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Thursday, April 28, 2005

"Appreciating our diversity means finding a place for everybody"

The debate over the value of diversity in society and the problem that some citizens have in holding on to their nationalistic identiy while embracing immigrant populations can also be found in New Zealand of all places. The New Zealand Herald contains a powerful essay arguing for the social value of religious diversity and the problems with thinking of religious minorities or immigrants as a "them"-entity.

The author begins his piece by recounting an unfortunate incident at the opening of a new Sikh gurdwara: "[The opening] was temporarily marred by a passing motorist who shouted: 'Why don't you go back to where you came from?'"

In his defense of pluralism, the author notes: "To affirm a place for oneself is legitimate. To deny a place to others is not." In other words, to identify one's self with one's nation is perfectly acceptable, however to do this does not require the denial of the same nationalistic identity to others, particularly those who ultimately contribute to that society in many different ways. Moreover, even if one does not feel the need for patriotic self-identification, to deny another this same ability on the basis of their immigrant status or perceived difference is inappropriate.

The article is quite scholarly for a newspaper essay, and is definitely worth a read.

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