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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Saturday, February 16, 2008
Editorial

Let's have our indigenous version of pluralism

Acivilised society is now 'architectured' upon market economy and democracy, human right based liberal ideology, enlightened civil society and free press, pluralism being the pivotal force to all. Pluralism is a pervasive and comprehensive concept of recognising, interacting and stabilising with diverse opinions and dogmas. It entails that every thing has got its inherent phenotypes of meaning, understanding and implication. Open market economy principally rests on pluralism, the grand total of price mechanism and rationality of customers and producers. It holds that a market has pluralistic customers and suppliers, and the price and production of any goods depends on its demand and supply. The core driving force of the open economy is the multifarious competition among the consumers and producers for the price and value.

This competition is threatened by loyalty and monopoly. Loyal consumers select a product based on their affinity towards that not on its value or price, and ultimately impede the development and growth of new products. On the other hand, monopoly creates a major share and control over the market, price and choice of the customers, and frown the entry of new entrepreneur. The government of market economy thus ensures that rules of plurality properly operate, without measurable interference on the price mechanism.

Secondly, the democratic state system centrally stands on the pluralistic political values, manifestoes and cultures; and formally constructs power representation through fair, rational and competitive multi-party electoral processes. The voter, as the democracy essentialises should have proper capacity to understand the concept and reality of pluralism, and to critically evaluate the activities of the political parties and institutions to select their political power. It is the loyalty to the political parties which thwarts the transparency, accountability and positive growth of democracy. Loyal supporters condense, affiliate and skew their supports towards their party with maneuvered arguments without recognising the national interest.

Democracy has very intimate relationship with human rights principles. Though human right is argued by some cultural relativists to be western and imperialistic, but it has been found to change the world from inquisitive and feudal regimes, and to offer peace and development in multicultural and globalised societies. The Declaration of Universal Human Rights tends to ensure equal rights of all human beings irrespective of cast, class, religion and nationality. It inherently upholds the concept of pluralism; it ensures safeguarding the interest of religious, political, ethnic, racial and cultural minorities.

Enlightened civil society and free press construct the circulatory and nervous system of a democratic society. Civil society is an organic, flexible and participative concept that volunteers in generating thoughts and ideas for the society and keeps pressure on the government for ensuring human rights and development. The civil society should be of diverse origin and interest and enlightened with knowledge. According to Kulkerni, an Indian philosopher, knowledge is plural, it has no hierarchy, brand or jurisdictional limitations.

Globalisation and information technology have made the knowledge immensely plural, fluid and accessible.

Though some scientists identify the press as the part of the civil society, but free press itself is an independent determinant of democratic society. The well known American journalist Walter Cronkite asserted that "freedom of the press is not just important to democracy, it is democracy"; democracy cannot be built without free media. Only strong, pluralistic and independent media can protect societies from the gangrene of corruption, inefficiency and impurity by creating and maintaining an atmosphere of transparency and accountability. But, the monopolistic media, if happens as an individual or industrial entity might be counterproductive. It could create so-called "Forth Estate." Indeed, some journalists are often criticised for forgetting their role of a watchdog and not that of the mastery of society. Such tendencies do not only problematise administrative authorities but also embarrass and misguide intellectuals and society.

Pluralism is not a single word. We should understand the full spectrum of pluralism. According to the Harvard School of Pluralism, pluralism is not diversity alone, but the energetic engagement with diversity; diversity is a given, but pluralism is not a given; it is an achievement. Mere diversity without real encounter and relationship will yield increasing tensions in our societies. Secondly, pluralism is not just tolerance, but the active seeking of understanding across lines of difference. Tolerance is too thin a foundation for a world of religious and political difference and proximity without removal of our mutual ignorance and darkness.

Thirdly, pluralism is not relativism, but the encounter of commitments. The transversal paradigm of pluralism does not require us to leave our identities and our commitments behind, for pluralism is the encounter of commitments. It means holding our deepest differences, even our religious differences, not in isolation, but in relationship to one another. Lastly, pluralism is based on dialogue. The language of pluralism is that of dialogue and encounter, give and take, criticism and self-criticism. Dialogue means both speaking and listening, and that process reveals both common understandings and real differences. Dialogue does not mean everyone at the "table" will agree with one another. But it welcomes the acceptance of better formulation and argument. Because, intelligent are those who accept the truth when revealed.

Bangladesh has stepped into the gateway of democracy, and market economy long before. We have multifarious print and electronic media which update us with latest information and news, and we have different civil societies and think tanks. We can claim that Bangladesh has the infrastructure of development and civilisation. We have to activate and lubricate these mechanisms by cultivating pluralism. Very reductively, some progressive schools misunderstand, and some sporadic terrorist incidents insinuate our dominant Muslim based society as extremist and fundamentalist. I will not examine their observation, rather argue that Islam as a religion, according to the scripture, rests on optimum pluralism.

Laith Kubba, Director of the International Forum for Islamic Dialogue in London conducted a comprehensive study on the discourse of Islam and liberal democracy, and demonstrated that Islam taught us principles of freedom, human dignity, equality, democracy and the rule of law of its own scriptural and prophetic genera. He also argued that Islam though not exactly identical but is very much compatible with the cognate principles of liberal democracy and pluralism. So, leaving aside the jolting around the religious and political poignancies, we should concertedly expedite our effort to develop and culture our indigenous version of pluralism to have a peaceful civilised society.

The writer is an Additional Police Super.

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