Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Diversity doesn't unite

Good piece in today's Telegraph on the problems of taking diversity too seriously. The author rails against the multi-culti desire to *celebrate* differences to the point where anything goes. His call to end overt displays of other cultures goes too far, in my opinion, but otherwise he hits the mark with his essay.
An important and timely study published by the Policy Exchange think tank yesterday finds that young British Muslims are much more likely to be drawn to radical Islam than their parents. Thirty-seven per cent of 16- to 24-year-olds would prefer to live under Sharia law than the laws of this country. These findings may not come as a surprise: many will remember an NOP poll last August which reported that 45 per cent of British Muslims believed that 9/11 was an American-Israeli conspiracy. But it's important continually to draw attention to the disease of Islamic extremism in Britain in order to motivate a Government, long on rhetoric, to take decisive action.

For what it's worth, the authors, Munira Mirza, Abi Senthilkumaran and Zein Ja'far, are, well, not quite white supremacists. They indicate, rather, a growing number of British Asians, such as myself, who are critical of multiculturalism, the race relations industry and the peculiar culture of celebrating diversity. The report advocated that "people should be entitled to equal treatment as citizens in the public sphere, with the freedom to also enjoy and pursue their identities in the private sphere". But what we have seen in Britain over the last two decades is a fetish for celebrating our differences in the public sphere. [...]

Trevor Phillips has spoken of Britain ''sleepwalking into segregation". It seems to me that we have unthinkingly accepted the notion that celebrating our differences takes us closer to overcoming them. Our differences are not what bind us together as a people. If anything, we speak of these differences as things which need to be bridged. Anyone who has worked in the field of international development, as I have, will tell you that nation-building in states that are ethnically homogenous, all other things being equal, is an easier task than nation-building where there is diversity. Iraq is a case in point. We have our work cut out in Britain but the task of bringing about integration is not impossible. Calling attention to differences does not help.

This has been one of the worst effects of the pernicious doctrine of multiculturalism. The fetish of celebrating differences found champions in the radical Left in Britain in the Eighties among people who regarded themselves as counter-cultural or subversive, particularly many employed in local government, and who projected their own fixation with difference on to others. Successive British governments over the past two decades have taken up and promoted multiculturalism so that even today we hear it in the rhetoric of politicians.

When Tony Blair said last December that immigrants should sign up to British values – "belief in democracy, the rule of law, tolerance, equal treatment for all, respect for this country and its shared heritage" – he was striking the right note. In the same speech, however, he also said that we should celebrate our diversity. The Prime Minister strives, as ever, to be all things to all people.

But one group to which he need no longer pander are the multiculturalists, for only the deluded would today promote a dogma that has demonstrably caused enormous harm. He should jettison the language of celebrating diversity and speak unambiguously and clearly about the need to integrate. Moreover, taxpayers' money should have no part in keeping people divided. We need to question the value of a vast race relations industry that churns out with every passing fad of public policy some initiative that only reinforces our differences. We need to question – there are no sacred cows – whether diversity awareness training is doing more harm than good. Some things are not negotiable and we need to be very clear about those.

David Cameron, to his immense credit, drew attention yesterday to the oppression of women in some sections of the Muslim community.

Disturbingly, yesterday's report found that 74 per cent of young Muslims would rather Muslim women wore the hijab. These differences need to be highlighted because they are antithetical to British values.

Let's be clear about something. Ceasing to ''celebrate difference" does not mean that an immigrant cannot hold on to his heritage. It is not a zero-sum game. The key point is that difference is not something we should be revelling in within the public sphere.

What you do in your own home, barring egregious violations of the rights of others (such as the abuse of women), is your own business. We need to move towards a culture in which celebrating diversity beyond the home is widely seen as divisive. To this end, the role of government must be limited. First, it must ensure that taxpayers money is not being spent in ways that promote difference. This means looking at the provision of translation and interpretation services, as well as looking at the way money is being spent in schools, libraries, hospitals and social services, and the provision of English language teaching.

Second, the rhetoric of politicians and opinion-formers must move away from focusing on our differences. The current problem arises from a real threat presented by extremists within the Islamic community. The message to these extremists and those who are in a position to influence their thinking must be a clear one, yes, of inclusion but inclusion only on Britain's terms. When politicians talk of celebrating differences that message becomes confused. This does not mean we should be searching for things we have in common: Islamic extremists and the great majority of Britons share very little in terms of values.

Instead, politicians and opinion-formers need to assert loudly and clearly the call for integration and that means celebrate diversity, by all means, but only in the home. [....]
One thing I would add: explicit criticism of those who want to impose their differences on the rest. Calls for Sharia law in Britain, for example. That is where mult-culti has led to.