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Has multi-culturalism led to racism?


by Sabina Ahmed on 3rd March, 2006 at 4:03 am    

In everyday life, it seems as if some people in the “national conversation” have found it their daily routine to find episodes and news items which show immigrants in general and Muslims in particular in a bad light.

I wondered why this is the case. It occurs to me that Muslims especially have done nothing to clarify their position or establish a dialogue with others . This has been left to others: the councils, focus groups and various commissions who in their wisdom say what they think rather than what the minorities think.

The existence of this multiplicity of semi-official, semi-philanthropic bodies dealing with the “problems” the migrants face conjures up vision of mass helplessness of communities expected to sink rather than swim.

The danger is that our expectations -like our prophecies can be self fulfilling. This has given the minority communities a “victim” mentality. They don’t see any need to say anything while all these bodies speak on their behalf.

No doubt these bodies were set up with good intentions: to look after those who in a new culture did not know how to take care of themselves and get ahead in life. But this also reinforces the assumption that to be of an “ethnic” origin or of other religions is to be in some way disabled, and thus in need of special care and attention.

That was a big mistake. The new comers were lulled into a false sense of security. They did not have to learn the language or do much to get to know the community or the country - there were people who spoke for them and got things done.

For some time these bodies have been issuing diktats on behalf of their charges.

Sometimes it is said that ‘Christmas’ will offend, or the decorations will be insulting to certain religions. I always wonder how many members of the ethnic community are ever consulted before these commissions and do-gooders make these pronouncements.

From judges who proclaim, when an Asian man murders a white person, that the murder was not racial, to the authorities who have a policy of positive discrimination in recruitment - these are the triggers which have made the white community feel marginalised and frustrated. They feel they have no voice. They can’t openly complain for the fear of being branded racists.

Multiculturalism is a good concept if it works. It is about telling others about your culture and learning about theirs. But in practice it does not work that way. People like to seek out and mix with their own kind. Those who don’t know the language or the culture don’t get a look in. So it becomes monoculturalism. No amount of government policy can change that.

There is a whole generation of settlers who have lived in this country for a lifetime and have not engaged with the host community. A lot of them are handicapped by not having learnt the language. Nobody has ever heard how and what they feel.

Women who came here as young brides and stayed behind the four walls, spending their time watching television in their own language and hankering after a homeland they have left behind. The green grass of home in their imagination has long been paved over.

They have brought up their children always being fearful of what this ‘godless country’ will do to them. They have tried to protect their children from an ‘evil culture’ they themselves know nothing about.

So a whole generation of young people have grown up with bewilderment. They don’t know where their loyalties lie. They are indifferent to what is demanded in their name. Asians don’t like putting their neck on the parapet, to speak out or correct misconceptions.

The drug of Bollywood films, a constant stream of entertaining and socialising leaves little time for doing anything else. The result is that we are being represented by commissions and bodies who make unreasonable demands in our name. No wonder race relations have gone downhill.

It’s time the new generation stands up to be counted and speak for themselves.

—————————-
This is a guest article



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25 Comments   |  


  1. Raw Data — on 3rd March, 2006 at 5:06 am  

    “They have brought up their children always being fearful of what this ‘godless country’ will do to them. They have tried to protect their children from an ‘evil culture’ they themselves know nothing about.”

    Why do they stay?

  2. squared — on 3rd March, 2006 at 8:54 am  

    From judges who proclaim, when an Asian man murders a white person, that the murder was not racial, to the authorities who have a policy of positive discrimination in recruitment - these are the triggers which have made the white community feel marginalised and frustrated. They feel they have no voice. They can’t openly complain for the fear of being branded racists.

    I hate these kinds of things. I do honestly feel that racism is only considered a one directional thing in this country; only whites can be racist.

    Affirmative action and the like also just piss everyone off. It’s time things became a bit more fair and not about filling quotas.

  3. Jay Singh — on 3rd March, 2006 at 10:51 am  

    Good article Sabina. I agree with alot of what you say.

    Multiculturalism is a good soft personal philosophy to have - but as an official type of policy or politics it has severe weaknesses and it may actually be detrimental in some ways both to minorities and wider society. If this debate progresses I will say more, but for the time being I will just say that there is a flaw in its psychology.

    It assumes the best of everybody, it assumes that all those who speak for ‘minorities’ have the same progressive intentions and methods that the architects of multicultural policy have, it assumes that all parties have shared interests when lobby groups are sometimes selfish and sectarian, and it papers over cracks rather than bringing issues into the open.

  4. Robert — on 3rd March, 2006 at 11:22 am  

    For me, multiculturalism is not so much an ideology, but simply describing a fact of life: cultures are fluid things that mix and change, whether we like it or not. People who sit at home and do not integrate are not so much keeping their head below the parapet, as sticking it in the sand.

    What I would like to see, from those who have Asian heritage, is an open declaration of what values and culture they believe can and will make the host culture better.

    It is not really my place to make suggestions on what these might be, although I imagine it would start with a sense of community and family, which the host culture seems to have lost.

  5. Jay Singh — on 3rd March, 2006 at 11:42 am  

    Robert

    For a start your premise is wrong - for the majority of Asians like me there is no host culture - nobody is hosting us, we are not guests, we belong here.

    Secondly, most Asians are too busy getting their heads down, trying to make a life, to even think about what their culture or values brings to the table - they are more worried about putting food on the table.

    Thirdly, Asians contribute in manifold ways to British society. One example is through business and the strong entrepenurial culture amongst Asians, the jobs and wealth creation and that kind of thing.

    Fourthly, I always feel stupid when I write things like this, giving an account of what ‘Asians’ can ‘offer’. It always feels like an interrogation. When as an individual all I can say is I have myself to offer, that is all.

    Also, I dont agree that the ‘host community’ (God I hate that term!) has lost all sense of community and family. I think that is a generalisation too far. Some things that the majority of Asians don’t like, for example, the Saturday night city centre get-your-tits-out-for-the-lads puke-fest, are also things that makes the majority of ‘the host community’ (groan!) uneasy too.

    Generalising about anyone makes us blind to the fact that there is more that unites people than divides them. This in fact is one other weakness of multiculturalism - it exacerbates this tendency in its more extreme forms. I don’t believe that mainstream Britain has lost its sense of family or community completely. I also don’t believe that some problematic aspects of British Asian life ar ecompletely busted flushes. There is a culture of hard work and a high achieving ethos amongst many Asians that can be viewed as good and healthy, or restrictive and high pressure, depending on your perspective. Indian children perform better than white kids at school and university for example. And even amongst Pakistani and Bangladeshi kids who have comparatively lower achievment levels, things are changing, and there is variation.

    So it is complex, I wil say.

  6. Robert — on 3rd March, 2006 at 12:14 pm  

    I only use ‘host’ culture because Sabina does so in the article, although you rightly point out it is incorrect. As is ‘incumbent’ and the awful ‘indigenous’ (c.f. Melanie Phillips). ‘Majority’ might be better, although as I said above, its probably wrong to talk about cultures in this manner anyway.

    In all honesty my argument is with people who have a problem with immigration for cultural reasons. I don’t want to hear about simple ‘toleration’ or cultures ‘living side by side’. We should be bold enough to declare immigration is good for the country and should be encouraged…. and have reasons x y and z ready for those who would disagree. This is better than the apologetic or victim mentality that Sabina describes.

    busy getting their heads down … they are more worried about putting food on the table.

    Which I think gives a pertinent answer to Raw Data’s point above - “why don’t they leave”.

  7. El Cid — on 3rd March, 2006 at 12:50 pm  

    More power to you Sabina.

  8. leon — on 3rd March, 2006 at 1:04 pm  

    “. It occurs to me that Muslims especially have done nothing to clarify their position or establish a dialogue with others . ”

    Bit of a generalisations that, I’ve met plenty of Muslims that have clarified their position on a whole host of issues. Maybe the writer hasn’t a wide spread experience of the various Muslim communities in this country?

  9. Neel — on 3rd March, 2006 at 1:58 pm  

    Often its the case that putting two sets of people together will result in more prejudices rather then reduce them, people will interact on a very superficial basis in terms of doing business and in the workplace but certainly not much else.

    Its certainly not just a Muslim issue either, just go to Melton Road in Leicester and spot the white person ? I would say that most second generation Asians born and bred here will mostly have mates who are the same as them (i.e. 2nd gen Asians). This isen’t a bad thing as such as long as you can integrate properly in the workplace and society.

    However you cant force people to just ‘get along’ there is no quick fix answer. People wont just become friends because they are put in the same room.

  10. Steve — on 3rd March, 2006 at 2:50 pm  

    Good post.

    Robert: you said “multiculturalism is not so much an ideology, but simply describing a fact of life”. It’s both, surely? Britain today is multi-ethnic and multi-cultural (in the big cities at least). That fact raises the question - how do we deal with the problems and opportunities that result from that fact? Multiculturalism (as ideology) is the name we give to the background assumptions that set the boundaries for policies which respond to that question. Sabina suggests those background assumptions are/ have been flawed. The most important point is the linguistic one: the word ‘handicapped’ fits the bill. Perhaps there needs to be a much more active effort to provide free English-language training to anyone who needs it (the carrot) plus (eventually) ceasing to provide information about services in other languages (the stick). Or is that an over-reaction? Are there other ways to ensure that the silent ones get a voice?

  11. BevanKieran — on 3rd March, 2006 at 3:26 pm  

    Interesting article.

    But this also reinforces the assumption that to be of an “ethnic” origin or of other religions is to be in some way disabled, and thus in need of special care and attention.

    Speaking of which…

    http://www.hinduforum.org/

    Home Office funds first UK research into Hindu Identity

    The Hindu Forum of Britain in partnership with the Runnymede Trust are conducting the first ever government-funded UK research project aimed at understanding the issues and aspirations of today’s Hindu youth, women, elders and community organisations in areas including access to public services, education, health, employment, funding, regeneration, integration, cohesion and equal opportunities.

    Oh crap. Dipshit New Labour are sowing (trying to anyway) the seeds of communalism in Britain for the next century.

  12. Old Pickler — on 3rd March, 2006 at 7:15 pm  

    A very thoughtful and thought-provoking article.

    There is a whole generation of settlers who have lived in this country for a lifetime and have not engaged with the host community. A lot of them are handicapped by not having learnt the language. Nobody has ever heard how and what they feel.

    Women who came here as young brides and stayed behind the four walls, spending their time watching television in their own language and hankering after a homeland they have left behind.

    Anne Cryer has plenty to say about this kind of thing, but she gets called racist for speaking her mind.

  13. Jay Singh — on 3rd March, 2006 at 7:27 pm  

    Bevan Kieran

    Well, now the Hindu ‘community leaders’ have learnt how to play the tune just like the Sikh ‘community leaders’ have. Just like the template laid down for ‘undestanding the Muslim community’ with all those quangos and blind alleys. It is so pathetic. What is wrong with these people? Dont they have any idea of the culture they are creating? Things are going to get worst because on the whole, these people are not the best from their people, they are the worst, with their own agendas and chips on shoulders. Idiots!

  14. Jay Singh — on 3rd March, 2006 at 7:29 pm  

    The Runnymede Trust - people like them are the bane of this multicultural industry. And it is an industry - the whole thing has become an industry.

  15. Raul — on 3rd March, 2006 at 8:47 pm  

    British values is what makes England the country it is. Indian or Pakistan values is what makes those countries what they are. Choose, but it doesn’t make sense to flee those countries and then try to make the UK like them. What makes anyone think an Indian or a muslim will represent their interests better in parliament for instance than a white person.

    A lot of multiculturalism is communities and more often that not a perception of what they would like to be, it is more fiction than reality. A tyranny of ideals. How many of us think about culture or identity as a part of our daily lives. Or ever. I think people respond to individuals and not communities. I for instance am least interested in religion or understand the word culture but that doesn’t mean I’m racist or treat people differently. I respond to individuals not muslims or christians or whatever.

    Discrimination and racism exists in all societies, in India the caste system, in Pakistan sectarianism, I suspect some people or groups of people always discriminate or are discriminated against and sometimes the same people can belong to the 2 groups.

    I think this is visible in all societies. Some Indians for instance love to feel morally superior to white people, its like we love our families more, we love our kids more which is as stupid as it can get. This is common with a lot of asians, the need to feel morally superior. To think of white women as ‘loose’ or morally inferior. It’s clearly visible in the way Bollywood portrays white people. for instance. Sometime I feel it really boils down to sex and the inability of some societies to come to terms with it.

  16. Jay Singh — on 3rd March, 2006 at 9:20 pm  

    What makes anyone think an Indian or a muslim will represent their interests better in parliament for instance than a white person

    Well, if the candidate is suitable, the kind of person who would not want a capable person of Indian or Muslim background to represent them simply because of their race would be a racist, Raul.

  17. Jay Singh — on 3rd March, 2006 at 9:23 pm  

    On a lighter note, how wonderful to watch Monty Panesar, the first Sikh to play for England, take two wickets in his test debut, his maiden wicket none other than the greatest batsman in the world, Sachin Tendulkar.

    Monty passes the cricket test!

  18. Raul — on 3rd March, 2006 at 9:37 pm  

    Jay,

    Perhaps I didn’t express myself clearly enough. I was referring to the idea that only someone from ‘your community’ be it indian or muslim can represent your interests better.

  19. Jay Singh — on 3rd March, 2006 at 9:42 pm  

    Oh right Raul - thanks for clearing that up. Yeah that is a load of bollocks to think like that but I dont think most people do - although the loudest yapping ‘representatives’ probably do think in those terms.

  20. frank — on 3rd March, 2006 at 11:06 pm  

    Multiculturalism, in my opinion, is the juxtaposition of different cultures achieving a harmonious balance of all the parties involved. A kind of funky cocktail blended with all the best bits of the tastiest liquor.

    Multicuturalism is part of the global experience and so vital to the progression of the human species. We need to integrate, not segregate.

  21. Global Voices Online — on 3rd March, 2006 at 11:39 pm  

    […] Pickled Politics asks a pertinent question -”Does multi-culturalism lead to racism?“ […]

  22. DesiPundit » Multiculturalism — on 3rd March, 2006 at 11:42 pm  

    […] Pickled Politics asks an all-important question - “Does Multicuturalism lead to Racism?“ […]

  23. Thinking Aloud: — on 5th March, 2006 at 12:55 pm  

    […] Sabina Ahmed has an insightful analysis of the way in which multiculturalism - and especially “multiculturalism by diktat” - has backfired. The result is that we are being represented by commissions and bodies who make unreasonable demands in our name. No wonder race relations have gone downhill. […]

  24. Arif — on 5th March, 2006 at 9:07 pm  

    I think we use words like “multiculturalism” and “culture” and “representation” to mean different things and so it is hard to get a meaningful discussion going without a million misunderstandings.

    I think that Sabina makes a good point that for some people there is a frustration that political-level discussions are done in a code which some people feel is constricting and some people feel misrepresents them. And a lot of people will say they don’t care, don’t fall into any of these categories or whatever.

    It is the nature of political representation that it’ll reduce the diversity of human experience, the nature of elite political discourse that it will exclude some ideas and the nature of communication that we’ll misunderstand each other a lot. So what can we do?

    I think we have to try to solve our social problems and conflicts without relying on the State. Speaking up in the political sphere might open up some space for new ideas for a while, but usually seems to end up with being misunderstood and marginalised, or learning the diplomatic codes and becoming part of the problem despite yourself.

    Blogs seem quite good, as do intercultural events (yes, some of us actually go to them), but we normally want to stay in our comfort zone - and inter-cultural events might be part of that for me! How often do we want to leave our comfort zones? Not often.

    I think I feel like Jay Singh, that we have enough things to think about. But then, as human beings who want to make a difference, I think the difference we can most easily make is in how we treat one another. Becoming part of the political system may have some merit, but not if you have to start playing by rules which devalue your political opponents.

  25. Jon Think — on 23rd March, 2006 at 5:32 pm  

    Every western country (white and Christian) has problem with race nothing new

    USA: its 2wards mexicans (latino) and blacks
    Uk: iTS mainly towards asians , blacks get on better in uk for some reason even thaght high crime in black area in uk.
    Australia: its 2wards orientals.,aboriginal and lebonese communities even greek
    New Zeland: racism 2wards mowrey

    White are immigrants to USA ,New zealand and Australia

    Why is it a trend that all these white western countries have with minority communities ?

    Think about it!

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