Change Artist, Tony Blair
Britain is a social mess, much of it created by the sixties generation that wanted to prove that they were unlike the racist and bigoted Americans of the fifties. Britain also had to prove amends for colonialism and they did so with a vengeance. Britain swung the doors open to one and all and embraced the idol of multiple cultures. It disparaged anyone who dared to question the youthful vision of the new changed Britain. Myth and belief trumped experience and skepticism. Change indeed causes change and with change comes unintended and often unforeseen consequences. The consequences of change often outlive the youthful idealisms of the visionaries and architects. Let the buyer beware.
Multiculturalism is breeding intolerance
By Philip Johnston, Telegraph
Last Updated: 12:01am GMT 07/01/2008
It has taken a long time to happen, but at last an authoritative and senior establishment figure has pointed to the elephant in the room. Before the Bishop of Rochester's article yesterday in The Sunday Telegraph, the debate about immigration focused almost exclusively on who benefits financially. We have tiptoed around its effect on our society and culture. Even the somewhat belated recognition by ministers that newcomers should show a commitment to British values and demonstrate a knowledge of English tends to be couched in economic terms and ones favourable to the immigrants themselves - that they will get a job more easily and their lives will be enhanced if they are more integrated.
'Few politicians have been willing to question the impact of a growing Muslim population'
However, few politicians have been willing to do what Michael Nazir-Ali has done, which is to question the impact of a growing Muslim population upon the very fabric of the nation, turning it within half a century into a multi-faith and multicultural land. It is hardly surprising, perhaps, for a Christian prelate to lament the powerful appeal of another faith challenging where his own once reigned supreme. Furthermore, the recent immigration of more than half a million eastern Europeans has delighted Roman Catholic leaders whose churches were full to bursting over Christmas.
But they share an historic and religious heritage. The issue that Bishop Nazir-Ali raised has more to do with our failure to integrate Muslims because our political elites were in thrall to what he called "the novel philosophy of multiculturalism". One consequence was the ease with which extremists exploited an emphasis on separatism to recruit among the more impressionable young men in their communities.
Attempts have been made to impose an "Islamic" character in some cities by insisting on artificial amplification for the adhan, the call to prayer, and even to introduce some aspects of sharia to civil law. Sitting in the background, seemingly stalled for the time being, are plans to establish Europe's largest markaz - an Islamic prayer and meeting area able to accommodate at least 40,000 people - right beside the site for the 2012 London Olympics, where it would be a potent icon of how Britain has changed.
In truth, the bishop has simply articulated what many in the Government and in the race relations world have already come to realise (and which most of the rest of us understood years ago), and that is the baleful consequences of three decades of multiculturalism. Last year, even the Commission for Racial Equality, once a cheerleader for the concept, recanted with a report that depicted Britain as an unequal and segregated nation in danger of breaking up.
Like Bishop Nazir-Ali, it feared that extremism was being fostered by the retreat of different groups behind their ethnic walls. For many years, those who wanted Britain to be recognised as a multicultural society which needed to revise, or even jettison, five centuries of Protestant hegemony held centre stage. Anyone who questioned it had their reputations trashed. The multiculturalists even coined an insult - Islamophobia - to try to close down the debate. Some of them yesterday accused the bishop of "scaremongering".
But while multiculturalism began as a facet of Britain's characteristic toleration of other people's ways, religions, cuisines, languages and dress, it metamorphosed into a political creed that held that ethnic minority groups should be allowed to do what they like. It became a guiding principle of governance. When he became prime minister in 1997, Tony Blair urged the nation to embrace multiculturalism. Almost 10 years later, as he prepared to leave Downing Street, he was making speeches informing immigrants they had "a duty" to integrate with the mainstream of society. "Conform to it; or don't come here. We don't want the hate-mongers, whatever their race, religion or creed," he said.
But the "hate-mongers" were already here; and if they weren't they found getting here easy enough. There was a ready-made audience for their anti-western rhetoric among some sections of the Muslim community who had become estranged from the rest of the country - not just from the white Christian majority but from everyone else. So estranged that some were, and still are, prepared to kill others and themselves. When Mohammed Siddique Khan, the leader of the July 7 suicide bombers, spoke in his "martyr video" of "the injustices perpetrated against my people" he did not mean the folk among whom he grew up in Yorkshire.
As Bishop Nazir-Ali recognises, the religious diversity that can - and should - be easily accommodated in a liberal, democratic and (still) overwhelmingly Christian country has taken on a more malign aspect which politicians are belatedly seeking to address. Ministers are even trying to enlist the help of Muslim women in countering the extremists by sending them on training courses to give them the skills and confidence to confront fanatics. This may be a laudable aim but simply is not going to happen in many Muslim communities.
Inevitably, Bishop Nazir-Ali's comments have proven controversial, not least his observation that some parts of the country are no-go areas for non-Muslims. But this segregation has been apparent for many years and was officially acknowledged as long ago as 2001 after riots in some northern towns. The inquiry into their cause was appalled to find British people living "parallel lives", with some young people from ethnic minorities able to go through life exclusively in the company of their own kind.
The diminution of this country's commitment to Anglicanism mourned by the bishop was taking place even without the arrival of another proselytising faith as potent as Islam. However, there is a wider issue that affects everyone: it has to do with the sort of country in which we all want to live. Religious intolerance breeds political intolerance; and we are seeing the great legacies of an enlightened Christian tradition - individual liberty and freedom under the law - squandered because of a need to face down extremists who deride such concepts and who should have been confronted a long time ago.