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Illusions of identity

Amartya Sen discusses his new book, in which he claims that the British approach to multiculturalism has undermined individual freedom

By Kenan Malik   August 2006

Identity and Violence by Amartya Sen (Allen Lane, £16.99)

Just before the anniversary of the 7/7 London bombings, a public argument broke out between Tony Blair and Britain’s Muslim leaders about the lack of progress in combating home-grown terrorism. Muslims accused the government of ignoring their advice about how best to deal with extremists. The real problem, the prime minister responded, was that moderate Muslims had not done enough to root out extremists within their own communities.

The starting point for both sides was the belief that Muslims constitute a community with a distinct set of views and beliefs, and…

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