Britain: Has multiculturalism bred extremism?

At a conference in Munich, Prime Minister David Cameron warned of the damaging effects of multiculturalism.

Prime Minister David Cameron has launched a “devastating attack” on “30 years of multiculturalism in Britain,” said Oliver Wright and Jerome Taylor in The Independent. In a “radical departure” from previous British governments, the Conservative leader warned at a conference in Munich last week that multiculturalism is “fostering extremist ideology and directly contributing to homegrown Islamic terrorism.” Cameron said that in the future “only organizations which believe in universal human rights”—including women’s rights—would be eligible for British government funds. He blamed toleration of “segregated communities behaving in ways that run counter to our values” for planting the seeds of terrorism, and openly questioned “why it is that so many young men in our own country get radicalized in this completely unacceptable way.”

It’s about time someone said it, said Charles Moore in The Telegraph. Just look around: Our nation is “awash with exiles and with British-born extremists.” Rachid Ghannouchi, a leader of Tunisia’s version of the Muslim Brotherhood, has lived in Britain for years. And “much of the propaganda for Hamas,” the extremist group that runs Gaza, is produced right here. Let’s not forget “that British culture rests on more than a thousand years of Christianity,” said the Mail on Sunday in an editorial. But in recent decades a “politically correct salad of equality, diversity, and human rights” has undermined the “collective identity” of Britons. Cameron was right to highlight the “damaging effects” of multiculturalism, “which has encouraged different cultures to live separate lives.”

I guess you haven’t been to Leicester recently, said Matt Roper in the Mirror. The city in the English Midlands is on track to become “Britain’s first plural city, where no ethnic group will form a majority, by 2019.” In the city center, “a Hindu temple stands next to a mosque, a West Indian travel agent opposite a sari dress shop,” and “people of every hue, every religion” call the city home. But Cameron wasn’t actually speaking to immigrants, said The Independent. Instead, his remarks were “uncomfortably reminiscent of the ‘dog whistle’ approach” to politics, sending a “covert message of support to the racist right.” On the day Cameron spoke, 3,000 supporters of the far-right English Defense League marched in Luton chanting anti-Islam slogans. Whatever his intention, Cameron has helped make bigotry more acceptable.

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“Any speech that heartens the fascist fringe must be deemed a failure,” said The Observer. Yet Cameron makes an important point. Schools, police, and others have “sometimes been guilty of excusing appalling or dangerous behavior instead of confronting it.” When it comes to horrid customs like genital mutilation, forced marriage, or honor killings, “the state should never turn a blind eye to cruelty and crime out of some misguided sense of cultural sensitivity.” It can be difficult to work with the “Muslim community”—if only because no such thing exists amid a patchwork of distinct traditions and beliefs. But Cameron insists we need “boundaries of acceptable behavior—cultural, social, political—to be set in line with modern liberal notions of equal rights” and applied uniformly across society. “Who could disagree?”

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