15 in Qatar.
Global society is in the midst of a ”youth bulge,” which is especially pronounced in many Muslim-majority countries. As we’ve already witnessed in the Arab Spring, the future significance of these youths is undeniable.
Furthermore, most Muslim countries have large minority populations, or are themselves significant minorities increasingly taking up leadership positions.
The summit, open to delegates from all backgrounds, not only Muslims, brings together 80 individuals aged 25 to 35 from 17 countries as diverse as Afghanistan and Algeria to Indonesia and Iraq. Mosaic’s mission is to create opportunities for young people of all backgrounds growing up in deprived communities.
Following the summit, Mosaic will support its delegates for an additional year and ask them to report back every three months on how they have applied their new insights and skills.
As a result of this summit, Mosaic’s delegates are able to experience new countries and cultures and meet potential leaders from a diverse range of backgrounds. In turn, part of the training entails ensuring delegates are exposed to a mix of new perspectives and environments, which is one of the reasons why Qatar was chosen for the summit’s location.
As it turns out, building a community out of multiculturalism is not a paradox. Rather, leaders trained to lead multicultural societies can create stronger, more cohesive and more just communities.
* Shelina Zahra Janmohamed is the author of “Love in a Headscarf” and blogs at www.spirit21.co.uk. This abridged article was originally published on the Common Ground News Service.