Sunday, 6 February 2011

Multiculturalism: A Prime Minister Speaks

Nothing really changes. It seems that some people are never pleased, and others will pander to fashionable hysteria. It is the same today as it was yesterday as it was the day before and when I was growing up. Too many of us still need a fall guy; some-one to shift the blame onto; a bogeyman caricature; an enemy to help define ourselves.

Europe's uneasy relationship with the Islamic world is rooted in history and David Cameron speaks with rather common voice:
Under the doctrine of state multiculturalism we have encouraged different cultures to live separate lives, apart from each other and the mainstream. We have failed to provide a vision of society to which they feel they want to belong.

We have even tolerated these segregated communities behaving in ways that run counter to our values. So when a white person holds objectionable views – racism, for example – we rightly condemn them. But when equally unacceptable views or practices have come from someone who isn't white, we've been too cautious, frankly even fearful, to stand up to them.

Europe needs to wake up to what is happening in our own countries. We need to be absolutely clear on where the origins of these terrorist attacks lie – and that is the existence of an ideology, Islamist extremism.

At the furthest end includes those who back terrorism to promote their ultimate goal: an entire Islamist realm, governed by an interpretation of shariah.

Move along the spectrum, and you find people who may reject violence, but who accept various parts of the extremist world-view including real hostility towards western democracy and liberal values.

If we are to defeat this threat, he says, its time to turn the page on on the failed policies of the past. So first, instead of ignoring this extremist ideology, we as governments and societies have got to confront it in all its forms.

David Cameron's speech follows on the heals of Angela Merkel's "Multiculturalism Has Failed" speech in October of last year. So the man at the top of the ladder in British politics, the Queen's representative and the first man of Britain, also knocks "multiculturalism". Frankly, I don't think that Britain in anyway leads on the matter and the failure of multiculturalism must have much to do with Germany and Britain both having allowed downward signalling ghettos to exist - enclaves within their systems where migrants and their kin are forced into the outer edges of mainstream society. Add to that relative poverty and low opportunity and failure stares you right back.

Many, many societies, have people of different racial types, religious views, languages, shades and opinions and whilst no place is perfect, "multiculturalism" is probably not even a word in those places. People just soldier on with their work, their daily routines and get on with providing safety and security for their families. Multiculturalism exists in a day-in, day-out basis. It just is.

Has multiculturalism in Europe failed? Well since Europe is still riding on a past nostalgia, I'm not surprised at these kinds of speeches. It's a "blame" game, nothing else. I don't eulogise most politicians in the slightest, so fortunately I can dismiss Cameron's attempt at courting popular prejudice. For most politicians, even national leaders, I find believing that they can possibly speak without agenda, something of a challenge. But just so that Cameron is reminded - he is no Barack Obama. Barack "Hussein" Obama. You know, the African-American President with a Muslim family. But then again, Britain is no America - where immigrants, Muslims included, are the key components of the contemporary American melting pot.

Cameron and Merkel ...? Hang on to yesteryear. Stay in your little pasts.

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