Tag: multiculturalism

Multicultural Panic Comes to Korea

This recently ran on Korea’s largest broadcaster in primetime news slots until the outburst controversy grew so loud, it got pulled. Don’t miss the guy in the white shirt and tie behind a desk to lend academic credibility to it all. For some analysis, try here.

Here’s a response video that is very funny.

Standing Up for Multiculturalism? or “Where I find myself agreeing with the Prime Minister of Canada and that the dirt won’t come off.”

I am very, very ethnic.

For those of you who weren’t following Canadian politics this week (I’m assuming that’s 98% of the Duck audience) the Conservative Party of Canada (CPC or “Tories”) took a lot of flack this week for calling up supporters and asking them to wear “ethnic” costumes. This is, of course, to make the Tories look more diverse and possibly have another colour of hair in their audience than white. The flack, in my opinion, is well deserved – minorities are not well staged photo-ops. They are, however, a group that all political parties have tried to reach out to.

Liberals have traditionally had much success in the Greater Toronto Area, and other major urban zones by promoting immigration (or at least seeming to) such as policies which reuniting families when one member has come over. But, at the same time this has caused a certain amount of concern and resentment among Canadians (I’m referring especially to Anglo-Canadians, Franco-Quebeckers in a moment) who see “ethnic” communities being established that do not integrate, want to change Canada or, at worst, support illiberal policies and groups.

In particular, there is a certain Tory electoral base who resent multiculturalism and feel that immigrants should become “Canadian” (whatever that might be.) In Quebec, this is even more so – and the government has put a lot of resources into not only trying to attract highly-skilled immigrants, but then also offer them French lessons, courses on liberal values, etc. The dark sides of this, at least in my opinion, were the farce that was the Bouchard-Taylor Commission (on the accommodation of minorities) in 2007-8 and the bill to ban the niqab. (One can tolerate a niqab without approving of it. It’s not that hard!)

I would not consider myself an expert on multiculturalism – although I have blogged about it before. The UK (where I live) is in the throes of a debate over the concept, with the Prime Minister coming out strongly against it – but not actually articulating an alternative policy, other than an undefined “muscular liberalism”. (Hey look – someone made a blog about it! Although it seems to be a pretty white crowd? ) The concept seems to be unpopular in the UK because many seem to see multiculturalism as the reason why the UK has Islamic extremism, ghettos, violence, etc. Multiculturalism is that which has, in British eyes, allowed communities to insulate themselves as opposed to integrate themselves.

As such, British governments under Blair, Brown and now Cameron seem to want to assert “British values” but they have never been able to agree as to what those are – at least since I’ve been in the country, and that’s going on ten years.

My concern is that I think many misunderstand the potential of the concept and I think the UK denigrates the concept at its own risk. For me, multiculturalism is not about “living and let living” without question. That’s a ridiculous kind of pluralism. Rather, I’ve always seen it as an exchange of tradition and culture – with emphasis on the exchange. Insulation is not multiculturalism.

So colour me very surprised when I read a column by Haroon Siddiqui in the Toronto Star who, reflecting on the recent leader’s debate in Canada, praises the Prime Minister’s take on multiculturalism in the debate and, dare I say it, his defence of the concept. (It’s worth quoting Siddiqi’s take on the debate at length).[Quick Canadian politics primer – Stephen Harper is the Prime Minister and Gilles Duceppe is the leader of the nationalist/separatist Bloq Quebecois who have taken a pro bi-lingual/bi-cultural and anti—multicultural stance in the party platforms]

Harper, speaking last in that exchange, eschewed personal sentimentality and got straight to the heart of the matter:

“We favour multiculturalism.

“What Canadians need to understand about multiculturalism is that people who make the hard decision to … come here, they first and foremost want to belong to this country … They also at the same time will change our country.

“And we show through multiculturalism our willingness to accommodate their differences, so they are more comfortable.

“That’s why we’re so successful integrating people as a country. I think we’re probably the most successful country in the world in that regard.”

He went to defend the record levels of immigration under his watch.

“We are the first government to maintain a vigorous and strong and open-door immigration policy during a recession, because we’re focused on the long-term interest of Canada and the Canadian economy.”

Other exchanges followed. In his third turn at the topic, Harper challenged Duceppe more directly:

“Let me just also question what you keep saying, that somehow multiculturalism is incompatible with being a Quebecer.

“You know, there’s lots of people in this country who speak English who don’t come from an English or a British background.

“One can retain their culture and their cultural identity and still integrate into the mainstream language of the community, which is French in Quebec, and English in most of the rest of the country. That’s what we do and that’s why we support these policies.”

Duceppe said: “But we don’t want to create ghettoes …”

Harper shot back that “Canada is not creating ghettoes. It is the most successful integration policy in the world. It has helped Canadians retain their culture while being part of the broader community. That’s what we are so proud of. I know the Bloc Québécois wants to break up the country, and you don’t think new Canadians are going to support that objective.”

Harper may not have been very poetic in all this but he got the gist of it just right, thusly:

High immigration is essential to our economy. The assumption that multiculturalism undermines integration is false. Keeping one’s culture and identity is not an impediment to integration. Immigrants want to integrate and do. Yet they also change Canada. This is the most successful model of integration in the world.

And now I find myself actually supporting something the Prime Minster said. Just when I thought the Canadian election debates could not have gotten any more annoying.

I don’t think the Tories have it right on immigration. I also think they have been pandering to the ethnic vote, and it’s clear that they somehow believe that people in “ethnic” dress are going to help them win elections. Additionally, as Siddiqui points out, Harper is a politician who is “forever courting his right-of-centre constituency, a base that routinely maligns multiculturalism and grumbles about high levels of immigration.”

But I do find this at least somewhat encouraging. And maybe I will be stupid enough to take him at his word on this issue. Let’s see if the Tories stick to it – a dubious proposition.


“State” Multiculturalism

This is England?

I woke up this morning to discover that apparently “state multiculturalism” has failed. According to Prime Minister David Cameron:

…when a white person holds objectionable views, racist views for instance, we rightly condemn them. But when equally unacceptable views or practices come from someone who isn’t white, we’ve been too cautious frankly – frankly, even fearful – to stand up to them. The failure, for instance, of some to confront the horrors of forced marriage, the practice where some young girls are bullied and sometimes taken abroad to marry someone when they don’t want to, is a case in point. This hands-off tolerance has only served to reinforce the sense that not enough is shared. And this all leaves some young Muslims feeling rootless. And the search for something to belong to and something to believe in can lead them to this extremist ideology. Now for sure, they don’t turn into terrorists overnight, but what we see – and what we see in so many European countries – is a process of radicalisation.

In this speech, given in Germany, Cameron claimed that the West needs to “wake-up to what is happening to our countries” and basically realize that our tolerance of other people’s cultures is responsible for the terrorist threat, 7/7, etc.

And as if to perfectly echo the point, the rather fascist self-styled English Defense League – a full blown anti-Islam group that wants to ban mosques, people that are not white, etc had a large rally in Luton today.


It seems ridiculous that I have to make the point that I DON’T think the PM is an EDL member, etc. etc. And I’m sure he felt the timing of his speech was unfortunate – but this does serve to highlight some points I’ve been unscientifically thinking about for a while.

After having lived in the UK for nearly 10 years (including some poorer neighbourhoods and in council estates), it doesn’t seem to me that the UK has ever given multiculturalism a chance. And having read the Prime Minister’s speech, it doesn’t actually seem that he knows what multiculturalism is.

In the UK, and in the speech, “multiculturalism” seems to be “let’s let those people go and live in that ghetto over there”. It’s never been about integration – just a kind of reluctant (or “hands-off”) tolerance. But this is not really multiculturalism – at least I think as it has been practiced elsewhere or even as it could be.
Multiculturalism – to me – would suggest an exchange: keeping the practicses of ones’ culture alive within the context of a liberal, pluralist society. And yes, we can make demands on someone to respect certain liberal civil values. I’m not sure it was ever really about allowing people to stand up and defend their hatred of homosexuality, women’s rights and the like. Suggesting that this is multiculturalism seems to me to be an unfortunate co-opting or gross misunderstanding of the term. It seems to be the hated “multiculturalism” of the right (the kind that wants to ban Spanish in America) that the PM has bought into rather than what it could stand for.

Additionally, it doesn’t so much seem to me to be the case that it is a policy of multiculturalism that drives people to live in ghettos – but the fact they are poor. According to a report released last year by UK think tank Demos, Muslim people in the UK are more likely to be unemployed and to suffer discrimination:

Occupationally, Muslims are the most disadvantaged faith group in the Western European labour market. Muslims on average experience higher unemployment rates compared to national averages, and more often than not, their occupations are not compatible with their levels and fields of education. In respect of housing and poverty, there is marked clustering of communities that has resulted in the ghettoisation’ of some areas, leading to social tensions.

Another interesting thing about PM Cameron’s speech is what he means by “state” multiculturalism? As opposed to what other kind of multiculturalism? Non-state multiculrualism? He never says.
Is there an alternative? The Labour Party and Gordon Brown used to speak of spreading “British Values”. But I’m not even certain that the British know what Britsh values are. While one can look back and find reference to notions of the “liberties of all Englishmen”, they’re very undefined. (Particularly since the UK never really got around to writing them down). And this is a very legalistic notion of what “values” are. And besides ethnic and religious differences, are British values the same in the south of the country as the north? Or in the other ‘nations’ like Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland (where some Christian MPs regularly denigrate homosexuals). So Cameron is speaking about a “common identity”. But really, there just doesn’t seem to be any sense that the government has anything else to put in place.

So if he wasn’t advocating an alternative, what’s this about then? There has been some suggestion in the media that Cameron’s speech is to prepare the UK for some changes to come following a review of the “Prevent” strategy – the UK’s anti-extremism/radicalisation policy which is under review (mostly because it seems to have cost a lot of money and achieved little results).

But it would seem to me that multiculturalism, however imperfect, would seem to offer a platform to combat inequality and mistrust and to promote integration. You know, some of the things you’d want to do to combat extremism. And I think it would be easier than promoting a “shared national identity” – especially considering there are nationalist/separatist movements in Scotland and Wales.

I think it can be easily said that no sensible person would advocate funding organizations that fundamentally contradicted liberal values. And I don’t think that we should accept racism, sexism, anti-semitism or any other bad-ism from whatever the source. But I don’t think that the government should claim that accepting these things is the result of multiculturalism when I think there are many other factors to point at. It’s not about tolerating the intolerable.

Without articulating an alternative, or perhaps even suggesting a different take on multiculturalism, the PM risks having this message of challenging intolerance and extremism mixed with that of the EDL. (Certainly they must see this as some kind of propaganda coup?) And that’s not doing anyone any favours.


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