Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Multiculturalism: Has It a Future?

Posted by jonathanfryer on Thursday, 9th February, 2012

Multiculturalism was the subject of tonight’s inaugural session of a new series of gatherings at the Dialogue Society HQ in Islington, envisaged to emulate BBC World’s HardTalk, in which a prominent journalist subjects a person — usually of some political importance — to an extended probing interview. The two men chosen for this initial bout were Tariq Modood, Professor of Sociology at Bristol University (who has written extensively on the subject of multiculturalism) in the interviewee’s role and David Goodhart, founder of Prospect magazine and Director of the think-tank Demos, in principle being the interviewer. In the event, the ‘interview’ turned into more of what the TV fake chat-show host Mrs Merton would have called a ‘heated debate’. This worked, however, because Modood and Goodhart’s views were almost diametrically opposed, as far as the success or failure of the British model of mutliculturalism is concerned. Mr Goodhart took what one might call the David Cameron line, i.e. the position the Prime Minister adopted while on a visit to Germany last year, when he suggested that multiculturalism had failed because it makes communities feel more isolated, rather than integrated, by emphasizing their differences. But as a good sociologist, Dr Modood put up a strong defence of the usefulness of difference as a concept enabling us to understand others as well as ourselves better. I made the point that the Britain of today is a far more interesting and vibrant place than it was when I was a child, which earned me a rebuke from David Goodhart that I had fallen into the ‘somosa and steel-band trap’. But what I actually meant was that the celebration of diversity which we now see so vividly in London, in particular, has come about not just because of the greater ethnic mix, but because of policies of normative multiculturalism, which have encouraged different peoples to keep their roots while being part of the wider whole, in which each learns about and respects the other. So given the official title of the event, ‘Multicultural: Has It a Future?’, my answer is decisively ‘Yes!’.


4 Responses to “Multiculturalism: Has It a Future?”

  1. Note to Mr Goodhart
    In my childhood years in my neighbourhood I used to play
    with Anglo-Indian children whose parents
    came to Britain shortly after Indian independence.
    Like many Anglo-Indians they were Roman Catholics.
    The local CofE parish had an Anglo-Indian curate.
    He was a fine man.
    Across the street lived an Indian lady with her English husband.
    They met while he was serving as a soldier in India.
    As a teenager I knew the place to find vegetarian food was at an Indian restaurant.
    Muticulturalism is not new.
    And by the way traditional Jazz was all the rage back in the fifties and the New Orleans style Expedient Marching Band is still going strong.

  2. Alan H said

    Multi-culturalism is the only way forward and may be invevitable. But we all know there are problems when one ‘new’ culture takes over a particular neighbourhood in a city, as has happened in parts of London. JF will know many people who have lived in the East End for all their lives but are now in a tiny minority, their world dominated by another culture, many members of which are unable to adapt to a multi-cultural society. It normally takes several generations for immigrants to adapt to the host multi-culture, as many studies have shown. And the multi-culturalists have got to stick to their guns – the values they are asserting are those of the European enlightenment – religious tolerance, democracy, the rule of law, absence of corruption, freedom of speech, absence of discrimination on basis of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, and so on. So I support those who say that there should be greater efforts to remind other cultures that these values are the basis of multi-culturalism in Europe. If you live in a multi-cultural society you have to become multi-cultural yourself.

  3. Des Brittain. said

    Nobody asked us if we wanted to become a so-called multicultural society! The majority of us are not at all happy with what has happened to our our country against our wishes. London is no longer an English city and many parts of it are no-go areas after dark for the remaining few indigenous people.

    More an more English Londoners are being forced to leave their capital city because of the huge influx of immigrants never seen on this scale before……We don’t bloody like it and we are not happy. There is nothing to celebrate about the destruction of all that we treasured about our country. Most of us also want nothing to do with the bankers construct, the EU. Only those on the gravy train such as MEPs and those aspiring to become one benefit from this creeping New World Order.

    • Were the Burmese asked if they wanted to become part of British ruled India or were the people in any of the other nations in Africa or Asia that became parts of the British Empire?
      Londinium was founded by the Romans and London always had groups of people from abroad living in it over its long history.More than a quarter of the “English” people living in it have some Huguenot blood in them.
      Immigration from outside Europe has been increasingly restricted since 1962. Those born in Britain are not immigrants.
      No go areas? The London mob played a role in the politics of the country during previous centuries.
      Where are these people that are “forced” to leave going?
      Sunny Spain I suppose.
      Where is all this destruction going on of what?
      I thought new sports stadiums where being built in east London.
      It was a majority that voted yes in EEC referendum. People were asked including those in London.
      London-one of the great cities of the world.

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