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'The fear of living with diversity'

"We have encouraged different cultures to live separate lives apart from each other and the mainstream. We have failed to provide a vision of society to which they feel they want to belong", Cameron said.

In Britain, multiculturalism has been dominant since the 1960’s. One of the seminal moments in the creation of Britain’s multi-cultural environment was Roy Jenkins’ speech to the IPPR in 1966 where he said ‘Integration in Britain does not mean assimilation into a common culture so that original identities are lost. Our approach is pragmatic, based on common sense, allowing people to express their identity within a common framework of rights and responsibilities’. He went on to say ‘we have no intention of banning the expression of identity through religious symbols in public institutions like schools, as they have in France. As Home Secretary, I am proud to see the adaptation of uniforms in the police service to allow people to wear Sikh turbans or Muslim hijabs. As Education Secretary, I was proud to allow equal entry of Muslim schools into the state system as with schools for other faiths and denominations’ (Strength in Diversity. Multiculturalism Reassessed. Virk, Lakhbir and Singh, Jagtar September 2004). This speech very much set the tone for nearly the next four decades.
Immigrant communities had the right to express themselves as they wished, to worship whatever religion they wanted but had, at the same time, the same rights as other British citizens. But this model has come under increasing attack recently.
In understanding multiculturalism, some groups are integrated to the host society with the help of having similar social and cultural backgrounds, but some of them reject the new society’s way of life and recreate their cultural and social life in respect of their cultural values. The multicultural model offers migrants an opportunity to create their own space by protecting their ethnic and religious identity. In multicultural societies migrants organize their daily life in respect of their customs and values. Instead of classifying migrants just as a part of the community, multiculturalism gives a space for individualism.

However, multiculturalism has come under increasing attack in Britain. In 2006, Gordon Brown identified six values that run as a ‘golden thread’ through British history. He sees these as being liberty (including tolerance for minorities and restriction on arbitrary state power), civic duty, fair play, adaptability, creativity and inventiveness and an outward looking internationalism. He recognizes that there is also a more substantive issue about the importance of integration set against respect for diversity, and states that because a multiethnic Britain should never ever have justified a crude multiculturalism where all values became relative, the common values that we all share should be reflected in practical measures such as encouraging the use of the English language.

David Cameron recently argued that the UK needed a stronger national identity. Britain has entered into a period of doubt regarding its multicultural model and there are now calls from seemingly disparate quarters for a reemphasis on integration and 'Britishness'. It could antagonize ethnic minority communities by creating the atmosphere whereby ethnic links and bonding is seen as something bad and to be avoided.   Instead, governments should be morereceptive to the bonding social capital resources that many migrant groups have within their own networks and institutions than trying to fit everyone under a common national identity.

Dr.Doguş Şimşek

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