Europe’s Muslims: An Integration under International Constraints
Muslim Immigrants: A Bridge between Two Cultures?
Islam and the New Europe: The Remaking of a Civilisation
M. A. Muqtedar Khan
Anti-Muslim Discrimination: Remedies and Failings
Muslims in France: The Quest for Social Justice
Alec G. Hargreaves
Too Much Islam? Challenges to the Dutch Model
Danish Muslims, the Cartoon Controversy, and the Concept of Integration
Kate Østergaard and Kirstine Sinclair
British Muslims in the Anti-Terror Age
Islam and British Multiculturalism
Nasar Meer and Tariq Modood
Muslims of Europe: An Italian Perspective
Muslim Marriage in Europe: Tradition and Modernity
Radical Islam: Threats and Opportunities
A Second Fateful Triangle
Marsha B. Cohen
Show Trial or Necessary Proceeding?
Volume 9 ● Number 3–4 ● Summer/Autumn 2007—Europe and Its Muslims
Islam and British Multiculturalism
A number of intellectuals and scholars have recently characterised British multiculturalism as being in some form of “retreat”. This article queries the validity of this assessment. It is worth distinguishing at the outset, however, between those seeking to point to a normative or descriptive tendency and others who have made little attempt to disguise their political motives in rejecting Britain’s multiculturalism.
Multiculturalism under Fire
In the latter camp we might include the influential centre-left commentator David Goodhart, who evidently sympathises with the position of those he calls “Burkeans” that “we feel more comfortable with, and are readier to share with and sacrifice for, those with whom we have shared histories and similar values. To put it bluntly—most of us prefer our own kind”.1 We might also include Trevor Phillips, formerly chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality, and currently head of the Commission for Equality and Human Rights, who has famously stated that Britain should “kill off multiculturalism” because it “suggests separateness”.
More recently and, some might suggest, more predictably, Goodhart and Philips’s views have been redeployed by the centre-right Conservative Party leader, David Cameron, who has characterised British multiculturalism as a “barrier” dividing British society. While a much stronger and more vitriolic critique of multiculturalism is not unusual from a centre-right in Britain that has historically lamented and contested governmental interventions recognising the diversity of minority populations and cultural practices, opposition to such recognition has undoubtedly had a qualitatively greater impact since it was joined by people who had “previously rejected polarising models of race and class and were sympathetic to the ‘rainbow’, coalitional politics of identity”.2
Of course, and as elsewhere in Europe, these discursive postures have arguably been adopted in response to the increasingly salient presence of Muslim minorities and their characterisation as “culturally unreasonable or theologically alien”.3 As the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has recognised, the current high profile of British Muslims has meant that the debate on multiculturalism in Britain has a tendency to denote “a coded way of talking about one kind of perception of Islamic groups in the UK”.4 There are at least two reasons why Muslims and multiculturalism have become so intertwined:
● The first is that the making of claims by Muslims has been characterised as markedly ambitious and difficult to accommodate. This is particularly the case when Muslims are perceived to be—often uniquely—in contravention of liberal discourses on individual rights and secularism.
● The second reason derives from global events, and not necessarily from the acts of terrorism carried out by protagonists proclaiming a Muslim agenda (which are routinely condemned by leading British-Muslim bodies), but from the subsequent conflation of a criminal minority with an assumed tendency inherent in the many. Indeed, in the climate following the terrorist attacks in the United States on 11 September 2001 and in Britain on 7 July 2005, the explanatory purchase of Muslim cultural dysfunctionality has generated a profitable discursive economy in accounting for what has been described as “Islamic terrorism”.
The outcome of the above two factors is that contemporary British multiculturalism has become implicated in Britain’s security woes. A good illustration of this is a comment by a Labour member of Parliament, Tony Wright. Disapproving of the state funding of Muslim schools, he said: “Before September 11 it looked like a bad idea, it now looks like a mad idea.”5 Similarly, there have been calls for passenger profiling and a demand that Muslims take “a proactive leadership role in tackling extremism and defending our shared values”—to quote another Labour MP, Ruth Kelly, speaking on 11 October 2006. The government has also made millions of pounds available to help local authorities monitor “Islamic extremists”, with local councils acting as “the eyes and ears for the police in countering threats”.6 In addition, Dame Elisa Mannigham-Buller, the outgoing head of Britain’s counter-intelligence and security agency, MI5, urged the police to develop a network of Muslim spies who could provide information on their co-religionists. British intelligence has also monitored thousands of British Muslims making the pilgrimage to Mecca, and the education department attempted to encourage universities to report “Asian-looking” students suspected of involvement in “Islamic political radicalism”.
Britain, then, has undoubtedly witnessed some securitisation of ethnic relations. But it is not quite the case, as one commentator has suggested, that public-policy solutions aimed at managing ethnic and religious diversity amount to being “tough on mosques, tough on the causes of mosques”.7
Nevertheless, these discursive manoeuvres have informed a tendency in governmental policy increasingly to premise the inclusion of all ethnic minorities upon greater degrees of qualification. This is evidenced by the introduction of citizenship tests, the swearing of oaths during citizenship ceremonies, language proficiency requirements for new migrants, and demands for an unambiguous disavowal of “radicalism” or “extremism” by Muslims in particular. Is this, then, the extent to which British multiculturalism has “retreated” in recent years? To evaluate this we must first consider the nature and content of the multiculturalism that is at stake.
Post-war migrants who arrived as “Citizens of the United Kingdom and Commonwealth”, and then subsequent British-born generations, have been recognised as ethnic and racial minorities requiring state support and differential treatment to overcome barriers to their exercise of citizenship. This continues to be the case, and under the remit of several Race Relations Acts, the state has sought to integrate minorities into the labour market and other key areas of British society through an approach that promotes equal access as an example of equality of opportunity. Indeed, it is now over thirty years since the introduction of a third Race Relations Act (1976) cemented state sponsorship of racial equality by consolidating earlier, weaker legislative instruments.
Alongside its broad remit spanning public and private institutions, recognition of indirect discrimination and the imposition of a statutory public duty to promote good “race relations”, the 1976 Act also created the Commission for Racial Equality to assist individual complainants and monitor the implementation of the Act. The result is “a precarious balance between citizenship universalism and racial group particularism” that stops short of “granting special group rights to immigrants”.8
But does this amount to multiculturalism? It amounts to a British multiculturalism; although Britain lacks an official “Multicultural Act” or “Charter” in the way of Australia or Canada, more than forty years ago it rejected the idea of integration’s being based upon a drive for unity through an uncompromising cultural “assimilation”. It did so when the Labour home secretary Roy Jenkins in 1966 defined integration as “not a flattening process of assimilation but equal opportunity accompanied by cultural diversity in an atmosphere of mutual tolerance”.
It is important to note that there is also a tradition, alongside this state-centred and national focus, in which multiculturalism as a public policy “has been heavily localised, often made voluntary”, but also supported by a legislative framework giving additional resources and new powers to local authorities better to promote racial and ethnic equality. With these enabling powers, the strength of local ethnic communities and coalitions has been significant.9
Perhaps the best examples of this local multiculturalism are the programmes of anti-racist and multicultural education that have historically been enacted at the level of the Local Education Authority (LEA). In many multi-ethnic urban areas, LEAs have actively encouraged anti-racist and multicultural initiatives in the face of vociferous opposition, and this has in turn informed the national picture. Indeed, it was through the debates at local level that one of the leading public-policy documents on multiculturalism emerged. The 1985 Swann Report characterised multiculturalism in Britain as enabling
all ethnic groups, both minority and majority, to participate in fully shaping society … whilst also allowing and, where necessary, assisting the ethnic minority communities in maintaining their distinct ethnic identities within a framework of commonly accepted values.10
At first glance, it is not difficult to detect the continuing presence of this Swann sensibility, even in the words of a recent home secretary who was not renowned for his sympathy towards the promotion of ethnic minority cultural differences. For example, in the summer of 2001, after civil unrest and “rioting” in northern towns home to both small and large numbers of Muslims, David Blunkett, writing in the quarterly magazine of the Commission for Racial Equality, stated that “one of this government’s central aims is to achieve a society that celebrates its ethnic diversity and cultural richness; where there is respect for all, regardless of race, colour or creed”. He also gave notice of Home Office–funded teams which would “undertake an urgent review over the summer of all relevant community issues”.11
One such review, Ted Cantle’s Community Cohesion report of 2001, was quick to assert that certain communities, and in particular some Muslim communities, were choosing to lead “parallel lives”. In charging Muslim communities with self-segregation and the adoption of isolationist practices under a pretence of multiculturalism, the Cantle Report pioneered an approach found in other analyses of the riots that likened Muslim settlement patterns to those of “colonists”. These analyses provided many influential commentators with the licence, not necessarily supported by the specific substance of each report, to criticise Muslim distinctiveness in particular and multiculturalism in general. The ensuing talk of “community cohesion” and the emphasis upon the assimilatory aspects of integration have, in consequence, increasingly competed with and sought to rebalance the recognition of diversity in previous discourse and policy.
This is exemplified by the prolonged contestations over proposed legislation against incitement to religious hatred, which go to the very heart of how British thinking on “difference”, namely in terms of racial equality, has been applied to Muslim minorities when such equality has in the past provided a starting point for multiculturalism. The contestations arose from the continuing anomaly that while case law has established some precedents in the application of race relations legislation to prevent discrimination against certain religious minorities, namely Sikhs and Jews, this has not been extended to Muslims because they have not been recognised as being defined by racial criteria, e.g., race, colour, nationality (including citizenship), or ethnic or national origin.
British courts have tried to utilise an understanding of ethnic origin wider than “race” alone, and with the case of Mandla v. Dowell Lee (1983) the House of Lords set out several criteria for such group identity. These included (i) a long-shared history of which the group is conscious as distinguishing it from other groups; (ii) a cultural tradition of the group’s own, including family and social customs and manners, often but not necessarily associated with religious observance; and (iii) either a common geographical origin, or descent from a small number of common ancestors—which is one of the main criteria for identifying group membership, including “perceived” group membership.
These criteria emerged from Lord Fraser’s ruling in favour of recognising the Sikhs as an ethnic group, and so as entitled to the protection of the Race Relations Act. At the time, this led the Liverpool Law Review to assume that “a major consequence of the judgment is the protection which will be afforded to other groups. For example, Muslims will be a racial group for the purposes of the Act”.12 That this has still not materialised nearly a quarter of a century later highlights a number of factors in the British conception of racial equality vis-à-vis Muslims.
One such factor was illustrated by the case of Nyazi v. Rymans Ltd (1988), when the plaintiff was excluded from the protection of the Race Relations Act on the grounds that “Muslims include people of many nations and colours, who speak many languages and whose only common denominator is religion and religious culture”.13 The decisive rationale common to this and further court rulings was that their heterogeneity disqualifies Muslims from being recognised as an ethnic or racial grouping. This is despite that fact that British Jews, who do enjoy the protection of the Race Relations Act, may include Ashkenazi Jews from Poland, Berber Jews from Algeria, and African Jews from Ethiopia—all of whom may have different languages, customs and cultures. It is also conceivable that Sikhs, through conversion, could incorporate different ethnic groupings while still receiving the full social and political protections granted under the Act.
Crucially, the way in which the definition of racial groups is conceived in this civil anti-discrimination legislation is also adopted in criminal law through the Public Order Act (1986). This introduces the criminal offence of “incitement to racial hatred”, which outlaws the use of threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour with the intention of stirring up racial hatred. An iniquitous legal anomaly has thus established a hierarchy of protected faith communities. This is an unhelpful situation given that many British Muslims report experiencing heightened discrimination and abuse when they appear “conspicuously Muslim”. For example, the increase in personal abuse and everyday racism since 11 September and the London bombings, in which the perceived “Islamic-ness” of the victims is the central reason for the abuse, even when this presumption is false (resulting in Sikhs and others with an “Arab” appearance being attacked for “looking like Bin Laden”), suggests that racial and religious discrimination are much more interlinked than the current application of civil and criminal legislation allows.
The legal anomaly has allowed the far-right British National Party (BNP) to campaign against what it called “the Muslim problem”, and when in 1998 the London borough of Merton sought a prosecution of those engaged in anti-Muslim incitement, following the distribution of offensive and threatening material by a BNP member, its request was rejected on the grounds that Muslims were not covered by the Public Order Act. This was despite the same BNP member’s pleading guilty to distributing similar material and inciting racial hatred against Jews in the same borough. Indeed, the Commission for Racial Equality has recounted how in May 2004 it failed to persuade the West Yorkshire police to prosecute the BNP for distributing, in an area with existing community tensions, a leaflet entitled “Islam: Intolerance, Slaughter, Looting, Arson, Molestation of Women”.
Religious Hatred Legislation
Consequently, Muslim bodies have long campaigned for legislation against incitement to religious hatred. Yet, when such legislation was eventually proposed, it faced enormous opposition from a coalition of satirists and liberals, conservatives and Christians, who misconstrued its intention and presented it as a group veto for Muslims. Instead of viewing it as a corrective to the anomalies that have arisen from a very narrow and inconsistent definition of “race” and ethnicity, the comedian Rowan Atkinson, Liberal peer Lord Anthony Lester, senior barrister David Pannick QC, journalists Polly Toynbee and Joan Smith, the Conservative front bench, and the former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey, and others, all portrayed the legislation as an attempt to curtail freedom of speech in general, and criticism of Islam in particular.
Little attempt was made by anti-discrimination campaigners with impeccable credentials, particularly Lord Lester, to understand the experiences of Muslims—a lack of empathy that has continued to inform the view that the discrimination faced by some groups is less urgent or important than that faced by others. As Iqbal Sacranie, then secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Britain, put it in a speech in June 2006, the aim of the religious hatred legislation sought by Muslims was
to provide a level playing field so that the protections that applied to race would be extended to religion; for example criminalising reckless, abusive and insulting behaviour directed at an individual because of their faith. It would have given Muslims the same protection afforded to Sikhs and Jews in the UK.
Yet one of the most striking features of the public discourse on the issue was this gap between Muslim groups (which argued that recourse to law was necessary at a time of increased prejudice, intimidation and incitement to hatred) and the mainstream media, which presented it as an example of Muslim incompatibility with British culture and tradition. Thus, one of the key objections to the legislation is captured in the actor and comedian Rowan Atkinson’s signature statement in his campaign against the bill. Speaking at a press conference in the House of Commons on 6 December 2004, he said: “To criticise a person for their race is manifestly irrational and ridiculous but to criticise their religion, that is a right.” This is because, as he said a couple of days earlier, “There is an obvious difference between the behaviour of racist agitators … and the activities of satirists and writers who may choose to make comedy or criticism of religious belief, practices or leaders, just as they do with politics.”14
A less nuanced form of this argument was invoked by the commentator and liberal activist Joan Smith: “Race is a biological fact, and it is wrong to hate people because they belong to a particular ethnic group; religion is a set of ideas, voluntarily adopted, which may or may not be offensive to members of other faiths.”15 Indeed, the uncritical recitation of racial biology and conflation of ethnicity with “race”, both as categories constituting involuntary identities, was a common tendency shared by the former Conservative MP and political sketch-writer Matthew Parris. He argued that “with race relations, the intention is to protect individuals, not ideas, from attack. The difficulty here is that (broadly speaking) ‘race’ defines a human group, rather than an idea, so racial attacks are almost by their very nature hateful towards individuals and therefore easily criminalised. Religion, however, is essentially an idea, not a group”.16
The view that the anti–religious hatred legislation fell outside the racial equality paradigm was, however, most trenchantly put by the left-wing social-policy commentator Polly Toynbee, who reserved the “right” to affront religious minorities on the basis of their faith:
it is now illegal to describe an ethnic group as feeble-minded. But under this law I couldn’t call Christian believers similarly intellectually challenged without risk of prosecution. This crystallises the difference between racial and religious abuse. Race is something people cannot choose and it defines nothing about them as people. But beliefs are what people choose to identify with … The two cannot be blurred into one—which is why the word Islamophobia is a nonsense.17
There are several implications to Toynbee’s position that can be elucidated by considering the following analogy. Suppose that a Jewish person could “pass” for “non-Jewish”; according to Toynbee’s logic, when subject to discrimination on the grounds of his or her “Jewishness”, the person should exercise this ability in order (a) to become less offensive to others and (b) to be less offended by the anti-Semitism of others. Similarly, Toynbee’s position dictates that Muslims subject to discrimination or hostility should choose, where possible, to change their identity in order to negate discrimination. This, of course, invites the tyranny of the majority and contravenes every liberal conception of autonomy and freedom of conscience and expression that Toynbee would otherwise seek to uphold.
In their opposition to this legislation, and in common with other issues arising from the accommodation of Muslims, there was evidence of a convergence between sections of the left, centre and right. After considerable debate, controversy, and amendment to the original bill, a criminal offence of “incitement to religious hatred” was introduced via the Racial and Religious Hatred Act of 2006. It came into force at the end of January 2007.
The opposition to the bill both inside and outside Parliament resulted in a weaker piece of legislation that in effect affords Muslims a lower level of protection from incitement to hatred than that afforded to Sikhs, Jews and other ethnic or racial minorities. The offence is, nevertheless, now enshrined in law. British thinking on “difference” has traditionally been understood in terms of racial equality. This example of legislation against incitement to religious hatred indicates that such thinking might have to be reformulated or adapted to accommodate Muslim claims-making: the types of multiculturalism that worked well for some groups in Britain—and which arose from the racial equality paradigm—might not work as well for Muslims. More specifically, the strength of the political opposition to conceiving Muslim “difference” as an addition to the British racial equality paradigm suggests that salient Muslim differences are currently understood in political as well as religious terms.
British multiculturalism has been celebrated as unique in Europe and hailed as an approach that has allowed successful integration. To what extent is it true, then, to say that the policy and rhetoric of multiculturalism are in “retreat”?
Assuming for a moment that there has been movement, one way a “shift” might be characterised is as a move from the perceived neglect to the affirmation of British identity, “Britishness” being represented as a sort of meta-community to which all must subscribe. Thus, in a major speech on the topic, former prime minister Tony Blair affirmed British identity in a strong, “civic” sense:
when it comes to our essential values—belief in democracy, the rule of law, tolerance, equal treatment for all, respect for this country and its shared heritage—then that is where we come together, it is what we hold in common; it is what gives us the right to call ourselves British.18
An insight into Blair’s thinking here can be found in the 2005 government-endorsed report, “A Journey to Citizenship”, authored by Sir Bernard Crick, which recommended citizenship education in schools, and also in the earlier White Paper Secure Borders, Safe Haven (2002), which proposed measures such as a US-style oath of allegiance at naturalisation ceremonies and an English-language proficiency requirement for those seeking British citizenship.
Yet in the same speech, Blair endorsed an ideal of multicultural Britain that is worth quoting at length:
The whole point is that multicultural Britain was never supposed to be a celebration of division; but of diversity. The purpose was to allow people to live harmoniously together, despite their difference; not to make their difference an encouragement to discord … The right to be in a multicultural society was always, always implicitly balanced by a duty to integrate, to be part of Britain, to be British and Asian, British and black, British and white … So it is not that we need to dispense with multicultural Britain. On the contrary we should continue celebrating it.
The Crick Report, too, stressed that “to be British does not mean assimilation into a common culture so that original identities are lost”. Similarly, the Home Office–sponsored Denham Report emphasised that “our society is multicultural, and it is shaped by the interaction between people of diverse cultures. There is no single dominant and unchanging culture into which all must assimilate”.19 And the government-sponsored Commission on Integration and Cohesion has explicitly distinguished integration from assimilation:
Individual and group identities should not be endangered by the process of integration, but rather they should be enriched within both the incoming groups and the host nation. Cohesion implies a society in which differences of culture, race and faith are recognised and accommodated within an overall sense of identity, rather than a single identity, based on a uniform similarity.20 (Italics in original)
Thus, the British approach still promotes equal-opportunities monitoring according to ethnicity (or gender, age or sexuality) and “positive duties of care” by employers and public bodies to demonstrate that they value diversity and do not penalise difference. A notable example of the resulting consideration for minority needs is that the British Airport Authority allows its Sikh employees (in all facets of airline duties) to wear the Kirpan (a traditional knife) despite strong opposition from the British Pilots Association. Given these sorts of accommodations and evidence in governmental policy and rhetoric of an emphasis upon the recognition of difference, as well as a BBC poll conducted in August 2005 (i.e., just one month after the London transport bombings) which reported that “the majority of British people think that multiculturalism makes the country a better place”, how can it be said that multiculturalism has been rejected, either in policy or practice?
One explanation might be to point to the very different meanings of “multiculturalism”. For example, in the above opinion poll, it was noted that while 62 per cent of respondents said multiculturalism makes the country a better place, 58 per cent declared that people who come to Britain should “adopt” its values and traditions. Of course, this does not necessarily describe a dichotomy, for nuances of both these poll findings can easily be true of the same type of multiculturalism depending upon what is meant by “adopt”. It is worth considering, however, the extent to which the poll confirms Anthony Giddens’s suspicion “that much of the debate about multiculturalism in this country is misconceived”21 and “seems simply to be out of touch with what the concept actually means”.22 In particular, there seems to be a key misconception arising from the confusion of “communitarian” and “individualistic” views of British multiculturalism.
The difference between these might be characterised thus: where the former emphasises the ways in which strong ethnic or cultural identities can lead to a meaningful and self-assured integration, the latter stresses the possibilities of life-style identities being adopted in an atmosphere of “conviviality”. In making this distinction, one also allows for the inclusion of thicker, ethno-religious identities that were once assumed to be a minor feature of British multiculturalism, a view arguably arising from
a built-in interpretative bias that has led scholars to see religious identification as a backward or reactionary form of “false consciousness” simply masking objectives and interests that are actually “secular”. Migrant religions with strange rituals and odd customs have been particularly vulnerable. They are so far removed from most academics’ life-worlds that it is easy to see how they have been dismissed as reactionary relics to be swept away by a superior secular civic-culture.23
Nevertheless, and despite the contemporary nature of these distinctions, they have not gone unnoticed in the past. For example, nearly a decade and a half ago Paul Gilroy asked himself what it meant if “the political and cultural gains of the emergent black Brits go hand in hand with the further marginalisation of ‘Asians’ in general and Muslims in particular”.24 Certain events, not least the Rushdie affair, had prompted Gilroy’s probing empathy. But his recent theoretical advocacy of a “multiculture” that fails to speak to the marginalisation of contemporary Muslims indicates that his question has not moved him to seek a more inclusive answer. This is particularly so because Gilroy assumes that the “multiculture”, or at least its politics, must be secular in orientation. Hence, he prioritises “the process of cohabitation and interaction that have made multiculture an ordinary feature of social life in Britain’s urban areas and in postcolonial cities elsewhere” in the hope that “an interest in the workings of conviviality will take off from the point where ‘multiculturalism’ broke down”.25
It seems that this “breakdown” consists of a failure to take up the political claims of Muslims, with a refocusing instead on socio-cultural interactions. The “breakdown” takes place along the fault-lines of “essentialism” and “reification” that are felt by Gilroy and others to underpin the conception of multiculturalism presented in 2000 by the Commission on Multi-Ethnic Britain and elsewhere thus by Bhikhu Parekh:
A multicultural society … is one that includes two or more cultural communities. It might respond to its cultural diversity in one of two ways … It might welcome and cherish it … and respect the cultural demands of its constituent communities; or it might seek to assimilate these communities into its mainstream culture either wholly or substantially. In the first case it is multiculturalist and in the second monoculturalist in its orientation and ethos … The term “multicultural” refers to the fact of cultural diversity, the term “multiculturalism” to a normative response to that fact.26 (Italics added)
Indeed, in their wholesale rejection of a normative and state-sponsored multiculturalism, Gilroy and others have defended only the individualistic and not the communitarian version of multiculturalism. This is most apparent in Kenan Malik’s statement that “when most people say that multiculturalism is a good thing, they mean the experience of living in a society that is less insular, less homogeneous, more vibrant and cosmopolitan than before”.27 Hence his dramatic plea “to separate the idea of diversity as lived experience from that of multiculturalism as a political process”, because the latter amounts to a political project that will “seal people into ethnic boxes” and “police the boundaries”.28
This charge rehearses others concerning essentialism, reification and heterogeneity and tends to ignore the ways in which ethnic categories can reflect subjective (and not only objective or externally ascribed) positionings within and between the sites of “boundaries”. These boundaries are not unproblematic, can be multiple, and may be informed by common experiences of racism, by one’s sexuality, socio-economic status, geographical locality, and so forth. In this sense, all group categories are socially constructed, and it is clear that people tend to associate with those with whom they perceive themselves to share some affinity.
One reason we cannot ignore the communitarian conceptions of difference is that religious minorities, for example, often see and describe themselves as sharing a “group” identity through such categories as “Jewish”, “Muslim”, “Sikh”, etc. If we accept that these are no less valid than such categories as “working class”, “woman”, “black” or “youth”, it appears inconsistent to reject them simply because they are subject to the same dialectical tension between specificity and generality that all group categories are subject to. This is not to “essentialise” or “reify”, however, since the category of “Jew”, “Muslim” or “Sikh” can remain “as internally diverse as ‘Christian’ or ‘Belgian’ or ‘middle-class’, or any other category helpful in ordering our understanding … diversity does not lead to the abandonment of social concepts in general”.29
It is arguably the case, then, that if the individualistic “multiculture” view is championed at the expense of the communitarian accommodation of ethno-religious community identities in general, the impact on Muslims may be particularly negative. This is because the “multiculture” view of multiculturalism “demarcates the limits of their [Muslims’] expectations for the future extension of special rights and exemptions, as well as perhaps having a demoralising effect because of the stigmatising and stereotypical way it represents them in the public domain”.30
If there has been a retreat from multiculturalism in Britain, it has been neither wholesale nor uncontested. Indeed, although there is currently a rhetorical repositioning under way towards a more “civic” conception of British citizenship, this does not indicate—and has so far not resulted in—an abandonment of recognising and supporting “difference”, either in governmental literature or policy.
While a new discourse and policy explicitly stressing “integration” and “cohesion”, which emerged after the 2001 race-related riots in northern English towns, have gained governmental favour and compete with a multiculturalist discourse and policy, they have not replaced the latter. True, minority inclusion has increasingly been premised upon a greater degree of qualification than before, e.g., citizenship tests and language proficiency for new migrants, and an unambiguous disavowal of “radicalism” or “extremism” from settled Muslim minorities. Yet, as the example of the legislation against incitement to religious hatred demonstrates, the once prevalent view of British multiculturalism as an incremental movement that could in time accommodate increasing levels of diversity is also present, if much less salient than it promised to be in the 1990s.
All of this suggests that the question currently facing British multiculturalism concerns the extent to which a recognition of diversity needs to be offset by civic assimilation, or, more profoundly, the extent to which multiculturalism and citizenship can be mutually constitutive and defined in interdependent terms so as to be inclusive of Muslims. It is just as likely that the post–11 September years will come to be seen as a civic rebalancing of multiculturalism rather than the death of British multiculturalism.
1. David Goodhart, “Too Diverse?”, Prospect, February 2004.
2. Tariq Modood, “Remaking Multiculturalism after 7/7”, Open Democracy, 28 September 2005.
3. Tariq Modood, “British Muslims and the Politics of Multiculturalism”, in Multiculturalism, Muslims and Citizenship: A European Approach, ed. Tariq Modood, Anna Triandafyllidou, and Ricard Zapata-Barrero (London: Routledge, 2006), p. 3.
4. Rowan Williams, “Multiculturalism: Friend or Foe?” (lecture at Toynbee Hall, London, 16 May 2007).
5. BBC News, “Call for U-turn on Faith Schools”, 22 November 2001 [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/1670704.stm].
6. Oonagh Blackman, “£5m for Council Staff to Watch Muslim Rebels”, Sunday Mirror (London), 6 January 2006.
7. Liz Fekete, “Anti-Muslim Racism and the European Security State”, Race & Class 46, no. 1 (July 2004), p. 25.
8. Christian Joppke, “How Immigration Is Changing Citizenship: A Comparative View”, Ethnic and Racial Studies 22, no. 4 (July 1999), p. 642. Note that, pace Joppke, the Race Relations Act does not allow positive discrimination or affirmative action. An employer cannot try to change the balance of the workforce by selecting someone mainly because she or he is from a particular racial group. This would be discrimination on racial grounds, and therefore unlawful. What in the United States is called “affirmative action” goes well beyond what is lawful in Britain.
9. See Gurharpal Singh, “British Multiculturalism and Sikhs”, Sikh Formations 1, no. 2 (December 2005), p. 170.
10. Lord Swann, Education for All? The Report of the Inquiry into the Education of Pupils of Children from Ethnic Minority Groups (London: HMSO, 1985), p. 36.
11. David Blunket, “Respect for All”, Connections, summer 2001, p. 3.
12. “Turban or not Turban—That Is the Question”, Liverpool Law Review 5, no. 1 (March 1983), p. 83.
13. Ruling of South London Industrial Tribunal, quoted in Kuljeet S. Dobe and Sukhwinder S. Chhokar, “Muslims, Ethnicity and the Law”, International Journal of Discrimination and the Law 4 (2000), p. 382.
14. Maurice Chittenden, “Blackadder Fights Law That Could Catch Out Comedians”, Sunday Times (London), 5 December 2004.
15. Joan Smith, “Why Should I Be Jailed for Attacking Religion?”, Independent (London), 8 December 2004.
16. Matthew Parris, “Mockery, Calumny and Scorn: These Are the Weapons to Fight Zealots”, Times (London), 11 December, 2004.
17. Polly Toynbee, “My Right to Offend a Fool: Race and Religion Are Different—Which Is Why Islamophobia Is a Nonsense and Religious Hatred Must Not Be Outlawed”, Guardian (London), 10 June 2005.
18. Tony Blair, “The Duty to Integrate: Shared British Values” (“Our Nation’s Future” lecture, Downing Street, London, 8 December 2006).
19. John Denham, Building Cohesive Communities: A Report of the Ministerial Group on Public Order and Community Cohesion (London: HMSO, 2002), p. 20.
20. Commission on Integration and Cohesion, Our Shared Future: Themes, Messages and Challenges: A Final Analysis of the Key Themes from the Commission on Integration and Cohesion Consultation (London: HMSO, 2007), p. 5.
21. Anthony Giddens, “Misunderstanding Multiculturalism”, Guardian (London), 14 October 2006.
22. Anthony Giddens, Over to You, Mr Brown (London: Polity, 2007), p. 155.
23. Paul Statham, “The Need to Take Religion Seriously for Understanding Multicultural Controversies: Institutional Channelling versus Cultural Identification?”, in Dialogues in Migration Policy, ed. Marco Giugni and Florence Passy (Lanham, Md.: Lexington Books, 2005), pp. 164–5.
24. Paul Gilroy, Small Acts: Thoughts on the Politics of Black Cultures (London: Serpent’s Tail, 1993), p. 94.
25. Paul Gilroy, After Empire: Multiculture or Postcolonial Melancholia? (London: Routledge, 2004), p. xi.
26. Bhikhu Parekh, Rethinking Multiculturalism: Cultural Diversity and Political Theory (London: Macmillan, 2000), p. 6.
27. Kenan Malik, “The Crisis of Multiculturalism: British Society between Diversity and Integration”, Jewish Policy Research News, winter 2006/7, p. 3.
28. Kenan Malik, “Thinking outside the Box”, Catalyst, January–February 2007, p. 9.
29. Tariq Modood, “Muslims and the Politics of Difference”, Political Quarterly 74, no. s1 (August 2003), p. 100.
30. Paul Statham, “New Conflicts about Integration and Cultural Diversity in Britain: The Muslim Challenge to Race Relations”, in The Challenge of Diversity: European Social Democracy Facing Migration, Integration, and Multiculturalism, ed. René Cuperus, Karl A. Duffek, and Johannes Kandel (Innsbruck: Studienverlag, 2003), p. 145.