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Diversity, rights or privileges? Denunciation of multiculturalism, ‘political correctness’ and anti-racism of the ex-Commander of Scotland Yard Ali Dizaei

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The widely disseminated court verdict on the former Scotland Yard commander, Ali Dizaei, as a violent bully and a liar at the end of his first trial in February 2010, brought about a noted denunciation of multiculturalism as ‘political correctness’. The jury's decision on the abuse of power by the Iranian-born officer was used by the denunciators to condemn the politics of rights that aligned multiple ethnic and racial identities as equal. The denunciation is looked at as a contingent mobilisation of the apolitical subject that is loitering on the boundary of politics calling for the ‘end of politics’ marked by the exclusion of the Other. At the same time the trial revealed that by advocating a policy designed to subsume particular ethnic and cultural belongings within a universal exercise of rights Dizaei had been able to resume his cultural differences as a source of privileges among his compatriots. Drawing on the incident as a result of which Dizaei had to stand trial and later a re-trial, using various sources, the paper examines the tension between the exercise of rights and privileges built into multiculturalism. The pertinence of the sources used to highlight the tension remains largely unaffected by the questioned reliability of the main witness of the prosecutor and the Appeal Court judges’ decision to order Dizaei's re-trial. The paper argues that multiculturalism sets in motion the incompatible agencies of the citizen, the member of a political community, and Man whose role is inscribed within civil society. Thus, the exercise of equal rights calls for dis-identification of the subject as a social and cultural agent. Such dis-identification, however, is displaced when the subject asserts his identity as Man, the bearer of unequal relations based on class, gender and race. In making provision both for the exercise of rights as well as the assertion of identity multiculturalism becomes instrumental in the subsumption of cultural differences within rights and the resumption of these differences in the articulation of privileges. The mediation of multiculturalism in the realization of rights and privileges accounts for the Iranian-born officer's oscillation between subsuming his cultural differences within British citizenship and resuming these differences in asserting his identity as an Iranian among the diasporic community. Using the notion of cultural diversity Dizaei was able to keep at arm's length the two spheres of rights and identity that allowed him to claim ‘not to be one of them’ thus oscillating between claiming the rights of a British citizen and the privileges of an Iranian magnate. The noted disruption in his power game that brought Dizaei to sit in the dock was the result of a failed attempt by the Iranian-born officer to contain the growing tension in his advocated multiculturalism arising from his simultaneous resort to rights and privilege.
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Keywords: Iranian diaspora; Multiculturalism; citizenship; constitutional state; gift exchange; identity; policing; political correctness; rights

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Social Anthropology, University of Manchester, Manchester, UK

Publication date: May 3, 2016

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