Meral Hussein-Ece writes: Has multiculturalism failed?

When did the phrase multiculturalism become synonymous with extremism and segregation? According to the Prime Minister David Cameron, the ‘doctrine of multiculturalism’ has led to communities living separate lives, away from the mainstream and not integrating.

It is blamed for the erosion of ‘basic British values’, and that Muslims – because when we now talk about multiculturalism, what the debate now turns on is that Muslims do not adopt mainstream British values.

What is the evidence for this statement? The majority of Muslims in the UK are well-integrated and support and promote democracy, equality and British rule of law.

I wasn’t even aware that there had ever been a ‘doctrine of multiculturalism’. It does sound like a headline dreamt up by the tabloids.

A survey last year of the first-ever study of Islamic interfaith relations across the world, carried out by Gallup and the Coexist Foundation, challenged the view that the country’s 2.4 million Muslims are largely intolerant of the British way of life. British Muslims were found to identify more strongly with the UK than the rest of the population, and have a much higher regard for the country’s institutions. 77% said they strongly identified with UK.

Furthermore it found that on average 78 per cent of Muslims identify themselves as British, compared with 49 per cent who consider themselves French and 23 per cent who feel German. Muslims also outscored the general public for their belief in courts, honest elections, financial institutions and the media.

When I hear politicians from – it seems – every recent government talk of how multiculturalism has failed, or that it was an ‘experiment’, I am genuinely perplexed.

As a second generation Londoner, I went to school in Hackney and grew up with children from many different cultures and backgrounds. Like me, many spoke another language at home. I did not learn English until I started school, but was encouraged to integrate and study hard, as long as I respected what was culturally acceptable in my parents’ house, and our wider community.

As a councillor in Hackney, I had colleagues and friends from the ultra Orthodox Jewish communities of Stamford Hill, who live very segregated lives and do not mix at all with mainstream or other communities. Their children do not go to mainstream state schools for example. But they live peacefully side by side with a very large Asian Muslim community.

As a nation we have successfully absorbed the culture and cuisine of many different cultures – we like Asian food, we are now encouraged to cook healthy Mediterranean dishes, and rely on the 24 hour shops run by Asian and Turkish shopkeepers.

This is my experience of multiculturalism. We simply do not live in a mono culture.

If we want an honest debate as to why we have seen so many young Muslim men drawn to extremism, and becoming radicalised, then we need to look at the factors that create this.

What we seem to have once again is the confusion between counter-terrorist work, which of course is every government’s priority, and the issue of community cohesion: how different communities live and interact in streets, schools and elsewhere.

But before we can address the problems of why some people from some communities do not interact or integrate with mainstream life, we need to look at the problems they may encounter about accessing this.

A report last year found that 55 per cent of Muslims across the EU believe that religious and racial discrimination have risen in the past five years.

So although the vast majority of Muslims feel British, they are not always seen as British by wider society. It is harder to integrate and ‘belong’ to a society if you are not accepted and you encounter discrimination.

Concerns from many BAME communities about racism and prejudice have been identified as barriers affecting engagement in structures and institutions.

Meanwhile some established minority communities, and some white working class communities, have been less successful than others in making their views heard, and also feel excluded.

In Islington where I live, there is such a huge divide between the classes, white working class and the middle classes. They might as well live on different planets. They simply do not mix. Decades of ‘White flight’ to schools outside Islington, have resulted in our secondary schools being overwhelming attended by BAME students, some as high as 80%.

Of course London is very different from some northern cities, where there is usually one main ethnic minority community, often living quite apart from the white host community. Here the challenge to encourage greater engagement and integration between communities is more difficult.

David Cameron acknowledges that it’s wrong to say:

‘Someone can be a devout Muslim and not be an extremist.’

We need to be clear: Islamist extremism and Islam are not the same thing. You can be a devout Muslim, but it doesn’t make you an extremist. And of course there are extremists within every faith and community.

I believe strongly that people who come to this country should learn to speak English, and integrate. But what evidence is there that those who do not – and it is mainly women, will become extremists? Superficial arguments that some women choose to wear hijabs, does not make them extremist.

The Prime Minister talks of ‘passive tolerance’, and how we need to adopt ‘muscular liberalism’ to combat this.

What is flawed in this argument, is that somehow all ‘moderate Muslims’ are aware of who all these extremists are, and that we are not doing enough about exposing them or counteracting their activities. Some of the most high-profile terrorists in recent years have been “integrated” Muslims, for example, the 7/7 bombers and the main ringleader, Mohammed Siddique Khan. They were educated, and wore Western clothes, and mixed with white people. Their families were just as shocked as anyone else at their appalling actions.

It’s now generally accepted that Western foreign policy has undoubtedly played a serious role in radicalising young Muslims. For years the Blair administration was very unwilling to have any debate about how its foreign policy, and specifically the Iraqi invasion, impacted on radicalisation.

Leading British Muslims also warned Gordon Brown, when he was Prime Minister, that anger over the Israeli campaign in Gaza had reached “acute levels” and was empowering extremists. The Palestinian question must be addressed. We must also support all efforts for political reform and democracy in the Middle East.

In April this year as part of the Equality Act, the Public Service Equality Duty comes into force. Public authorities are also expected to advance equality of opportunity as well as fostering good relations between different groups, which includes age, disability, gender, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief and sexual orientation.

I believe we need to build on this work and our political leaders must promote good relations between people of different racial groups. In combating the sense of detachment and lack of access to the benefits of society experienced by many, I believe we need to step up efforts for greater engagement. Appreciate our commonality. But we need to work hard to ensure that all citizens recognise themselves in the shared concept of citizenship. Creating a more equal, and yes a fairer society, where everyone regardless of their background, has equal access to a good education and jobs. We must tackle poverty, and do more to promote greater social mobility, eroded over the last 15 years.

Baroness Hussein-Ece is a Liberal Democrat Peer, and a Commissioner for the Equality and Human Rights Commission

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37 Comments

  • Meral Hussein Ece 9th Feb '11 - 4:18pm

    Thats a very good point, and if I had more space, would have set that out in my piece.
    That in itself opens up a whole Pandora’s Box……

  • toryboysnevergrowup 9th Feb '11 - 4:36pm

    Well said and about time too. I was beginning to wonder how long it would be before a Lib Dem piped up with some criticism of the old Tory trick of trying to wrap themselves (and the Government) in the flag as a diversion from economic and other political difficulties.

    As someone who lives in a “multicultural” family in a “multicultural” city I am more than conscious that there is a day to day requirement to combine and synthesise all these cultures with the objective of improving life for everyone concerned. Or perhaps at a more simple level I have to compromise with my other half and my kids who operate within a radically different youth culture! That doesn’t mean that I want to entirely junk my own culture for someone else’s, or that I cannot see the value in my own culture, or believe that it does somethings better than others, or that somethings in other cultures are totally abhorrent to me – it doesn’t. But it is only the extremely arrogant who believe that their culture is superior and cannot benefit from the culture of others and is not capable of improvement.

    The Tory view that there is some sort of mythical middle England culture, that needs to be set in aspic and defended from other cultures because it has virtues that the rest of the word is incapable of seeing really is just ahistorical garbage. We have a value of tolerance – funny that our colonial partners could never see it, we believe in freedom – this from the nation that ran most of the slave trade, we have long outstanding traditions – so why are many of Christmas traditions taken from Germany, we have a love of animals – better forget the fox hunting and bear baiting then. Surely the one of the best things about our culture is that it is capable of developing and improving itself all the time – and the real enemies of our culture are the Conservatives who cannot see this and wish to see it pickled. George Orwell made this same point in the Lion and the Unicorn – from which John Major quoted about spinsters on bicycles and warm beer, but obviously missed what Orwell said later on in the same essay about the Tories.

  • TBNGU – it may surprise you that I agree with most of what you’ve said there.

    OTOH, and I think this gets to the nub of the issue. there is a very blurred line between multiculturalism and cultural relativism, and sometimes we as a society get the wrong side of that line.

    By that, I mean that a true cultural relativist would say that all aspects of all cultures have equal validity. And this is where problems have arisen in the past, in that on some occasions and faced with some cultural practices, multiculturalism has condoned cultural practices in minority communities that would not be tolerated in the maiinstream culture. I can understand why that has been done, but it gives grist to the mill to those who would wish a fully monocultural society.

    I think what we need to argue for is the freedom to call out cultural practices that we find on the wrong side of the line (wherever those might be), rather than tippy-toe around them, and then debate them out in the open.

  • As an Israeli and reservist in the military I am perplexed by your knee-jerk blaming of Israel for Islamic fundamentalism. I am proud to live in a society in which gays in the military, stipends for solo mums and freedom of speech for all are taken for granted. Look up our location on Google Maps: Damn sight more challenging to achieve all this where we are than in the House of Lords.

  • There are many myths about our so called British culture, warm beer, cricket on the village green etc. We also consider ourselves a very tolereant society, however much of the historical evidence tends to contradict this view. It is true that many immigrants to Britain have done very well, Hugenots who did so much to spur the so called Industrial Revolutions, Jews who founded so many of our banks, retailers etc. The new immigrant s from asia havealso founded sucessful businesses.in Britain.
    I am concened that the Prime Minister has signed up to this right wing media fueled campaign to persecute those who do not fully integrate into what he calls ‘British Society. After the Muslims who next Sikhs because they wear turbans, Gypsies who want to live in caravans, or perhaps orthodox Jews who live in their segregated communities in North London and I could go on.I think the Prime Minister’s partners in the coalition should tell him to shut up..’

  • David Allen 9th Feb '11 - 6:26pm

    Well said, and as TBNGU points out, about time too. No doubt it took Meral Hussein-Ece a little time to write such a well-argued and balanced article. While we were waiting for it, we could have done with a more rapid and therefore effective means of expressing disagreement with Cameron. We didn’t hear much from our MPs, including those who aren’t in government, and that worries me.

    Multiculturalism is a marvellous word to use if you want to pander to racism, because it can mean almost anything. So, if you say something simple and crass like “Multiculturalism has failed”, you can dog-whistle to racist voters that you are on their side and that you agree with their Muslimophobia. Meanwhile, when your opponents criticise you as pandering to racists, you can put on your disingenuous “Who – me?” face, and hide away behind the small print of your speech, in which you have taken care to include unexceptionable remarks about things like the need to tackle violent extremists.

    It’s dirty political campaigning, and we know it. Tories have often done it, and we know that too. We always used to speak up loud and clear for decent politics. It is shameful that we have been so quiet this time.

  • I was at a loss to understand why Cameron made the comments he did as they were as daft as his Happiness Index.

    But what worried me about them is the increase in discrimnation they could cause against ‘ordinary’ members of minority groups which is about the most effective form of recruiting-sergeant I can think of.

    But with the current local authority cutbacks what hope is there for the laudable aims: ‘In April this year as part of the Equality Act, the Public Service Equality Duty comes into force. Public authorities are also expected to advance equality of opportunity as well as fostering good relations between different groups, which includes age, disability, gender, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief and sexual orientation. ‘

    I also note the HoL Economic Spokesman Peer who has spoken out tonight on the Coalition sweetheart bank deal has been sacked. This was I believe the guy who was there to represent the LibDem Party position – shows how much Cameron thinks about as well as Danny Alexander who said the Peer had got it wrong.

  • “The majority of Muslims in the UK are well-integrated and support and promote democracy, equality and British rule of law.”

    Er, no actually. This is not true. When asked in a 2009 Gallup poll whether they thought homosexuality was acceptable, 100% of British muslims said it wasn’t.

    h ttp://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2009/may/07/muslims-britain-france-germany-homosexuality

    If they hold such fervently intolerant views, why should I as a gay man view the rapidly increasing muslim population and rise of devout islam with anything other than apprehension and even alarm?

  • Michael From Canada 9th Feb '11 - 9:27pm

    As an immigrant to multicultural London from multicultural Canada, I find David Cameron’s statement that “multiculturalism has failed” puzzling.

    If he insists, however, perhaps he should instead say “Britain has failed at multiculturalism”.

    It surprised me to find out after briefly helping Merlene Emerson with her 2010 election campaign that the UK has never had a Chinese-British MP.

    Maybe we just haven’t tried hard enough in the UK yet?

  • Heather,

    “a person who comes to live in Britain … should learn the language”

    Just a reminder that there’s more than one language in Britain.

  • Dinti Batstone 9th Feb '11 - 9:57pm

    Great piece Meral!

    At Mark’s suggestion I sent a short piece to LDV on Monday written from very much the same perspective as yours (and coincindentally also quoting OED as per Tuesday’s BBC piece @ChrisSquire above… though my 1995 OED edition has a rather different definition of ‘multiculturalism’…QED!) I’m told it will be published on Friday so do look out for it if you have time.

  • Why should it be the responsibility of the country to be multi-cultural, rather than the individual?

    I resent those immigrants who (dishonestly) pretend that their culture of origin is so perfect that they should not be expected to adapt and to accept the values of their chosen home.

    I am British because, much as I love the country of my birth, this country is the one that gave me the freedom to choose my life. My parents emigrated in search of opportunities, and their ancestors in search of asylum. I’m proud of all four elements of my culture, even though balancing four is quite demanding. That balance is achieved by most of my non-indigenous-white friends, who also move happily between their parents’ culture and that of their neighbours.

    But I recently spoke to some childhood friends who settled “up north”, and they tell me of communities completely unadapted to their chosen home.

    If the debate on multiculturalism has focused on certain communities, it is because those communities believe multiculturalism is for other people.

  • @ Iftikhar Ahmad

    You talk about “British values of anti-social behaviour, binge drinking, drug addiction, teenage pregnancies and abortions, gun and knife culture and racism.” While these are undoubtedly serious problems, you fail to mention any positives about our culture. This is highly significant.

    It seems that you don’t like either British culture or British people at all, drawing out all the worst stereotypes. Your posting here encapsulates the problem entirely.

    You also say: “The whole world belongs to Muslims.”

    I rest my case.

  • @ Iftikhar Ahmad

    “Does the government mean to say that it will not engage with any Muslim group or mosque that believes, for example, that homosexuality is a sin? Does it mean that any Muslim school that teaches the differing shares of inheritance to which Muslim men and women are Quranically entitled will be denied government funding?”

    But they are not just teaching that homosexuality is sin, are they? The Koran says gay people should be killed.
    And as regards women we are not just talking about some abstruse point of inheritance law. We are talking about full scale oppression of women, forcing them to cover their faces and hair, subjecting them entirely to men’s will.

    The ideas being taught in Mosques and religious schools are often fundamentally in conflict with our society’s values. Why should we adapt our society to accommodate this?

  • Meral Hussein Ece 10th Feb '11 - 10:01am

    @Robert C – All of the main Abrahamic religions are intolerant, discourage, and activiely oppose homosexuality. It is the more tolerant and liberal people from all these faiths who campaign and view gays positively. I dont think its fair or accurate to single out the Muslim faith. Those that adhere to their particular faith in a devout or orthodox fashion, will take the meaning of their own scriptures literally. Though I do know this is being challenged more and more across the world in many countries.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion_and_homosexuality

  • “I dont think its fair or accurate to single out the Muslim faith.”

    Even when they stand out as being 100% intolerant towards gay people, in stark contrast to the rest of the UK population, including other faith groups?

    I have to say, I am against all fundamentalists of all religions. I took part in the Protest the Pope march last year because I know how instrumental the Catholic church is in spreading prejudice against gay people and how badly it affects people’s lives in countries like Italy – even more so in more fervently Catholic countries like Poland and Lithuania.

    My memories of growing up gay in a hostile environment in the 1980s remind me of how recent our hard won human rights are and makes me determined to oppose anything that threatens our move towards equality.

    Remember, their faith is a choice, while my sexual orientation is something I can do nothing about.

  • Talk to many on the streets of the town where I live and for them multiculturalism has been overwhelmingly negative, particularly as far as Muslim immigration is concerned. Interestingly, there is far less resentment of other immigrant faith or racial groups.

    Cameron simply articulated a now-widespread feeling that the central tenet of multiculturalism, that all cultures are as valid as each other, is simply wrong. So even if you happen to come from a culture that endorses female circumcision and is misogynist and homophobic, this is perfectly reasonable and only a ‘racist’ would disagree.

    Poll after poll shows there is increasing dissatisfaction about the negative ways Islam impacts on British society; such as the refusal to integrate and the background of threat from adherents of that religion. Non-Muslim immigrants from the sub-continent and their decendants manage to integrate and contribute fully to society, so why not so many Muslims?

    Meral, I can understand that you might be upset at the Prime Minister’s attack on multiculturalism, after all, it’s been really good for you personally, hasn’t it? You’ve surfed that particular wave all the way from North London obscurity to the House of Lords, where your enthusiastic espousal of race victim politics, what some have called the ‘BAME Game’, is likely to keep you in clover for a while yet.

    Unfortunately the reality for many forced to live in towns blighted by the negative effects of Muslim immigration, stuck in places that have changed beyond recognition (and for the worse) over the last 15 years, is not so rosy. Cameron was right.

  • Meral Hussein Ece 10th Feb '11 - 2:01pm

    @ Dinti Batstone – Thanks! The more sensible commentary we we get and debate on this topic the better. I look forward to your piece.

  • Matthew Huntbach 10th Feb '11 - 2:37pm

    Meral

    All of the main Abrahamic religions are intolerant, discourage, and activiely oppose homosexuality. It is the more tolerant and liberal people from all these faiths who campaign and view gays positively. I dont think its fair or accurate to single out the Muslim faith

    There is a specific problem in the Muslim world, and I don’t think that is going to be tackled until people like you are willing to admit it and do something about it.

    It is only in some Muslim countries where people face death at the hands of the state for changing their religion away from Islam or for being critical of Islam. Where are there any countries where people of other religions face similar? When huge numbers of people Pakistan are screaming for the death of a woman just because she was a Christian and stood up to defend her own religious point of view, such nastiness can hardly be dismissed as just a few unrepresentative extremists. There are several large countries which inflict sadistic punishments on people saying it is their religion that says they should do this – these are mainly Islamic countries. In this country there is a phenomenon of young people whose attraction to Islam seems disturbingly linked to sadism.

    I am not saying that Islam must necessarily be like that, or that other religions are not. As a Catholic, I am well aware that my own religion was just the same in the past. But I don’t think Catholicism broke away from the horrible things done in its name by being given kid-glove treatment and by anyone who attacked it being dismissed as prejudiced “Catholophobics”. I’m not aware of Catholics anywhere now screaming for the death of anyone, or advocating the death penalty for those who reject their faith. Neither am I aware of Catholic youths whose attraction to the faith seems to be measured by their collection of videos of people being burnt at the stake (if anyone mentions the IRA, please note they never claimed to be Catholic nor that anything they did was motivated by Catholicism, though my belief is that the RC Church should have declared that anyone who supported them was excommunicated – and I count voting for Sinn Fein at the time when that party gave uncritical support to the IRA as sufficient grounds for such excommunication).

    The Catholic Church is not advocating that gays be hanged for being gay, unlike in Iran or in some other countries which declare themselves as “Islamic”. So to try and suggest there is not a particular problem with Islam on this issue – as it is now worldwide, not intrinsic – is disingenuous. The position of the RC Church on this and similar matters is actually more nuanced than many of its critics would put it – however, the difference between the way Catholicism and Islam get covered in the liberal press is that with Catholicism you can attack it it play up the negative side as much as you like and you don’t have to give any more thoughtful coverage to its actual position, whereas with Islam it is exactly the opposite way round.

  • Meral Hussein Ece 10th Feb '11 - 3:58pm

    @Matthew Huntbach – I am not, and most certainly will not, defend what some Muslim countries are doing to gays. I come from a secular British /Turkish background, and am not a spokesperson for Islamic regimes.
    My article is about the UK. Anyone living in this country obviously must sign up to the British rule of law, and integrate.
    I was simply making the point, that majority of Abrahamic faiths take the same view on homosexuality. People of all faiths in the UK, must integrate, but as has been said by others, integration is a two-way street.

  • Jonathan Hunt 10th Feb '11 - 9:39pm

    If there was not a single black or brown person living anywhere in Britain, it would still be incredibly mixed and multicultural.

    And not just between those in the different countries and regions that make up the nation, with many still speaking their own languages and eating their own food.

    How many portions of haggis and seaweed cake are ever served up in English kitchens? How many choose to ruin good white fish by dipping it in stale and indigestible batter, and leaving it to fry for far too long?

    Or slowly kill themselves with various forms of pie that vary from county to county. Most of with a car or train pass are well aware of the jealously-guarded regional differences, despite being a small country with national media.

    Once we start examining religious or class differences, we really start to notice the true multiculturalism of the British.

    If David Cameron were to move a mile from the few posh streets into the tower blacks of the Harrow Road, we would at loss to understand what cultural ties really bind us.

    This is well worth an essay, and many have written it about the vast and rich diversity of the white British. Should the boorish ignorance of those on the EDL and BNP marches prevail? Or what other irritating characteristics that separate us all?

    Suffice to say that until we can end the multiculturalism of the native British, we cannot begin to do other than celebrate the rich diversity of people of other cultures that have truly enriched our food, our entertainment and our language. How boring to have to be restricted to the bigoted and prejudiced conventions of our establishment legislators.

  • @Matthew Huntbach

    Great use of Iran as a example of a Muslim nation, Similar to the majority of Islamaphobes out there who use countrys like Iraq, Iran, Somalia, Libya as a example for any debate about the toleration of Islam. Why don’t you be really original for once and use tolerant and progressive Islamic countrys such as Turkey, Indonesia, Egypt, Tunisia, Jordan or Lebanon as examples? Maybe when the Arab world is finally out of Dictators that the west openly sells weapons and supports, that people like you will be able to see that Muslims like many other humans all around the world crave democracy. And by the way there are 3 million Christians in Pakistan, more than the 1.8 million Muslims in the UK but you don’t see protests in Pakistan against the Christian population living in their land, and the great church in Islamabad is one of the most beautiful churches in the world.

  • Matthew Huntbach 11th Feb '11 - 8:08am

    Meral

    I am not, and most certainly will not, defend what some Muslim countries are doing to gays. I come from a secular British /Turkish background, and am not a spokesperson for Islamic regimes.

    Yes, I know that is your position, but you’re missing my point. So long as there are large numbers of places in the world where a majority Muslim population leads to that sort of nastiness, people will be very suspicious of Islam, and I say, which you argue against, that they have a right to be so.

    Look, can’t you see, if there were still countries in the world where a large Catholic population led to “heretics” being burnt at the stake, how silly it would look if I said here “I’m a secular liberal from a Catholic background defending my co-religionists here, there is nothing to fear about Catholicism, and anti-Catholic fears are just irrational racism”? That IS, in effect, your position Meral.

  • Matthew Huntbach 11th Feb '11 - 8:16am

    David Myers

    Maybe when the Arab world is finally out of Dictators that the west openly sells weapons and supports, that people like you will be able to see that Muslims like many other humans all around the world crave democracy.

    Here again, a complete failure to grasp the point I was making. I went to great pains to point out that I don’t say Islam has to be like that, that I don’t think this sort of intolerant behavious is instrinsic to Islam, yet that is what you are accusing me of.

    At the moment there is a nasty streak running across some parts of the Muslim world and influencing some Muslims elsewhere. It is large and influential enough, as witness what it leads to in some countries, but it cannot be dismissed as just a few “extremists” (I don’t like that word, or its counterpart “moderate” because it implies that being an extremely devout Muslim means you must suport violence which I fully agree is not at all true).

    What I am saying is that Muslims who are not that way inclined have to lead the Muslim world out of that, no-one else can do it for them. But if, all they do is yell “Islamophobe” at those who are trying to hint at them what they should do, that illustrates well the problem – Islam is despised because people like them take this attitude and so let the violent idiots dominate the image of their religion.

  • Matthew Huntbach 11th Feb '11 - 8:22am

    David Myers

    And by the way there are 3 million Christians in Pakistan, more than the 1.8 million Muslims in the UK but you don’t see protests in Pakistan against the Christian population living in their land, and the great church in Islamabad is one of the most beautiful churches in the world.

    Yes, and you don’t see in this country mobs howling for some poor Muslim to be hanged for making some remarks about Jesus, and those who argue against those mobs assassinated or forced to hide in fear.

    Stop covering up David – why can’t you see how DAMAGING this attitude of yours is to what Islam could be? I long and long for a true faith-based Islam to arise and do away with those shallow “Islamicists” whose view of the religion is so limited. But this will NEVER happen so long as those Muslims who don’t take that line can’t see how damaging it is that this sort exist in large numbers, and instead have a kneejerk “Islamophobe” attitude which they throw at anyone who tries to suggest the problem lies with the readiness of large parts of the Muslim world to tolerate or actively support this nastiness.

  • Great article, Meral.

    I don’t hold any brief for Islam or any other religion but I find it concerning that some would still single out Islam for criticism when all of the leading religions seem to have their own unrepresentative extremists. I worry just as much about the Christian fundamentalists in the US and their views on abortion, homosexuality etc, even if their violence manifests itself in different ways. But it is unhelpful and wrong when people (Cameron included) implicitly or explicitly associate the extremists with the moderate majority. I don’t think Cameron is “BNP-lite” but I do think he is out of his depth on this issue and he was very ill-advised to make the speech that he did.

  • Matthew Huntbach 12th Feb '11 - 10:51am

    Dominic

    I don’t hold any brief for Islam or any other religion but I find it concerning that some would still single out Islam for criticism when all of the leading religions seem to have their own unrepresentative extremists.

    Look Dominic, can’t you see my point? Is Pakistan a tiny unrepresentative country, so we can dismiss it when the mobs howl for the death of someone there for standing up for their faith and those who defend the freedom to be mildly critical of the majority religion are put in fear of their lives? Are all those other countries where horrible things are done by the state in the name of Islam just small places we needn’t bother thinking about?

    As I KEEP saying, although you like the others ignore it and accuse me of something else, I am NOT saying Islam HAS to be like that. I’m saying in large parts of the world it IS like that now, and in other parts of the world where it is not the dominant religion there are streams within it which are not tiny which are like that. While a large part Islam as it is NOW behaves like that, then “Islamophobia” is rational. Those who are Muslims and who don’t hold to that nasty interpretation of their faith need to realise that they have they power to change things and only they can do it. But if they hide their heads in the sand to it, and just pop up to yell “Islamophobic” to anyone who points out just how nasty Islam is NOW in some many places and amongst so many of its people and who really wants those who are not like that to do more to change it, they are dooming themselves and their co-religonists to more of this hatred.

    I am saying this, and I think I can see better than most how it is working, because I myself come from a background of a religion which had a dominant nastiness for much of its history, and certainly isn’t all right everywhere now. The presence of Christian communities across the Muslim world reminds us there was a time when Islam gave a lesson in tolerance to Christendom. The flight in fear of their lives of most of one of the largest of such communities, that of Iraq, in recent years is a sign of how things have changed and this is a RECENT change, it is something that has infected the Muslim world, not something that is natural to it, therefore it is something that could be changed if the effort there was to do that. And please don’t respond to that with the usual “Blair/Bush” lines. It is part of the head-in-the-sand attitude of the Muslim world that this kneejerk response is so often given. By some counts, the majority of those fleeing Iraq in fear of their lives are Iraqi Christians, in a few years that community has been halved in numbers. Did Blair and Bush target in particular the Christian communities in Iraq for their bombs, are Blair and Bush and their successors sending out the assassination squads and the bombers particularly to Christian communities in Iraq? Are Muslims little children that they can take no responsibility for themselves, so all that has gone wrong since the invasion can be blamed only on Blair and Bush? No, it is a fundamental part of Islam as it is Christianity that we must take PERSONAL responsibility for our actions.

    At least it is a fundamental part of Catholic Christianity, whereas “evangelical” Christianity holds that one is “saved by faith alone”, so once one has “acknowledged Jesus Christ as personal Lord and Saviour” one is not obliged by any personal reponsibility. I have argued against and fought the evangelicals hard, the previous sentence is just a small taste of what I could give against those people and their fundamental misintepretation of my religion, so please don’t think I deny their presence or support in any way what some of them do or say. In fact it is BECAUSE I am a Christian that I feel obliged to condemn that lot every time I get the opportunity to do so. So far as I am concerned, much of Evangelical Christianity in the USA is Satanic in the true biblical meaning of that word. I am not afraid to say such things, I do not bury my head in the sand and yell “Christianophobic” should someone express a dislike for Christianity because they have been led to believe that what it is about is what they see from those loud-mouthed “Evangelicals”.

  • Issan Ghazni 13th Feb '11 - 3:42am

    I fear that this debate has moved on from being one about multi-culturalism in Britain and its perceived impact on religious extremism here in the UK to something entirely different. The excellent and balanced introductory piece written by Meral should be given the due recognition it deserves by maintaining a level of tolerance and respect for all faiths when contributing to the discussion – whether you are a person of faith or not. I’m sorry, but I don’t see that continued muslim bashing, which is becoming alarmingly more and more fashionable in the media and political classes and increasingly more socially acceptable at the moment, is going to enhance the quality of this particular outcome – rather, it will continue to create greater divisions, anger and entrenched positions. Nobody is going to be influenced nor will they hear what you are saying when they are being tarred with the same Islamaphobic brush and arguments being used by the far right EDL and BNP!

    As a Muslim and a Liberal, and yes you can be both, I can say that I fully support gay rights and total equality for all sections of society including and especially women, whether it be in this country or anywhere else in the world. Why though do I feel forced to say this? None of my Catholic friends have to justify themselves on by saying that they abhor child abuse by the Catholic Church…neither do my Jewish friends have to introduce themselves by saying that they are definitely against cruelty to and oppression of the Palestinians by the state of Israel!

    Meral @ “Furthermore it found that on average 78 per cent of Muslims identify themselves as British, compared with 49 per cent who consider themselves French and 23 per cent who feel German. Muslims also outscored the general public for their belief in courts, honest elections, financial institutions and the media.”

    Most of the people I associate with in the Muslim community have a very similar outlook to what I have and I can honestly say that they do integrate well into British society – they have integrated in so far as they have their fair share of social problems including crime, drugs, under- achievement in schools and youth unemployment. On the other hand they also study, they become professionals, they run their own businesses, buy their own properties, they pay taxes, they engage in politics, they vote and most importantly…they adopt whichever aspects of the dominant culture which they see as valuable and appealing to them…as do all immigrant communities from past history including earlier Polish, Italian and Jewish arrivals. These communities also lived closely together in the early days of settlement before building a level of financial and social confidence and then they moved into more affluent areas…ensuring greater integration as time went on. Muslim communities are also begining to follow this same pattern of social mobility as their economic conditions allow…it is only racism and islamaphobia which slows down that inevitable process of social development.

    The study cited by Meral works well in my experience of the Muslim communities that I’ve come into contact with all over the country. We must not let the rants of a very small minority of extremist Muslims stain the vast majority and overlook the huge value and contributions being made by others, and indeed all minority ethnic communities which have chosen to settlein this country. There is great value to be brought to this country in continuing to promote cultural diversity at every level of society – harnessing the differences and innovative energy and skills brought about by cultural pluralism provide the ingredients which will make Team UK more competitive in the future. I just dont think David Cameron gets what Multi-culturalism is about and he certainly in doesnt understand the benefits and opportunities it provides.

  • Matthew Huntbach 16th Feb '11 - 10:59am

    Issan Ghazni

    None of my Catholic friends have to justify themselves on by saying that they abhor child abuse by the Catholic Church

    This is crap, Issan, utter crap.

    I find that in many cases, particularly liberal circles, as soon as I let on that I am a Catholic, I am forced very much to go on the defensive on this and many other issues. The only sort of Catholic that seems to be allowed is someone who says they’re a Catholic only to join in with the Catholic-bashing. Islam as a whole has not been attacked with anything like the intensity the Catholic Church has in connection with this issue and others. Look at all the anti-Catholic stuff poured out by the liberal press in the run-up to the Pope’s visit last year. Any criticism of Muslims in the liberal press always takes care to say it is not meant as an attack on Islam in general and that what they are attacking is just a few unrepresentative types, and they often put it together with an attack on all religion to make sure they are not accused of “Islamophobia”. The run of attacks on the Catholic Church however, has not all been like that. The liberal press has felt free to attack the Church by attacking its central beliefs and to run completely one-sided articles which misinterpret beliefs and statements and take the most negative interpretation they can think of – and they have REFUSED to publish any serious counter-arguments or explanations as to the true thinking behind some of the statements they have twisted and misinterpreted (I know this because I have sent the Guardian many serious letters replying to their Catholic-bashing, and while I have a good record of getting letters published in the Guardian on other matters, only once have they published one of my many letters on this issue, and that was a very short one which contained little of substance).

    Let us be honest – if I were to go public and say “there is something inherent about Islam which leads to terrorism”, I would quite likely to be drummed out of the party, and you would NEVER EVER get such a statement made in the Guardian, Independent etc. But if I were to say “there is something inherent about Catholicism which leads to child abuse”, I would probably be cheered on, and the Guardian, Independent etc have published article after article saying that sort of thing.

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