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Whither multiculturalism?

Bishop Nazir-Ali has set the cat among the pigeons today, by mentioning the I-word in less than flattering terms. He says that moslems are trying to set up no-go areas for non-believers. This claim has brought on the usual spluttering outrage from the political classes and the commentariat.

The BBC has rolled out its standard crisis management technique of packing interviews with people who oppose the prevailing views. The new, fluffier-than-thou Tories have been falling over themselves in their eagerness to be seen to say the correct thing, with the Willy Hague declaring that he knows of no such no-go areas.

Over at Pickled Politics, guest poster Rumbold says that the Bishop is just stirring up trouble. "Scaremongering" Rumbold says, and condemns the Bishop for not identifying these no-go areas.

Helpfully though, the Pub Philosopher has pointed us to a report that seems to back the Bishop's claim. Written by the former race relations adviser in Bradford, it documents how sharia areas have been set up in that city. The Philosopher also relates a couple of other horror stories along the same lines.

Throughout all this opinionating, I get the overriding sense that very few people actually want to address this issue - it does seem that there is genuinely a problem. Certainly those doing the criticising are very keen to condemn the Bishop and rather less keen to look into his claims first. Meanwhile those who are standing behind his Grace are not exactly bursting to tell us their proposed solutions to the problem.

I'm sure the denial on the one hand and the reticence on the other is a symptom of exactly the same thing. Which is a belief that if the Bishop is right then the only solution will involve ethnic cleansing and/or civil war. (And for the avoidance of doubt, I'm accusing nobody of actually supporting such a policy - I'm saying that there are some people who think we better do nothing for fear of starting a civil war, and there are others who think we'd better do something because if we don't we could end up with one anyway).

There. I said it.

We are almost certainly at a fork in the multicultural road we've been driving down these last fifty years, and one of those forks is signposted "Strife and Disaster", without doubt. To go down this road we can adopt policies of repatriating moslems or closing down mosques, and some of us would undoubtedly come out of the ensuing maelstrom in one piece, but very few people actually want this.

Of course we can just do nothing - continue to deny the existence of the problem and to condemn anyone who tries to talk about it. But that is just another road to the same destination. Let's not go there.

There is another way we might try though. A way that is impeccably liberal, although it would be hard for those on the left to swallow.

Stop subsidising multiculturalism. Stop supporting it. Put and end to the succour that the state gives to those who want to divide society rather than to unite it. We must create economic incentives for people to integrate into mainstream society. Standing squarely in the way of doing this is the whole ghastly panoply of "liberal-left" nannying legislation. This all has to go: scrap the race relations acts, tear up the hate speech acts, stop funding translators for immigrants and give them English lessons instead. Etcetera.

If someone doesn't want to employ a moslem, that's his business. But a moslem who finds his requirement to pray at inconvenient times is affecting his employability might just be willing to compromise with mainstream culture, and compromise is the start of integration. He's not forced to compromise, of course, but neither should he be able to force mainstream culture to compromise with him.

Mutual agreement. Liberalism.

We should remind ourselves too that this is just the policy proposed by Trevor Phillips of the CRE who has called for multiculturalism to be scrapped. It is striking how silent everyone has been on this subject since it was proposed in the wake of the 7/7 bombings in 2004. Shall we dust the ideas off and look at them again.

It might not work, of course. It may be that there is now a sufficiently large body of unintegrated moslems in this country that they can operate without the mainstream culture. We would in fact have brought about the balkanisation of this country.

But, for all the reasons above, let's hope not.  

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Reader Comments (1)

Well said.
Jan 13, 2008 at 10:52 AM | Unregistered CommenterDavid Blackie

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