In his first speech as prime minister, at a conference in Munich David Cameron criticised “state multiculturalism”, and argued that UK needed a stronger national identity. Prior to this speech Chancellor Angela Merkel declared that attempts to build a multicultural society in Germany have “utterly failed”. According to Merkel, “the so-called “multikulti” concept – where people would “live side-by-side” happily – did not work, and immigrants needed to do more to integrate – including learning German.
So what “multiculturalism” are both Cameron and Merkel talking about? Generally multiculturalism is about recognising our differences and respecting others’ experiences and backgrounds. It is about recognising that there are different sub-cultures and taking this into consideration in the process of policy making. Culture is the way people do their things. The principle of multiculturalism attempts to define and promote the different ways that diverse subcultures do their things. The doctrine subscribes to coexisting and living “side by side” in a single country.
However, the danger here is that different subcultures may hide under the banner of subculture to offend, harm, disobey, and engage in illegality, with the excuse that it is permissible in their subculture. Furthermore, “side by side”, may degenerate into parallel ways of life among subcultures thereby compromising contact, engagement, interaction, integration, and diffusion of shared values.
Consequently while the principle of multiculturalism helps us to recognise and respect diversity, there is the danger that it enables and sustains the development of mental and physical ghettoes within the society. The principle therefore has the potential to implant both respect and instability in our society.
The principle of “melting pot” acts to counter the negative potentials of multiculturalism. So while we should respect and recognise subcultures in order to minimise discrimination and oppression, we should not promote our differences. Rather we should always promote our shared values derived most times from natural laws and common humanity. These shared values are embodied in the law, and the rule of law confirms the supremacy of the law. This should be the ultimate guiding principle for every subculture.
I call this uni-culturalism. It emphasises our country first before, our diverse differences. It promotes unity in diversity, rather than diversity in unity. It represents the centripetal force that pulls us together and unifies us, and rejects every centrifugal force that pulls us apart. The principle promotes British citizenship rather than diversity among the citizenry. It also promotes, “one world, one people”, rather than” different worlds, different peoples”.
Moreover, it empowers us to see ourselves first as British people, rather than as representatives of our various sub domains. If we are empowered to be the later, we will be creating ghettoes mentally, behaviourally, and structurally in our society, with terrible adverse consequences.
So what “multiculturalism” are we talking about? If multiculturalism is what creates a mindset in a footballer to racially abuse another, because it is acceptable in his subculture, then I seriously disagree with the principle. If it is what encourages a subculture to engage in Female Genital Cutting, with the excuse that it is acceptable in their subculture; I also reject the doctrine. If it is what breeds hatred, intolerance, disharmony, fanatics and terrorism in our society; I also reject it with all my heart.
However if it is about recognising our differences and conducting race impact assessments before policy decisions; I subscribe to it.
Written By Austin Aneke (Founder, UK Immigrant Magazine)