Posts Tagged ‘multiculturalism’

Austin v Khan: the Labour splits on multiculturalism.

15/02/2011, 03:00:58 PM

When Sadiq Khan accused David Cameron, in his “multiculturalism” speech in Berlin, of “writing propaganda for the English Defence League”, he did not get a lot of support from his own side.

None of his senior colleagues condemned him. But they were quick to be muted.

He did get backing from some quarters. Atul Hatwal, in Uncut, for instance, was unusually unstinting in his praise:

“While others were either hiding behind the sofa or couching their disapproval in the gentlest and most respectful of terms, only Khan called it as it was.

The Labour party lost its compass on this issue years ago. Under Blair and Brown the traffic was only ever one way. For years the right have been able to ritually burn multicultural straw men with impunity. The mark of Duffy has only made the party more timid.

But sometimes there are issues where it is simply a matter of right and wrong. No politics, no triangulation and no trading. These irreducible beliefs used to be what distinguished Labour and gave the party its moral centre”.

Khan’s shadow cabinet colleagues remained ominously, but tactfully, silent. The Labour default setting on race held firm: say nothing if you can help it.

Elsewhere on the front bench, though, some shadow ministerial colleagues were rather more boisterous in their pronouncements.

Step forward Ian Austin, shadow sports minister and MP for Dudley North, in which marginal seat the BNP looms large. Hewn from the illiberal granite of West Midlands Labour, Austin was clearly incensed at Khan’s intervention and not prepared to join former Brownite colleagues like Douglas Alexander and Yvette Cooper in taking it lying down.

At business questions that week, he told the House of Commons:

“May I add my voice to a call for a debate on the prime minister’s important speech at the weekend, so that we can discuss in the House how we can build a much stronger sense of what it means to be British, based on the contribution that people are prepared to make, whether they want to work hard, play by the rules, pay their way, whether they are prepared to speak English, because that is the only way to play a full role in British society, and their commitment to the great British values of democracy, equality, freedom, fairness and tolerance”?

“The prime minister’s important speech”. Not exactly “propaganda for the EDL”. Austin’s message is pretty plain. On this issue, for him, Cameron is on the side of the angels, Khan on the side of the others.

Speaking to the Express and Star, Austin warmed to his theme:

“Ever since I became an MP I have been campaigning to build a much stronger sense of what it means to be British. It is only by building a stronger sense of patriotism and national pride, that we can tackle extremism and build a stronger and more united society. If we don’t stand up and say Britain’s history and its values make this the greatest country in the world, how on earth can we expect anyone else to believe it? And if people do not learn to speak English how can they play a full role in society”?

Khan and Austin represent opposite extremes of a major divide within Labour. Neither is alone. While the likes of Atul Hatwal are trenchant in support of Khan, Britain’s longest serving Muslim MP, Khalid Mahmood, spent most of the day of Cameron’s speech telling any broadcaster who would listen that the PM’s central argument was right.

These divisions matter because opinions are very strongly held on either side. And because it is an issue which, directly, shifts votes.

It is surprising, in which case, that these splits are not receiving more attention.

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Why do we tolerate these preachers of hate? Because we are British.

08/02/2011, 07:00:22 AM

by Dan Hodges

Sitting in a Luton hotel room on Saturday, listening to members of the English Defence League chanting boastfully, and slightly implausibly, about how they had, “fucked all of Allah’s wives”, my thoughts drifted to the issue of multiculturalism. Being surrounded by a couple of thousand tanked up Islamaphobes can do that to you.

My musings were given structure by the words of David Cameron, delivered that morning to the Munich security conference. British prime ministers have a poor record of departing that particular German city with the security of their nation enhanced, and I perused his speech with some scepticism. Once I’d finished it, scepticism had changed to bewilderment.

There must be a reason why the queen’s first minister chose to deliver a speech on the perils of Islam on the day a significant number of her subjects descended on a town with a large Muslim population and malice in their hearts. It was just that at that moment, as the first beer bottles started to land, and the riot squad began to don their helmets, I couldn’t for the life of me think of one. (more…)

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What Cameron actually said, and why it was cynical cant

07/02/2011, 05:00:39 PM

by Victoria Williams

“Go Home Muslims” signs still littered the streets of Luton as the prime minister took to the podium at the Munich security conference to address the “threat” of Islamist extremism. Attacking New Labour’s policy of “hands off tolerance” to those who choose not to subscribe to Western values, he called for a “more active, muscular liberalism”, to counter what he views as a lack of integration among immigrant communities.

Warming to the theme, he said:

“A passively tolerant society says to its citizens: as long as you obey the law, we will leave you alone. It stands neutral between different values“.

If he’d stopped speaking then, you could be forgiven for thinking “what a sensible man, perhaps I’ve misjudged him”.  After all, what on earth could be wrong with leaving people to their beliefs so long as they don’t break the law?

So many were left scratching their heads wondering what Cameron’s definition of the word “liberal” actually is, when he continued:

“A genuinely liberal country does much more. It believes in certain values and actively promotes them… It says to its citizens: This is what defines us as a society”.

So then “liberal” means “forcing your beliefs onto others and excluding them from society if they disagree”.  You learn something new every day.

Who, other than Cameron, says that multiculturalism and integration are mutually exclusive? It is hard to disagree with Margaret Hodge when she says that a higher uptake of English lessons among recent immigrants would beneficial to all of us. Outside of that, though, how does having personal faith exclude one from society? The UK is only nominally a Christian country;  should those who subscribe to a secular set of values also find themselves on the fringes of society?  A society is shaped by those who live within it. It cannot be dictated by the state.

Cameron has quite rightly been accused of playing into the hands of extremist anti-immigration groups such as the EDL and the BNP. He has also humiliated his deputy, Nick Clegg, whose own party favoured a more lax approach to immigration, including extending an amnesty to illegal immigrants.

It remains to be seen whether this will deepen the rift in the Tory-Lib Dem government, already on shaky ground after a number of Lib Dem walkouts over the decision to raise tuition fees. Either way, it will boost the opposition in the long run.

Victoria Williams is a freelance journalist.

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The unholy alliance that made multiculturalism a dirty word

27/12/2010, 07:00:01 AM

by Atul Hatwal

In the Observer two weeks ago, Anushka Asthana posed an interesting question, “why did multiculturalism become a dirty word”?

Anushka’s article describes her personal experience. It gives a pointed example of how multiculturalism works. But, eloquent as the piece is, it doesn’t address her question.

When looking for answers, there can be a tendency to over-intellectualise. To retreat into a discussion of Britishness and think tank generalities about society. This misses the point.

Multiculturalism has become a dirty word because of the specific actions of individuals. To be more precise – one leading man and an unwitting supporting cast of so-called community leaders.

Top billing goes to Trevor Phillips, former chair of the commission for racial equality and current chief executive of the equality and human rights commission. In 2004 he made a deliberate calculation: to reposition himself as a New Labour-type race relations tsar. Someone to do for equalities what the best man at his wedding, Peter Mandelson, had done for Labour. (more…)

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