David Cameron has launched another attack on multiculturalism as part of his attack on Islamist extremism. “Timid politicians with a ‘misplaced’ fear of offending Muslims have allowed Islamist extremism to take root in the institutions of Britain” he said going on to warn in the Daily Mail that“the policy of treating different cultures as ‘separate and distinct’ – known as multiculturalism – had been a ‘mistake’”.[i]


I disagree strongly with the definition of multiculturalism he is using here. The Daily Mail sees it as a policy of treating different cultures as separate and isolated. They believe that all ethnic minorities should assimilate into British Society as quickly as possible and that difference is always a problem.


I have never understood the term multiculturalism in this way.and I don’t agree with Trevor Phillips, Ted Cantle, the Daily Mail, David Cameron and others on this issue.


I believe that it is important that different groups and communities can organise themselves and establish community groups based on cultural identity, language or country of origin as a stepping stone to more empowered involvement in wider UK society. I have never supported the kind of lazy multiculturalism (actually it’s cultural relativism) that refuses to respect human rights and that allows cultural practices like FGM, forced marriage and “honour” killings to continue. Nor am I in favour of closed and self referential groups that try to limit the involvement of their members in wider society (and there certainly are some of these). Nevertheless there is a lot about multiculturalism that I would want to defend and I think that in contrast with many other European countries it is one of the reasons why race relations and equalities in the UK are significantly more advanced (compared for example with France).


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