Saturday 20 October, 10.30am until 12.00pm, Frobisher 4-6
When Tory MP Aidan Burley tweeted that Danny Boyle’s Olympics 2012 Opening Ceremony was ‘leftie multicultural crap’, he was widely condemned: even his own party leader David Cameron joined in the chorus of those branding him ‘incompatible with modern Britain’. Yet in a speech in Munich in February 2011, Cameron had announced the ‘doctrine of state multiculturalism’ had failed in Britain by encouraging ‘different cultures to live separate lives… apart from the mainstream’. He aligned himself with a number of religious and political leaders arguing for ways of bringing us together in what Gordon Brown called a ‘stronger sense of patriotic purpose’. Has multiculturalism-gone-mad had its day? And, if so, is the alternative a more moderate multiculturalism or cultural conformism?
The government has recently proposed to criminalise forced marriages, claiming legislation is the only way to stamp out a foreign custom incompatible with core British values. The controversial attempt to ban the religious circumcision of young boys in Germany also caused heated debate in the UK about what freedoms should be allowed to different cultural religious groups. Even the great faith schools debate has become jumbled up with multiculturalism, as it is argued faith schools are less ethnically mixed. The BBC’s Panorama went so far as to allege Islamic schools were inculcating violent and racist beliefs in British Muslim children. Does all this represent at attack on multiculturalism, even curtailing religious freedom in the name of Britishness? After all, to take a critical perspective, marriage by definition is a voluntary union: ‘forced marriage’ is nothing other than abduction, already illegal. And aren’t religious rituals like circumcision, or a preference for religious schooling, just the sort of benign differences a confident society should be happy to tolerate?
Nevertheless, a return to old-fashioned, jingoistic Britishness, let alone Christian triumphalism, seems unlikely. When the Bishop of Oxford, John Pritchard, suggested that CofE schools should open their doors to non-Anglicans, was he not advocating indifference to religion, a uniform non-judgementalism, rather than genuine diversity? Is this the model of multiculturalism we can expect to see more of? Conformism to a liberal, secular consensus rather than a nationalistic one? Is there no room for allowing freedoms to different culture groups without endorsing their particularist identity? Or is the problem that multiculturalism has blossomed on the grave of the politics of assimilation? An answer by default to the reality of a lack of any consensus as to what it might mean to be British?
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|Dr Jonathan Chaplin|
director, Kirby Laing Institute for Christian Ethics, Cambridge; author, Multiculturalism: a Christian retrieval
writer, playwright and novelist; co-author, The Democratic Contradictions of Multiculturalism
programme leader, MA Education, Greenwich University; fellow, The Muslim Institute
deputy director, ResPublica
A Level Film Studies Teacher; PhD researcher in sociology of education, UCL Institute of Education
The mass murderer’s ideology, shared by others, poses a threat to Enlightenment values.Jens-Martin Eriksen & Frederik Stjernfelt, City Journal, 6 September 2012
The government says it wants to liberate ethnic-minority women. Actually it’s infantalising us.Rania Hafez, spiked, 5 July 2012
Growth has brought foreigners, and foreigners have brought growthEconomist, 30 June 2012
A collection on race and conservatismMax Wind-Cowie, Demos, 2011
In our haste to reassess multiculturalism in the light of compelling recent evidence of its darker sides, we must not lose sight of its indispensable contribution to realising a just society.Theos, 2011
Is the fight against racism and prejudice, which also celebrates multiculturalism and the hyper diversity of our country, also an essential element of the tolerance we like to take pride in? Or is multiculturalism part of the problem?Moral Maze, BBC, 9 February 2011
Prime Minister David Cameron has delivered a speech setting out his view on radicalisation and Islamic extremism.David Cameron, No.10 Downing Street, 5 February 2011
The controversy on multiculturalism has changed the political fronts. The Left defends respect for minority cultures while the Right stands guard over the national culture. But these two fronts merely constitute two variants of a culturalist ideologyJens-Martin Eriksen & Frederik Stjernfelt, Eurozine, 9 January 2009
Ironically, the idea of cultural diversity has captured the political imagination just as anthropologists themselves have started worrying about the concept. They have come to realise not just that the notion of cultural diversity is not self-evidently good but also that the concept of culture is not self-evident.Kenan Malik, kenanmalik.com, December 2005
Is there a ghost in the machine?
"There's a real sense of intellectual delight that so much can be discussed in just sixty minutes - and so thoughtfully - both by the speakers and especially by the audience. A rich feast of ideas."
Christopher Kelly, reader in Ancient History and Fellow and Director of Studies in Classics at Corpus Christi College