Have you ever tried to fill in a job application form in the UK? If so, you may have been surprised, as a foreigner, to be asked the colour of your skin (white British, white West European, white East European, black, etc.). In France such a thing has long been unfeasible, even if today, the debate is re-opened between those who think it is a restriction to individual freedom and those who think it makes it easier to fight discrimination. Such a question however does not really seem to bother anyone in the United Kingdom. Far from it. This country has long been proud of its multicultural dimension, fiercely criticizing the assimilation model of France. And yet, looking back at the history of Britain, discrimination has always existed and socioeconomic inequalities have progressively turned into a more cultural or ethnic exclusion.
[...] There is another way to define multiculturalism which could be called diversity, “where people have their own cultural beliefs and they happily coexist - but there is a common thread of Britishness or whatever you want to call it to hold society together” (Ruth Lea, Director of the Centre for Policy Studies, a centre-right think tank). Multiculturalism preaches that, in an age of mass migration, society can (and should) be a kind of salad bowl, a receptacle for wonderful exotic ingredients from around the world, the more the better, each bringing its special flavour to the cultural mix. [...]
[...] The opportunity to vote is granted to all citizens coming from the Commonwealth and living by right on the territory. On the other hand, religious rituals are fully tolerated and respected, and even encouraged by the creation of a Congress for the Muslim festival of Ramadan or the Indian Diwali. In addition, in some quarters of London where the representation of minorities is strong, signs and all official documents are written in English and translated into several other languages (Turkish, Hindi, Arabic, Pujali The Swann Report in 1985 recommends “education for all”. [...]
[...] The Indian economist Amartya Sen has shown that after having been efficient a while, British multiculturalism was victim of a double optical illusion: first, “cultural liberty” was mixed up with “cultural conservatism” where blind adhesion to heritages, included the worse, often lead to excess. Secondly, the culture was too often reduced to religion and neglected the other forms of adhesions, political, economic and social. Amartya Sen also thinks that the religious spokesman occupy too important a place in Muslim communities. [...]
[...] The London bombings of 7th July 2005, organised by young British men from Pakistani origins, whom everybody thought they were well integrated, have hastened the government's conversation. Tony Blair is now for a “balance between integration and multiculturalism”. In fact, that means that the British Prime Minister considers revising the policies of multiculturalism in his country. There is now a real trouble in the UK and since the recent discovery of terror plots on transatlantic flights in August 2006, the whole country has now been considering the limits of the famous multicultural model. [...]
[...] In general, the opponents of multiculturalism denounce its perverse effect and present it as a destructive concept, in which there is no thread to hold society together. Instead of being a humanist ideal, full of open- mindedness to your neighbour, of curiosity and exchanges, multiculturalism has regressed into a mere neighbourhood –sometimes pacific, sometimes less- between communities where ethnic and religious criteria are dominant. The risk of ghettoisation is obvious and may in fact be no longer a risk but a reality. [...]
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