The shocking thing is that anyone should have been shocked. The British prime minister’s repudiation of multiculturalism was so uncontroversial as to be almost platitudinous. In a recent speech, David Cameron emphasized the distinction between Islamic devotion and jihadi extremism, and argued that the government ought not to fund organizations that reject democracy, women’s rights, and equality before the law. He set out certain basic values that a liberal society ought to expect from its citizens: secularism, representative government, personal freedom, and the rule of law. He warned that “the doctrine of state multiculturalism” had pushed communities apart instead of integrating them:
“When a white person holds objectionable views, racist views for instance, we rightly condemn them. But when equally unacceptable views or practices come from someone who isn’t white, we’ve been too cautious frankly—frankly even fearful—to stand up to them.”
To most British people, including most British Muslims, this was a statement of the Pretty Bloody Obvious. Cameron’s remarks follow similar speeches by his French and German counterparts. Across Europe, there is a recognition that multiculturalism has failed in its own terms, creating ghettos and cutting off some immigrant women, in particular, from full participation in a free society.
The trouble is that it takes a long time for such sentiments to percolate through the government machine. State bureaucracies, especially in local government, remain wedded to their diversity advisers, their interpreters, their racism-awareness counselors. As Upton Sinclair once remarked, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his job depends upon not understanding it.”
Racial and cultural awareness has been elevated, in many public-sector institutions, as the supreme goal of policy, with sometimes tragic consequences. A little girl from West Africa was battered to death because social workers tiptoed around the sensitivities of her guardians. Children in a London care home suffered abuse because the local council’s anti-racism strategy prevented a key worker from being removed. Young women are subjected to forced marriages.
Even worse is the way multiculturalism has radicalized second-generation immigrants. British-born boys have been rounded up on the battlefields of Afghanistan. Two traveled to Gaza as suicide bombers. Others have been involved in terrorist attempts at home. Pundits, observing that many of these young men have been supported by the British welfare state, wonder why they are biting the hand that feeds them. Yet it is precisely their interactions with the state that taught them to despise it. If they learned any British history at all in school, it will have been presented to them as a hateful chronicle of racism and exploitation. For four decades, Britain’s elites have derided the concept of patriotism, insisting that the nation-state ought to be dissolved into a wider European polity. Finding Britishness scorned, many people are groping back toward older identities as English or Scottish. But where does this leave the children of settlers? What is there for them to be part of?
It’s hardly as though British Islam were a new phenomenon: 100 years ago, 80 percent of British subjects were neither white nor Christian. British Muslims of that era arguably had genuine cause to resent us: we had, after all, occupied their homelands. Yet twice in the last century, in their tens of millions they crossed half the world to fight for a country they had never set eyes on because they believed in British values. How different is the experience of their descendants today.
Idiotically, some Labour politicians have attacked Cameron’s speech as likely to give succor to racists. Their complaints are the authentic voice of self-interest, for it is those who work in the multi-culti apparatus who have the most to lose. When you read of a council banning Christmas lights out of respect for other faiths, there is almost always a quote from the local imam to the effect that Muslims would be much happier if their Christian neighbors observed their festivals. Multiculturalism, in other words, was not a response to demands by immigrants; rather it was a form of anti-culturalism, an excuse to attack any manifestation of patriotism.
We can see now where that doctrine leads: to Balkanization, repression, resentment, and, in extreme cases, terrorism. One speech won’t solve the problem; but it’s a good start.
Hannan is a British Conservative member of the European Parliament.