Monday, February 14, 2011

David Cameron's high horse

David Cameron, the British prime minister, held a speech recently in which he claimed multiculturalism in the UK had failed. He indicated that the government had to take a closer look at groups promoting Islamist extremism. Such groups should be spurned by ministers and groups promoting extremism in universities and prisons should be denied public funding and barred from spreading their message.

This speech has been quoted and misquoted, pulled out of context and attacked over these last weeks and labelled as right wing. Which in a sense it is. On the other hand, if - and I stress it is an if - extremist groups receive public funding while they do not respect things like democracy, racial equality, gender equality and freedom of religion, sexuality and opinion, that is not right in a free country like Britain or any of the other free countries in Europe.

But does the fact that these groups exist and that they receive public funding mean that multiculturalism has failed? I think not. I think it means the government has failed. Multiculturalism is alive and kicking. Ever been to an Indian restaurant? Aren't there many European people practising Yoga or Tai Chi? Anyone eat at a MacDonalds lately? We tend to forget that many of the things we now take for granted due to their having been around a long time have been imported from abroad.

The problem I have with David Cameron's speech is its focus on one particular group of people. And I hear this attack more and more often lately all over Europe. Yes one should guard against our freedoms being taken away. But never forget that with the assimilation of other cultures we enrich our own. So it is very dangerous to say multiculturalism has failed, it plays into the hands of those that say we should close the borders and forego all efforts at dialogue. And lets face it: does Cameron have such a high horse to sit on? If every foreigner should be forced to behave like UK citizens, a good many of them would be out on big city streets after hours, drunk out of their minds, shouting inane nonsense and showing off various parts of their anatomy. Yep, that's a culture to be proud of.

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