Multiculturalism and its discontents

Monday 5 October, 18.45 until 20.30, Millennium Room, Carriageworks Theatre, The Electric Press, 3 Millennium Square, Leeds LS2 3AD UK Satellites

£5 waged/£4 unwaged to pay on the door. To reserve a place, please e-mail Leeds Salon at

Multiculturalism has come in for increasing criticism in recent years. Policies that were first posed as a solution to the racial conflicts of the 1980s have come to be seen by many as the cause of myriad social ills. UKIP leader Nigel Farage has said that multiculturalist policies ‘wilfully segregate us’ and Prime Minister David Cameron has argued that they have encouraged ‘different cultures to live separate lives’. Even the former chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, Trevor Phillips, has described such policies as out-dated and said they have legitimised ‘separateness’ between communities.

Some argue this is illustrated in both the increasing disengagement of both Muslim youth from mainstream politics and the growing attraction of radical Islam. Meanwhile, sections of the white working class feel equally alienated from what they feel Britain has become, and see both multiculturalism and immigration as harmful policies that have been imposed from above without regard to how they feel about them.

Nevertheless, many would argue that multiculturalism has helped make Britain a fairer and more tolerant nation, and that to do away with it would risk taking Britain back 30 years – they point to the rise of UKIP and to racist comments online as evidence that racism still lurks just below the surface of British society, making the promotion of multiculturalism as necessary as ever.

So are the criticisms of multiculturalist policies fair? Do such policies threaten to re-create and reinforce a more divided Britain? Or are they still essential to delivering a fairer, more tolerant and egalitarian society? And if multicultural policy is a problem, what would we put in its place?

Adrian Hart
author, That's Racist! How the regulation of speech and thought divides us all and Leave those kids alone – How official hate speech regulation interferes in school life

Yunas Samad
professor of South Asian studies, University of Bradford

Paul Thomas
professor of youth & policy and director of research, University of Huddersfield; author, Responding to the Threat of Violent Extremism: failing to prevent

Paul Thomas
civil servant; qualified FE teacher; organiser, Leeds Salon

Produced by
Paul Thomas civil servant; qualified FE teacher; organiser, Leeds Salon

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