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No Multiculturalism Please, We’re British

By Farzana Versey

10 February, 2011

It’s failed and all because of Islamic terrorism. Soon after British Prime Minister David Cameron pronounced the defeat of multiculturalism, it was but a matter of time before commentators would go on their ‘let’s separate the wheat from the chaff’ binge.

Douglas Murray is director of the Center for Social Cohesion in London. In his opinion piece in Wall Street Journal he expresses views that are antithetical to the idea of cohesiveness. Drawing thin lines, he is in fact creating walls. He does make a distinction between multiculturalism and pluralism and multiracialism. It is curious, though, that he imagines the hotchpotch idea of one cannot subsume the other. Racists are agitating against another culture as much as they are against a race, for a race brings with it specific cultural values and history.

He states rather audaciously, “State-sponsored multiculturalism treated European countries like hostelries. It judged that the state should not ‘impose’ rules and values on newcomers. Rather, it should bend over backwards to accommodate the demands of immigrants. The resultant policy was that states treated and judged people by the criteria of whatever ‘community’ they found themselves born into.”

This is a complete whitewash job. No state ever sponsors multiculturalism; even sanctified universities like Oxford and Cambridge have their pecking orders and their syllabi that demarcate South Asian and African studies. One might consider this as intellectual ghettoisation. The state may not impose values on ‘newcomers’ simply because it is ignorant about them. What values are inculcated in the indigenous population across the board? Are not criminal laws applicable to everyone, and quite often more stringently against the outsiders? If bending over backwards means that the state permits certain dress codes or social habits, then this is a pluralistic idea. It can be evident even among Britons themselves who are not a uniform herd relishing shepherd’s pie.

The example Murray cites of the state’s ‘benevolence’ is facile and reveals extreme prejudice: “In Britain, for instance, this meant that if you were a white English girl born into a white English family and your family decided to marry you against your will to a randy old pervert, the state would intervene. But if you had the misfortune to be born into an ‘Asian-background’ family and the same happened, then the state would look the other way.”

These are such stereotypes, to begin with. There have been cases of women of Asian background that have got a good deal of prominence. How many English girls are forced to marry against their will? What about the old perverts who commit incest or the ageing playboys? How often has the state intervened to prevent teen pregnancies and date rape? The suggestion that being from an Asian background is a misfortune is a patronising stance. The state can intervene if it becomes an issue that requires legal intervention. An adult woman can file a complaint. There are many voluntary organisations that provide a support system.

Perhaps Mr. Murray has heard about Jack Straw. Although he was concerned about “Pakistani heritage men” who targeted white girls because they thought they were “easy meat”, he did also concede that “overwhelmingly the sex offenders' wings of prisons are full of white sex offenders”.

But this is not on the plate. It is Mr Cameron’s Eureka moment that has to be bared and Murray is on a roll: “In his speech in Munich, Mr. Cameron rightly focused on the problem of home-grown Islamic extremism. He stressed several preliminary steps—among them that groups whose values are opposed to those of the state will no longer be bestowed with taxpayer money. It is a symptom of how low we have sunk that ceasing to fund our societies' opponents would constitute an improvement.”

This is dictatorial in the extreme. How will the state trace the roots of this home-grown Islamic terrorism? Bradford? Birmingham? What values does the state have? A state does not possess values. It has laws, it has a manifesto and it has political parties and a Parliament. Values are cultural and personal. Terrorism is not a value. It is an act of crime, wherever it comes from and in whatever form. A coloniser nation should know that better than anyone else. Tax-payer money is for the express purpose of supporting citizens irrespective of their beliefs, unless the Constitution of the state makes it clear that it will exclude certain ‘values’. A Muslim doctor, engineer, teacher or even a preacher has the right to the facilities offered if s/he is contributing to that society and not causing damage; merely dissenting against the Establishment ideologically does not qualify. It would be reasonable to assume that Scotland Yard is sharp enough to comb out the home-grown terrorists. Or is that impossible to manage and poor British tax-payers are now sponsoring those who bomb their subways even as their families back home are being bombed on an almost daily basis by the superbowl superpowers?

But, Mr. Cameron’s is not the final policy. Mr Murray has more to say: “The fact is that Britain, Germany, Holland and many other European countries have nurtured more than one generation of citizens who seem to feel no loyalty toward their country and who, on the contrary, often seem to despise it. The first step forward is that from school-age upward our societies must reassert a shared national narrative—including a common national culture. Some years ago the German Muslim writer Bassam Tibi coined the term "Leitkultur"—core culture—to describe this. It is the most decent and properly liberal antidote to multiculturalism. It concedes that in societies that have had high immigration there are all sorts of different cultures—which will only work together if they are united by a common theme.”

It is generous that a Muslim writer has been quoted. ‘Core culture’ is part of daily living. You may adhere to it, but is that indicative of loyalty? What about Britons who have emigrated? Do they carry their core culture or their other specific culture and do they follow this practice in their new country? Would they be deemed disloyal to the English idea? How many westerners become part of the national narrative of the nations they migrate to?

It might be prudent to ask whether the Welsh and the Scots believe in a standard British culture and how it can be defined as a paradigm for patriotism.

Murray’s subversive views are not designed for this audience. He has a clear blueprint of his targets: “The Muslim communities that Mr. Cameron focused on will not reform themselves. So the British government will have to shut down and prosecute terrorist and extremist organizations, including some ‘charities’. There are groups that are banned in the U.S. but can and do still operate with charitable status in the U.K. Clerics and other individuals who come from abroad to preach hate and division should be deported.”

I agree in the main about hate-mongers and charities that may indulge in non-charitable activities, but there is the danger of using the ruse of terrorism to decimate groups that are not involved in any such activity. If this becomes government policy, then who is to stop ‘concerned’ citizens from exposing and acting upon their biases openly? It is good to know that clerics may be deported. How does one deport a head of government who indulges in hate-mongering?

This is not the failure of multiculturalism but the success of the fear of any ‘other’.

Farzana Versey is a Mumbai-based author-columnist. She can be reached at http://farzana-versey.blogspot.com/




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