Kenan Malik: more on cultural appropriation

Yesterday I highlighted Kenan Malik’s take on cultural appropriation (he dislikes those who police it) as well as some of the pushback he got from Culture Warriors. Grania pointed out that Maliks has issued a series of tw**ts asking critics of c.a. some pointed questions. Those who are quick to deny others the right to cultural “goodies” rarely ask themselves these questions:

In the meantime, on a reader’s recommendation I’ve had one of Malik’s books, which was borrowed from the University library, recalled so that I can read it:

From the Guardian‘s review in 2009:

In From Fatwa to Jihad, Kenan Malik takes a panoramic view of England before and after the seismic events of the Rushdie affair. In a collection of punchy chapters in razor sharp prose comes an intelligent and insightful analysis of how racism, multiculturalism, religion and terrorism has affected British society over the last twenty years.

. . . In the last third of the book in, Malik delves into the restrictions of free speech in the post-Rushdie world. As Hanif Qureishi puts it, “Nobody would have the balls today to write The Satanic Verses, let alone publish it. Writing now is timid because writers are terrified”. He is probably right when you consider the Muhammad cartoons scandal and Random House’s decision to retract the publication of Sherry Jones’ novel The Jewel of Medina, based on a message thread on an online discussion forum.

These are just two instances of how the grievance culture of radical Islam is winning the battle against Enlightenment values, helped along, Malik believes, by multicultural policy and laws like the Racial and Religious Hatred Act (2006), which has made it an offence to incite hatred against a person on grounds of their religion. Its aim was to protect the faith and dignity of minority communities. But the paradox is that these laws are now exploited to undermine the civil liberties of those very same communities they were meant to protect. The censorship that the anti-Rushdie protestors demanded is the same censorship of offensive thought that imprisoned the cartoon protestors.

The great appeal of From Fatwa to Jihad is its pitiless observation and it is this which raises it above the easy standards of one-sided polemic. No one gets away – certainly not Islamic radicalism and multiculturalism and its penchant for ethnic and religious particularism, the monomaniacal Melanie Phillips and the chauvinism of Daniel Pipes and Mark Steyn are all roundly criticised. If Malik’s book advocates anything, it is a social order based on universalist Enlightenment values, the importance of free speech and for the elevation of secular and progressive ideas within minority, particularly Muslim, communities.

Eight years on, that message and its urgency remain the same.


  1. Posted June 16, 2017 at 9:29 am | Permalink

    Reblogged this on The Logical Place.

  2. GBJames
    Posted June 16, 2017 at 10:23 am | Permalink

    Very nice tweet stream.

  3. Gareth
    Posted June 16, 2017 at 10:42 am | Permalink

    I recommend his site, Pandaemonium, if people haven’t visited yet. Lots of good reads there, and his ‘plucked from the web’ entries have links to very varied and great reads too.

    • Colin McLachlan
      Posted June 17, 2017 at 5:21 am | Permalink

      Pandaemonium is also the title of an excellent novel by Christopher Brookmyre, former president of the Humanist Society Scotland.

  4. Posted June 16, 2017 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

    I’ll be buying the updated edition for the chapters on Charlie Hebdo.

    Malik is a few years older than me but his recollection of university in the Eighties was similar to my own: ‘Muslim’ wasn’t an ‘identity’ for students who just happened to be Muslim: politically inclined Muslims would proclaim themselves ‘Black’ in solidarity with the mostly non-Muslim South Africans. The idea that students of Pakistani and Arab descent might share a common heritage was considered bizarre. I certainly never saw a student wearing a hijab.

  5. Merilee
    Posted June 16, 2017 at 4:36 pm | Permalink


  6. Benjay
    Posted June 16, 2017 at 7:09 pm | Permalink

    Writing now is timid because writers are terrified”. He is probably right when you consider the Muhammad cartoons scandal and Random House’s decision to

    Publishing houses seem timid.

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