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GUEST COMMENTARY: Multiculturalism: Endangering British Society

Posted by kinchendavid on August 25, 2006


By  Sir Ronald Sanders

Special to DavidKinchen.com

Multiculturalism is an international phenomenon by which nation states of different religions, traditions and customs maintain their individual cultural identity while engaging in a range of peaceful activity such as trade, investment, tourism and sports.

 While it works in an international context, unmanaged multiculturalism does not work within nation states.

 For instead of contributing to a strong single society, it fragments society and weakens the nation through the creation of separate groups with individual identities and competing values and traditions.

 Britain is now an example of how unmanaged multiculturalism can disrupt a society.  The bombings of London trains last year and the alleged plot a few weeks ago to blow up several trans-Atlantic flights by disenchanted persons born in Britain of foreign parents demonstrates the dangers of multiculturalism.  Their loyalty is not to Britain or to British values, for both their birth and existence in Britain are incidental – not integral – to their lives.

 When immigrants enter a new society particularly one in which the language and customs are different from the land of their birth, the government should make provision for them to learn the language and to gain knowledge of the cultural norms.  They should not be left simply to muddle through the system. 

 It is also particularly important that, having made the decision to leave their native countries for a new society, immigrants make the conscious decision to integrate into it.  And, if they find the norms and customs of their new society repugnant, they ought to return to the societies from which they came.  If not, they will have consigned themselves to existing in cultural ghettoes outside of mainstream society.

 In many British cities, such cultural ghettoes exist now.

 In the past, governments found it politically convenient not to manage multiculturalism.  Instead, they submitted to the extreme views of religious and other leaders to permit separate schools and the development of separate communities.  It was convenient for governments, and desirable for community and religious leaders, to push immigrant groups into their own separate neighbourhoods.

 Thus, no funds were allocated to integrate new immigrants into the school system, to ensure that they learned English, to make compulsory knowledge of the history and development of their new country, to create laws that gave minorities equal opportunities both for education and employment, and laws that stopped racial discrimination particularly by law enforcement agencies.

 Such laws as have been enacted came too late to quell the resentment that had built up in the separate communities over the years.

 The vast technological advances of the last few years particularly in satellite television and the Internet have also reinforced the separateness of these communities.  They watch television programmes in their own language and they follow events – including about the country in which they live – through the news programmes and websites originating in the countries from which they came. 

 Over the last few years, schools for Asians have become “faith schools”.  In the case of Muslims, for example, children attend separate schools wearing Muslim dress and following the Muslim religion. 

 And, State schools are also, by and large, separate schools.  For in deprived areas where mostly ethnic minorities live, the student body is also mostly ethnic minorities.

 So, education and technology, instead of becoming integrating influences, became a further means of creating real separateness in British society. 

 Fortunately, despite the weaknesses in the system, the vast majority of immigrants – while maintaining aspects of their culture – have adapted to British society and integrated into it as best they could.

 But, a reality of Britain today is the existence of persons from ethnic minorities who are born “in” their society but are not “of” it.  The challenge that faces the government is how to manage multiculturalism so that it does not reinforce separateness.  

 Religious tolerance must continue but not to the point of separate “faith” schools; schools that are predominantly white should be required to accept more ethnic minorities; scholarships should also be provided for bright and talented children from ethnic minorities; discrimination, particularly by law enforcement agencies, should be rigorously policed to stop abuse; and funds should be provided to rehabilitate deprived areas to create employment and higher standards of living.  In other words, minorities must be made to feel part of British society.

 All this will also require the active cooperation of the leaders of ethnic groups who should incorporate into the guidance of their communities the notion of a strong and common national British culture undiluted by many flourishing and different religious strands and customs.

 Without such an approach, multiculturalism will do nothing more in Britain than promote discontent and weaken the nation; as it will in every other country in which it is not managed for the good of the society as a whole.

                                                            * * *

Sir Ronald Sanders is a business executive and former Caribbean Ambassador to the World Trade Organisation who publishes widely on Small States in the global community.

Responses to: ronaldsanders29@hotmail.com

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