Learn more about Multiculturalism

Jump to: navigation, search
The neutrality of this article is disputed.
Please see the discussion on the talk page.

Multiculturalism is an ideology advocating that society should consist of, or at least allow and include, distinct cultural groups, with equal status. Multiculturalism contrasts with the monoculturalism which was historically the norm in the European nation-state. (Monoculturalism implies a normative cultural unity, 'monocultural' can be a descriptive term for pre-existing homogeneity). The term multiculturalism is almost always applied to distinct cultures of immigrant groups in developed countries, not to the presence of indigenous peoples.

Multiculturalism began as an official policy in English-speaking countries, starting in Canada in 1971.[citation needed] It was quickly adopted by most member-states in the European Union, as official policy, and as a social consensus among the elite.[citation needed] In recent years, several European states, notably the Netherlands and Denmark, right-of-centre governments have reversed the national policy consensus, and returned to an official monoculturalism.[citation needed] A similar reversal is the subject of debate in the United Kingdom and Germany, among others.

Multiculturalism has its supporters and critics alike. Its supporters often see it as a self-evident entitlement of cultural groups, as a form of civil rights grounded in equality of cultures. They often assume it will lead to interculturalism - beneficial cultural exchanges, where cultures learn about each other's literature, art and philosophy (high culture), and influence each other's music, fashion and cuisine. Its opponents often see it as something which has been imposed on them without their consent. They fear it will lead to cultural ghettos, undermining national unity. In Europe especially, opponents see multiculturalism as a direct assault on the national identity, and on the nation itself, and sometimes as a conspiracy to Islamise Europe.


[edit] Before multiculturalism

It may be an anachronism to speak of multiculturalism in historical societies which did not use the term, especially before modernity. The degree of cultural homogeneity in past societies also depends on their size: smaller groups are more likely to show cultural unity. However, it is clear that in the past large states, especially empires, lacked the cultural unity of modern nation-states, and lacked the means to create it.

[edit] Europe: the monocultural nation-state

Especially in the 19th century, the ideology of nationalism transformed the way Europeans thought about the state. Existing states were broken up and new ones created: in the associated wars, millions of people died. The new nation-states were founded on the principle that each nation is entitled to its own sovereign state, to reflect, facilitate, and protect its own unique culture and history. Unity, under this ideology, is seen as an essential feature of the nation and the nation-state - unity of descent, unity of culture, unity of language, and often unity of religion. The nation-state implies a culturally homogeneous society, although some national movements recognised regional differences. None of them, however, accepted "foreign" elements in culture and society. The older multilingual and multi-ethnic empires, such as the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Ottoman Empire were derided as oppressive, and most Europeans no longer accept that such a state can be legitimate. British political thought was slower in accepting the implications of the concept of the nation-state.

Where the cultural unity was insufficient, it was encouraged (and enforced) by the state. The 19th-century nation-states developed an array of policies: the most important was compulsory primary education in the national language. The language itself was often standardised by a linguistic academy, and regional languages were ignored or suppressed. Some nation-states pursued violent and oppressive policies of cultural assimilation, not to mention ethnic cleansing.

The end result of this process, combined with the persecutions, mass murders, and expulsions in two World Wars, was that Europe in the 1950's was a continent of relatively homogeneous nation-states. The economic boom of the 1950s created a demand for labour migration, beginning a process which would alter those societies. The full impact was not realized for decades, partly because of the fiction of the Gastarbeiter - the immigrants were assumed to be temporary migrants, who would return to their home country. The introduction of multiculturalism in western Europe coincided with the recognition that the nation-state had acquired new, permanent, minorities.

[edit] United States

In the United States, continuous mass immigration had been a feature of economy and society since the first half of the 19th century. There was no fiction that the immigrants would return: immigration was seen as a permanent choice for a new country. The absorption of the stream of immigrants became, in itself, a prominent feature of the national mythos, along with the expansion westwards. The central metaphor is the idea of the Melting Pot - where all the immigrant cultures are mixed and amalgamated without state intervention. The Melting Pot implied that each individual immigrant, and each group of immigrants, assimilated into American society at their own pace, improving their income and social status on the way. It reflected and influenced official policy: although language courses were offered, they were rarely compulsory. As a result, several immigrant communities maintained a non-English language for generations. The nature of American national identity, with its emphasis on symbolic patriotism, allegiance, national values and a national mythos, facilitated the assimilation of immigrants. The Melting Pot attitude did not require a detailed knowledge of American history, acquisition of a complex cultural heritage, or accent-free English. It allowed interest in the culture of the country of origin, and family ties with that country. In practice, the original culture disappeared within two generations. An Americanized (and often stereotypical) version of the original nation's cuisine, and its holidays, survived.

The Melting Pot concept has been criticized, as an idealized version of the assimilation process. One common criticism is that it apparently did not apply to English-speaking, US-born black people, who stayed at the bottom of the social ladder from the American Civil War on. Another criticism is that the Melting Pot model described the assimilation of immigrants from Europe, rather than the assimilation of any immigrant. The growth in the use of the Spanish language - the model implies it would decline - has led to calls for state-enforced language policy similar to those in Europe. More recently, some have argued that "the Melting Pot" leads to an erosion of groups individual heritage and have argued that the USA is better described as "a tossed salad", with each group intermingling with all, but maintaining their separate identity.

Note that the Melting Pot tradition co-exists with a belief in national unity, dating from the American founding fathers:

"Providence has been pleased to give this one connected country to one united people — a people descended from the same ancestors, speaking the same language, professing the same religion, attached to the same principles of government, very similar in their manners and customs... This country and this people seem to have been made for each other, and it appears as if it was the design of Providence, that an inheritance so proper and convenient for a band of brethren, united to each other by the strongest ties, should never be split into a number of unsocial, jealous, and alien sovereignties." (John Jay, First American Supreme Court Chief Justice).

[edit] Australia: ethnic selection

Although its inhabitants are mainly immigrant-descended, Australia also has a long tradition of opposition to immigration (see nativism). The earliest immigrants were from the United Kingdom, after 1800 including Ireland, and some subsequent immigrants seemed more "foreign". Proposals to limit immigration by ethnic group were intended to pre-select the immigrant population. The White Australia policy, which in various forms lasted 150 years, was the most comprehensive policy of this type in the world. Such policies limit the cultural diversity of the immigrant population, and in theory facilitate the cultural assimilation of the immigrants, since they would come from related cultures. They can co-exist either with a Melting Pot strategy, or an official assimilation policy.

[edit] Adoption as policy

Multiculturalism was adopted as official policy, in several nations from the 1970s onward, for reasons that varied from country to country.

[edit] Origins in Canada

Image:CANADA Sikh Stamp.jpg
Sikh Khanda on stamp issued By Canada Post in November 2000

In Canada, multiculturalism was adopted in 1971, following the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism, a government body set up in response to the grievances of Canada's French-speaking minority (concentrated in the Province of Quebec). The report of the Commission advocated that the Canadian government should recognize Canada as a bilingual and bicultural society and adopt policies to preserve this character. Biculturalism was attacked from many directions.

Progressive Conservative Party leader John Diefenbaker saw multiculturalism as an attack on his vision of "unhyphenated Canadianism. It did not satisfy the growing number of young francophones who gravitated towards Quebec nationalism. While many Canadians disliked the new policies of biculturalism and official bilingualism, the strongest opposition came from Canadians of neither English nor French descent, the so-called "Third Force" Canadians. Biculturalism did not accord with local realities in the western provinces, where the French population was tiny compared to other cultural minorities. To accommodate them, the formula was changed from "bilingualism and biculturalism" to "bilingualism and multiculturalism."

The Liberal Party government of Pierre Trudeau promulgated the "Announcement of Implementation of Policy of Multiculturalism within Bilingual Framework" in the House of Commons on 8 October 1971, the precursor of the Canadian Multiculturalism Act which received Royal Assent on 21 July 1988. Symbolically, this legislation affirmed that Canada was a multicultural nation, the first country in the world to explicitly ratify it in law. On a more practical level, federal funds began to be distributed to ethnic groups to help them preserve their cultures. Projects typically funded included folk dancing competitions and the construction of ethnic-oriented community centres. This led to criticisms that the policy was actually motivated by electoral considerations rather than Trudeau's vision of a Just Society. After its election in 1984, the Progressive Conservative government of Brian Mulroney did not reverse these policies, although they had earlier been criticised by Tories as inconsistent with "unhyphenated Canadianism."

Far from pleading multiculturalism's neutrality in matters of national unity, successive Canadian governments have argued that the policy promotes the national interest by breaking down social and cultural barriers. Rather than weakening the national character, or presenting a slippery slope whereby all groups may appeal for separate (read special) treatment based on every imaginable difference, the policy is viewed as strengthening national identity by binding citizens to a single moral community. The policy was added to Canada's 1982 constitution, in section 27 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Diane Ravitch describes both the melting pot and Canada's cultural mosaic as being multicultural and distinguishes them as pluralistic and particularist multiculturalism. Pluralistic multiculturalism views each culture or subculture in a society as contributing unique and valuable cultural aspects to the whole culture. Particularist multiculturalism is more concerned with preserving the distinctions between cultures.

[edit] Australia

The other country to have most fully adopted Canadian-style multiculturalism is Australia, with many similar policies, for example the formation of the Special Broadcasting Service. While Paul Keating's Labor Government was an advocate of multiculturalism in the early 1990s, the current Prime Minister of Australia, John Howard himself is a critic of multiculturalism, preferring instead a "shared national identity". Newspaper columists such as Andrew Bolt have called for a National policy of Assimilation.

[edit] Sweden

Officially undertook a multiculturalist policy in 1975.

[edit] United States

In the United States multiculturalism is not an official policy at the federal level. At the state level, it is sometimes associated with English-Spanish bilingualism. However, the government, in recent years, has moved to support many multiculturalist policies. In some ways, the United States has gone even further than Canada and Australia with such policies. For instance, California drivers can take their exams in a number of languages, and voting districts are shaped to facilitate proportional minority representation in government.[citation needed]

[edit] United Kingdom

Under the Conservatives (1979-1997), multicultural rhetoric and policies were confined to left-leaning councils. Since the election of the Labour government in 1997, multiculturalism has influenced government policies and statements. Precursors of present policy include the Race Relations Act, and the British Nationality Act of 1948.

[edit] Typical multicultural policies

Government multicultural policies can include:

  • recognition of multiple citizenship (the multiple citizenship itself usually results from the nationality laws of another country)
  • government support for newspapers, television, and radio in minority languages
  • support for minority festivals, holidays, and celebrations
  • acceptance of traditional and religious dress in schools, the military, and society in general
  • support for music and arts from minority cultures
  • programs to encourage minority representation in politics, education, and the work force

While multiculturalist policies are sometimes seen as opposing cultural assimilation, the policies of countries such as Canada do support structural assimilation. Immigrant groups are encouraged to participate in the larger society, learn the majority languages, and enter the labour force.

[edit] Non-western policies

Multiculturalism, as generally understood, refers to ideology and policy in western nation-states, which previously had an uncontested national identity. Many nation-states in Africa, Asia, and Latin America are culturally diverse, and are 'multi-cultural' in a descriptive sense. In some, communalism is a major political issue. The policies adopted by these states often have parallels with multicultural-ist policies in the Western world, but the historical background is different, and the goal may be a monocultural or mono-ethnic nation-building - for instance in the Malaysian governments attempt to create a 'Malaysian race' by 2020. <ref>The Economist: The changing of the guard, April 3rd 2003, [1]</ref>

[edit] Malaysia

The Malay Peninsula has a long history of international trade contacts, influencing its ethnic and religious composition. Predominantly Malays before the 18th century, the ethnic composition changed dramatically when the British introduced new industries, and imported Chinese and Indian labour. Several regions in the then British Malaya such as Penang, Malacca and Singapore became Chinese dominated. Co-existence between the three ethnicities (and other minor groups) was largely peaceful, despite the fact the immigration affected the demographic and cultural position of the Malays.

Preceding independence of the Federation of Malaya, a social contract was negotiated as the basis of a new society. The contract as reflected in the 1957 Malayan Constitution and the 1963 Malaysian Constitution states that the immigrant groups are granted citizenship, and Malays' special rights are guaranteed. This is often referred to the Bumiputra policy.

The formation of Malaysia itself was burdened with the 'mathematics of race'. The then Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman would only accept Singapore as a member of the federation if Sarawak and North Borneo were admitted too. The Prime Minister's rationale was that the inclusion of Singapore into a new federation would make the Chinese the new majority power, at the expense of the Malays. Inclusion of the Borneo states, on the other hand, would maintain a Malay majority.

Image:May 13 aftermath.jpg
The May 13 Incident saw numerous cases of arson in the Malaysian capital city of Kuala Lumpur.

Ethnic tensions followed the formation of Malaysia in 1963. Singapore, under the leadership of People's Action Party, and the federal government led by a coalition chaired by the United Malays National Organisation, had frequent disputes about the social contract. Tension between Malays and Chinese contributed to the 1964 Race Riots in Singapore. This riot in turn partly contributed to the expulsion of Singapore from Malaysia. At the same time, Malaysia was experiencing a communist insurgency known as the Malayan Emergency. The conflict could be seen as between the Chinese-dominated Communist Party of Malaya and the British-backed Malay-dominated government.<ref>1,200,000 New Citizens. Time Magazine. October 6, 1952.</ref>

The worst race riot — the May 13 Incident — occurred in 1969, again between Chinese and Malays. This led to the introduction of the New Economic Policy which aimed to reduce economic disparities between the ethnic groups. It also introduced policies such as the Rukunegara to encourage unity among all ethnic groups in Malaysia, and promoted syncretic festivals such as DeepaRaya and Kongsi Raya. In education, the national education policies included vernacular education. Malaysia is the only country outside of China that has a Chinese education system. <ref>Tan Pek Leng. Asiaweek. Keeping the Dream Alive. Extracted November 28 2006</ref>

These pluralist policies have come under pressure from orthodox Muslims and Islamist parties, who oppose secular and non-Islamic religious influences. The issue is related to the controversial status of religious freedom in Malaysia.

[edit] Developing opposition to multiculturalism

In the United States especially, multiculturalism became associated with political correctness and with the rise of ethnic identity politics. In the 1980's and 1990's many criticisms were expressed, from both the left and right, although predominantly from the right wing. Criticisms come from a wide variety of perspectives, but predominantly from the perspective of liberal individualism, from American conservatives concerned about values, and from a national unity perspective.

An early critic of multiculturalism was Ayn Rand, who feared the worldwide ethnic revival of the late 1960s would lead to an ethnic Balkanization destructive to modern industrial societies. She considered multiculturalism and monoculturalism to be culturally determinist collectivism (in the sense that individual human beings have no free choice in how they act and are conditioned irreversibly by society). Philosophically, Rand rejected this form of collectivism on the grounds that it undermines the concept of free will, arguing that the human mind is a tabula rasa at birth.

The liberal-feminist critique is related to the liberal and libertarian critique, since it is concerned with what happens inside the cultural groups. In her 1999 essay, later expanded into an anthology, "Is Multiculturalism Bad for Women?" the feminist and political theorist Susan Okin argues that a concern for the preservation of cultural diversity should not overshadow the discriminatory nature of gender roles in many traditional minority cultures, that, at the very least, "culture" should not be used as an excuse for rolling back the women's rights movement.

A prominent criticism in the US, later echoed in Europe, was that multiculturalism undermined national unity, hindered social integration and cultural assimilation, and led to the fragmentation of society into several ethnic factions - Balkanization.

In 1998, Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., a former advisor to the Kennedy and other US administrations and Pulitzer Prize winner, published a book with the title The Disuniting of America: Reflections on a Multicultural Society.<ref> Schlesinger, Jr. Arthur M., "The Disuniting of America: Reflections on a Multicultural Society", 1998, W. W. Norton & Company</ref> Schlesinger states that a new attitude - one that celebrates difference and abandons assimilation - may replace the classic image of the melting pot, in which differences are submerged in democracy. He argues that ethnic awareness has had many positive consequences to unite a nation with a "history of prejudice"; however, the "cult of ethnicity", if pushed too far, may endanger the unity of society.

In the United States, the cultural relativism implicit in multiculturalism attracted criticism. Often that was combined with an explicit preference for western Enlightenment values as universal values. In his 1991 work, Illiberal Education, Dinesh D'Souza argues that the entrenchment of multiculturalism in American universities undermined the universalist values that liberal education once attempted to foster. In particular, he was disturbed by the growth of ethnic studies programs (e.g., Black Studies).

Conservatives - in the US, largely Christian conservatives - tend to see multiculturalism as an attack on America's traditional Christian culture. They may attribute the introduction of multiculturalism to the civil rights movement and the 1965 Immigration Act or the (Hart-Celler Act).

Criticism of multiculturalism in the US was not always synonymous with opposition to immigration. Some politicians did address both themes, notably Pat Buchanan, who in 1993 described multiculturalism as "an across-the-board assault on our Anglo-American heritage.":

"The question we Americans need to address, before it is answered for us, is: Does this First World nation wish to become a Third World country? Because that is our destiny if we do not build a sea wall against the waves of immigration rolling over our shores....Who speaks for the Euro-Americans, who founded the USA?...Is it not time to take America back?"

A recent critic of multiculturalism is the political theorist Brian Barry. In his 2002 book Culture and Equality: An Egalitarian Critique of Multiculturalism, he argues that some forms of multiculturalism can divide people, although they need to unite in order to fight for social justice.

Anti-racists of a Marxist theoretical perspective view white supremacy as an internalized form of imperialism— that is, exploitation of other races for the accumulation of capital in the homeland. When racism is thus analysed as a problem of political economy, the logical response is to tear down its structural foundations—that is, imperialism. Multiculturalism stands in the way of such agenda, because it implies that the grounds for racism in society are not economic, but cultural or ideological.

[edit] Canada

Approximately 20% of today's Canadian citizens were born outside Canada, the highest immigration rate of any G8 country. Recent immigrants are largely concentrated in the cities of Vancouver, Montreal and Toronto, which have high population growth due to this concentrated immigration. In Canada, the most noted critics of multiculturalism are Kenneth McRoberts, Neil Bissoondath, and Daniel Stoffman.

As a young man, McRoberts worked for the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism, and his career as a political scientist has roughly coincided with the policy of multiculturalism. While some argue that the shift in official discourse from biculturalism to multiculturalism has had a neutral effect on relations between Quebec and the rest of Canada, McRoberts believes that it was disastrous for Canadian nationalism, as it offended Québecois and their dualistic vision of Canada as a bilingual and bicultural society.

To many French Canadians, multiculturalism threatened to reduce them to just another ethnic group. Of all Canadian provinces, Quebec has been the least supportive of multiculturalism, due in part to a widespread view that multiculturalism was implemented at the federal level to dilute the "two founding peoples" philosophy which had preceded it, thereby diminishing the place of the province's French majority within Canada, and due in part to Quebec's policy internally of welcoming people of all origins but insisting that they assimilate into Quebec's French-speaking society. Recently, however, the more assimilationist aspects of this policy have been tempered with a recognition that Quebec is a de facto pluralist society and an understanding of pluralism as a feature of modern Quebec society or any other society that welcomes immigrants. The Quebec government has therefore adopted a form of multiculturalism termed an "interculturalism policy."

This policy seeks to integrate immigrants into the mainstream French-speaking society of Quebec on the basis of French, the language of the majority, as the common public language of all Québécois; all citizens are in this way held to be invited to participate in a common civic culture. Interculturalism is in this way consistent with the Quebec government's view of itself as the "national" government for all Québécois, because interculturalism is viewed as less threatening than multiculturalism, to the idea of Quebec's population as a single and distinct nation. Whether as a first, second, or third language, French becomes the instrument which allows the socialization of Québécois of all origins and forces interaction between them.

In his Selling Illusions: The Cult of Multiculturalism in Canada, the Trinidad and Tobago-born Bissoondath argues that official multiculturalism limits the freedom of minority members, by confining them to cultural and geographic ghettos. He also argues that cultures are very complex, and must be transmitted through close family and kin relations. To him, the government view of cultures as being about festivals and cuisine is a crude oversimplification that leads to easy stereotyping.

Daniel Stoffman's Who Gets In raises serious questions about the policy of Canadian multiculturalism. Stoffman points out that many cultural practices, such as allowing dog meat to be served in restaurants and street cockfighting, are simply incompatible with Canadian and Western culture. He also raises concern about the number of recent immigrants who are not being linguistically integrated into Canada (i.e., not learning either English or French). He stresses that multiculturalism works better in theory than in practice.

[edit] Opposition in Australia

The response to multiculturalism in Australia has been extremely varied, with a recent wave of criticism against it in the past decade. An anti-immigration party, the One Nation Party, was formed by Pauline Hanson in the late 1990s. It enjoyed significant electoral success for a while, but is now electorally marginalized. Other minor parties that oppose multiculturalism are Australia First and the Australian Worker's Party.

[edit] Islam, Europe and multiculturalism

From the 1990s, especially in Europe, the debate on multiculturalism began to focus on Islam and its status in the Western World. In several European countries, the majority of immigrants are from Islamic countries - Algeria, Morocco and Turkey. Although not all of them are Muslims, their religion became a powerful symbol of their essential difference from the surrounding national community. (In Europe, only Bosnia, Albania and European Turkey have a substantial indigenous Muslim population). The perceived status of the immigrant minorities shifted - the 'Turkish immigrants' became the 'Muslim immigrants'. Conversely, the construction of mosques, and the increased adoption of the Islamic headscarf and in a few cases the burqa, made Muslims a distinctly visible minority. The examples cited by opponents of multiculturalism to show what they considered unacceptable, were increasingly Islam-related - female genital cutting and honour killings, for instance. (Many Muslims dispute that these practices have anything to do with Islam). The opponents began to appeal to a Clash of Civilisations perspective, seeing Islam as incompatible with democracy and western culture. The emergence of Islamist terrorism confirmed, in their eyes, the dangers of multiculturalism and immigration from Muslim countries. Pim Fortuyn, for instance, proposed a specific ban on 'Islamic' immigration. And although strictly speaking it is not a multiculturalism or immigration issue, the possible accession of Turkey to the European Union became a contentious issue there.

In the United States, where most immigrants are not Muslims, Islam did not dominate the multiculturalism issue to the same extent. However, in Canada, the possible introduction of sharia family courts became a contentious issue, and received much media attention.<ref>Will Canada introduce Sharia law? BBC, 26 August 2004. [2] Richard Fidler, 2006. Ontario's "Sharia Law" Controversy: How Muslims Were Hung Out to Dry. [3]</ref>

[edit] Reaction against multiculturalism in Europe

From the late 1990s multiculturalism came under sustained intellectual attack in Western Europe, again largely, but not exclusively, from the political right. The reaction was more vehement than in North America, since it was associated with several other factors - the return of explicit nationalism as a political force, the revival of national identity, the rise of Euroscepticism, and concerns about Islam in Europe. (The September 11 attacks in 2001 exacerbated the tensions around Muslim immigration, but they existed already). The period saw the rise of anti-immigrant populism in Europe, which was uniformly, and often fanatically, hostile to multiculturalism. The debate became increasingly polarised, and increasingly associated with Islam and terrorism. The multiculturalism issue merged with the immigration policy issue. The most extreme rejection of multiculturalism comes from supporters of the Eurabia concept (see Bat Yeor). For them, Islam is a political movement comparable to fascism, which is attempting to seize control of Europe, and to destroy its civilisation. Their hostility to multiculturalism is often combined with militant euroscepticism, as in this essay by blogger Fjordman:

The EU must die, or Europe will die. It’s that simple. Bat Ye’or in her book Eurabia: The Euro-Arab Axis is right in pointing out that ordinary Europeans have never voted for this merger with the Islamic world through massive Muslim immigration and Multiculturalism. This is closely tied to the rise of the European Union, which has transferred power away from the people and the democratic process to behind-the-scenes deals made by corrupt, Eurabian officials and bureaucrats. ... The creation of Eurabia is the greatest act of treason in the history of Western civilization for two thousand years, ... they are creating a civilizational breakdown across much of Western Europe as the barbarians are overrunning the continent.<ref>Posted at weblog Gates of Vienna [4]</ref>

[edit] The Netherlands

In the 1950s, the Netherlands was generally a mono-ethnic and monocultural society: it was not monolingual, but almost everyone could speak standard Dutch. Its inhabitants shared a classic national identity, with a national mythos emphasising the Dutch Golden Age, and national heroes such as Admiral Michiel de Ruyter. Major immigration in the form of labour migration began in the 1960s, and accelerated in the 1970s, with Morocco and Turkey as the main origin countries. From the 1970s, multiculturalism was a consensus ideology among the 'political class', and determined official policy. The principle was expressed in the phrase "Integratie met behoud van eigen taal en cultuur", that is, social integration while retaining the language and culture of the immigrant groups. Immigrants were treated as members of a monolithic cultural bloc, on the basis of nationality - their religion only became an issue in the 1990s. These communities were addressed by the Dutch government, in what it considered to be their own languages - Arabic for Moroccan immigrants, even though many of them did not speak it. Opposition to the consensus was politically marginal. The anti-immigration Centrumpartij had occasional electoral successes, but its leader Hans Janmaat was ostracised, and fined for his strident opposition to multiculturalism.

The elite consensus on multiculturalism co-existed with widespread aversion to immigration, and an ethnic definition of the Dutch nation. Dutch nationalism, and support for a traditional national identity, never disappeared, but were not visible. When these factors re-entered political debate in the late 1990s, they contributed to the collapse of the consensus. The Netherlands has now attracted international attention for the extent to which it reversed its previous multiculturalist policies, and its policies on cultural assimilation have been described as the toughest in Europe. <ref>Economist: Islam in Europe: Hostility at home [5]; IHT: Dutch virtue of tolerance under strain [6]; IHT: The Dutch redefine tolerance [7]; Al-Ahram: How Holland lost its innocence [8]; PBS: A test of tolerance: Muslim immigrants in the Netherlands [9]</ref>

The multicultural policy consensus regarded the presence of immigrant cultural communities as non-problematic, or beneficial. Immigration was not subject to limits on cultural grounds: in practice, the immigration rate was determined by demand for unskilled labour, and later by migration of family members. Gross non-Western immigration was about three million, but many of these later returned. [10] Net immigration, and the higher birth rate of the immigrant communities, have transformed the Netherlands since the 1950s. Although the majority are still ethnic Dutch, in 2006 one fifth of the population was of non-Dutch ethnicity, about half of which were of non-western origin [11]. Immigration transformed Dutch cities especially: in Amsterdam, 55% of young people are of non-western origin (mainly Turkish and Moroccan). [12]. For opponents of multiculturalism and immigration, this is unacceptable and wrong. At the end of the 1990s, their opposition became more structured.

[edit] Intellectual critique

In 1999, the legal philosopher Paul Cliteur attacked multiculturalism in his book 'The Philosophy of Human Rights'<ref> Paul Cliteur. De filosofie van mensenrechten. Nijmegen 1999.</ref> Cliteur rejects all political correctness on the issue: western culture, the Rechtsstaat (rule of law), and human rights are superior to non-western culture and values. They are the product of the Enlightenment: Cliteur sees non-western cultures not as different, but as backward. He sees multiculturalism primarily as an unacceptable ideology of cultural relativism, which would lead to acceptance of barbaric practices, including those brought to the Western World by immigrants. Cliteur lists infanticide, torture, slavery, oppression of women, homophobia, racism, anti-Semitism, gangs, female circumcision, discrimination by immigrants, suttee, and the death penalty. Cliteur compares multiculturalism to the moral acceptance of Auschwitz, Stalin, Pol Pot and the Ku Klux Klan.

Cliteur's 1999 work is indicative of the polemic tone of the debate, in the following years. Most of the 'immigrant barbarities' which he names, are regularly cited by opponents of multiculturalism, sometimes as a reductio ad absurdum, but also as factual practices of immigrants in the Netherlands.

In 2000, Paul Scheffer - a member of the PvdA (Labour Party) and subsequently a professor of urban studies - published 'The multicultural drama',<ref>Online at NRC, see [13]. An English translation is available at [14]</ref> an essay critical of both immigration and multiculturalism. Scheffer is a committed supporter of the nation-state, and his starting point is that homogeneity and integration are necessary for a society: the presence of immigrants undermines this. A society does have an 'absorptive capacity' for those from other cultures, he says, but this has been exceeded in the Netherlands. Specifically:

  • a huge influx of people from diverse cultural backgrounds, in combination with multiculturalism, resulted in spontaneous ethnic segregation.
  • the Netherlands must take its own language, culture, and history seriously, and immigrants must learn this language, culture, and history.
  • multiculturalism and immigration led to adaptation problems such as school drop-out, unemployment, and high crime rates.
  • a society which does not respect itself (its Dutch national identity) also has no value for immigrants
  • multicultural policy ignored Dutch language acquisition, which should be a priority in education.
  • Islam has not yet reformed itself, and does not accept the separation of church and state. Some Muslims did not accept the law in Amsterdam because its mayor was Jewish.
  • immigrants must always lose their own culture - that is the price of immigration, a "brutal bargain" (quote from Norman Podhoretz)

Scheffer approvingly quoted the sociologist J.A.A. van Doorn, that the presence of immigrants in the Netherlands had "put the clock back" by 100 or 150 years. The high immigration rate, and the lack of 'integration' threatened society, and must be stopped. His essay had a great impact, and led to what became known as the 'integration debate'. As in the essay, this was not simply about multiculturalism, but about immigration, Islam, the national identity, and national unity.

In 2002, the legal scholar Afshin Ellian - a refugee from Iran - advocated a monocultural Rechtsstaat in the Netherlands.<ref>Afshin Ellian. 'Leve de monoculturele Rechtsstaat' in NRC, 30 November 2002.</ref> A liberal democracy cannot be multicultural, he argued, because multiculturalism is an ideology and a democracy has no official ideology. What is more, according to Ellian, a democracy must be monolingual. The Dutch language is the language of the constitution, and therefore it must be the only public language - all others must be limited to the private sphere. The Netherlands, he wrote, had been taken hostage by the left-wing multiculturalists, and their policy was in turn determined by the Islamic conservatives. Ellian complained that there were 800 000 Muslims in the country, with 450 mosques, and that the Netherlands had legalised the "feudal system of the Islamic Empire". Democracy and the rule of law could only be restored by abolishing multiculturalism.

[edit] Political reaction

The intellectual rejection of multiculturalism was accompanied by a political transformation, which led to the abandonment of official multiculturalism. It is often described in the Dutch media as a populist 'revolt' against the elite. The catalyst was Pim Fortuyn. He was a critic of multiculturalism, and especially of what he called the "Islamisation of the Netherlands", but succeeded primarily because of his charisma. Unlike the intellectual critics, who wrote for fellow members of the elite, Fortuyn mobilised millions of disillusioned (and occasionly xenophobic) voters. Overturning the political stability of the 1990's, Fortuyn came close to being prime minister of the Netherlands.<ref>Opinion poll prediction [15]</ref> When he was assassinated in May 2002, his supporters saw him as a national martyr in the struggle against multiculturalism, although he was in fact shot by an animal rights activist.

Following Fortuyn's death, open rejection of multiculturalism and immigration ceased to be taboo. To a large extent, open racism also ceased to be taboo: negative reactions to immigrants became the norm, for a section of the population. The new cabinet, under premier Jan-Peter Balkenende instituted a hard-line assimilation policy, enforced by fines and deportation, accompanied by far tighter controls on immigration and asylum. Many former supporters of multiculturalism shifted their position. In a 2006 manifesto "one country, one society",<ref>"Een land, een samenleving", online at [16]</ref> several of them launched an appeal for a homogeneous society.

The most prominent figure in the post-Fortuyn debate of the issue was Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Her first criticisms of multiculturalism paralleled those of the early liberal-feminist critics in the United States - the emphasis on group identity and group rights diminished individual liberty for those within the minorities, and especially for women. As time went on, her criticism was increasingly directed at Islam itself, and its incompatibility with democracy and western culture. By 2004 she was the most prominent critic of Islam in Europe. When she scripted a short film on Islamic oppression of women, featuring texts from the Quran on the naked bodies of women, its director Theo van Gogh was assassinated by an Islamist. Threatened with death and heavily guarded, she spent most of her time in the United States, and moved to Washington in 2006 to work for the American Enterprise Institute. In 2006 she also expressed support for the Eurabia thesis - that Europe is being fully Islamised, and that its non-Muslim inhabitants will be reduced to dhimmitude.<ref>Confrontatie, geen verzoening in De Volkskrant, 8 April 2006, online at [17]</ref>

[edit] Reaction in the United Kingdom

The United Kingdom has continuous high immigration rates, among the highest in the EU. Most of the immigrants of the last decades came from the Indian sub-continent or the Caribbean, in other words from the former colonies. Recently, the largest group of immigrants is from eastern Europe, especially from Poland.

In the UK, supporters of the Labour government's approach saw it as defending the rights of minorities to preserve their culture, while encouraging their participation as citizens — that is, integrating without assimilating. Critics say the policy fails on all accounts: if social conditions and racism become barriers to the integration of minorities, then multiculturalism does not properly function. There is now a lively debate in the UK over multiculturalism versus "social cohesion and inclusion." The current Labour government appears to favour the latter. In the wake of the July 7 Bombings 2005 (which left over 50 people dead) the opposition Conservative shadow home secretary called on the government to scrap its "outdated" policy of multiculturalism.

Prominent critics of multiculturalism include Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, Uganda-born author of After Multiculturalism, and one-time black activist Trevor Phillips the chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality. In 2006, Phillips was criticised by London mayor Ken Livingstone, who accused him of fuelling hostility towards ethnic minorities, by attacking the principle of multiculturalism. Livingstone accused Phillips of being so right-wing that he would 'soon be joining the British National Party'. <ref>Oberver, November 26, 2006: Livingstone declares war on race equality watchdog. [18]</ref>

In the May 2004 edition of Prospect Magazine, David Goodhart, the Editor, temporarily couched the debate on multiculturalism in terms of whether a modern welfare state and a "good society" is sustainable as its citizens are becoming increasingly diverse.[19] Open criticism of multiculturalism, given Prospect's pedigree and reputation, was thereafter firmly part of the mainstream. Since then events - such as the London bombings - have shifted the debate away from sustainability and cohesion, towards a focus on the uneasy bedfellows of free speech and security.

In November 2005 John Sentamu, the first member of an ethnic minority to be appointed as Archbishop of York stated, “Multiculturalism has seemed to imply, wrongly for me, let other cultures be allowed to express themselves but do not let the majority culture at all tell us its glories, its struggles, its joys, its pains.” [20]. Criticisms have been voiced by bishop Nazir Ali of Rochester.

In August 2006, the community and local government secretary Ruth Kelly made a speech, which some saw as signalling the end of multiculturalism as official policy.<ref> Ruth Kelly's speech on integration and cohesion, at [21]</ref>

[edit] Reactions in Germany

Multiculturalism was more controversial in Germany, and the policy consensus weaker, than in Britain and the Netherlands. (German history makes policy on minorities and national identity a delicate issue). However, the reaction against multiculturalism from the late 1990s was comparable. In Germany the national debate centred around the concept of Leitkultur or leading culture. Originally a form of multiculturalism proposed by the Orientalist Bassam Tibi (comparable to the 'constitutional patriotism' of Jürgen Habermas), the word Leitkultur quickly came to indicate cultural assimilation into German culture. It is widely used by opponents of multiculturalism, to indicate their alternative, a de facto monoculturalism.

[edit] Reactions in France

French political thought is generally reluctant to endorse multiculturalism, which it often identifies with communitarism, which is in turn perceived as in contradiction with French republican values. French official policy pursues integration (major public events such as football matches involving the French team, or the transfer to the Pantheon of the remains of the novelist Alexandre Dumas (fils), celebrate this aspect), and does not accord specific support to linguistic and cultural minorities as such, be they of French origin or from further afield. The multi-racial character of much of French urban society is an evidence and official policy is generally favourable to métissage. (Hence expressions such as beur, blanc, rouge.)

[edit] Post-multiculturalism in Europe

Following the collapse of the consensus on multiculturalism, several European Union countries have introduced policies for 'social cohesion', 'integration', and (sometimes) 'assimilation'. They are sometimes a direct reversal of earlier multiculturalist policies, and seek to assimilate immigrant minorities and restore a de facto monocultural society. They include restriction of immigration - assimilation and immigration law on new immigrants are no longer seen as separate issues. The policies include:

  • compulsory language courses in the national language, assessed by a compulsory language test - for immigrants, and in some cases for those of immigrant descent
  • compulsory courses and/or tests on national history, on the constitution and the legal system, see Life in the United Kingdom test
  • introduction of an official national history, such as the national canon defined for the Netherlands by the van Oostrom Commission,<ref>Official website [22]</ref> and promotion of that history, for instance by exhibitions about national heros
  • official campaigns to promote national unity, and individual identification with the nation - such as the campaign Du bist Deutschland [23] in Germany
  • official lists of national values, and tests of acceptance of these values
  • tests designed to elicit 'unacceptable' values, such as the "Muslim-test" in Germany. In Baden-Württemberg immigrants are asked what they would do, if their son says he is a homosexual. (The expected answer is that they would accept it).<ref>BBC report at [24], full list of questions in German at taz, [25]</ref>
  • restriction on spouses or children joining immigrants already in the country, and age and income restrictions on non-western marriage partners, sometimes with language tests for potential spouses, in their country of origin
  • official declarations - so far not laws - specifying that only the national language may be spoken in certain areas.
  • language prohibitions in schools, universities, and public buildings. Language bans have also been proposed for public transport and hospitals.
  • prohibitions on Islamic dress and especially the burqa.<ref>Netherlands moves toward total ban on Muslim veils, Guardian, November 11, 2006, [26]</ref>
  • introduction of an oath of allegiance or loyalty oath for immigrants, usually following naturalisation, and usually during a compulsory ceremony.

Some of the measures, especially those seeking to promote patriotic identification, have an element of kitsch. In the Netherlands, the naturalisation ceremony includes a gift symbolising national unity. In Gouda it is a candle in the national colours red-white-blue, in Amsterdam a Delftware potato with floral motives.<ref>Nieuwe Amsterdammer krijgt Delfts blauw bij naturalisatie, De Volkskrant, 24 August 2006. [27]</ref>

There are proposed measures, which go much further than these. They typically, but not always, come from right-wing parties and their supporters. Although implementation is not on the political agenda in any EU state, the proposals illustrate the 'post-multicultural' climate: a loyalty oath for all citizens, legal prohibition of public use of a foreign language, cessation of all immigration, withdrawal from the European Union, a compulsory (non-military) national service,<ref>Pim Fortuyn in 'De puinhopen van acht jaar Paars', see 'Politiek worstelt al jaren met lastige jongeren' [28]</ref> a ban on the construction of mosques,<ref>Geert Wilders, parliamentary question, in Dutch: [29]. Also policy of the Party for the Netherlands of Hilbrand Nawijn [30].</ref> closure of all Islamic schools,<ref>Policy of the Party for the Netherlands of Hilbrand Nawijn [31].</ref> or a complete ban on Islam.<ref>Right-wing politicians want to ban Islam. [32] Ban Islam manifesto at Le devoir de précaution [33]</ref>

[edit] Polarisation

Although these policies often have the stated aim of increasing national unity, one result has been an increased polarisation.<ref>"All the recent evidence shows that we are, as a society, becoming more socially polarised by race and faith. ". (Trevor Phillips). Guardian, October 23, 2006: Muslim veil debate could start riots, warns Phillips [34]</ref> With the disappearance of former taboos, open criticism of the culture and values of specific minorities became common. Muslims in Britain or the Netherlands hear that their culture is backward, that western culture is superior, and that they have a duty to adopt it. In turn, overly-defensive reactions<ref>Foreign Policy Centre. 'Born in the UK: Young Muslims in Britain', PDF file online at [35]</ref> include an increased self-identification as 'Muslims', and adoption of Islamic dress by women and 'Islamic' beards by men. Part of the Muslim minority is now alienated and hostile to the society they live in, and sympathetic to terrorism.<ref>BBC: Bin Laden is seen as a hero [36]</ref> In Amsterdam's secondary schools, about half the Moroccan minority does not identify with the Netherlands: they see their identity as 'Muslim', and regularly express anti-western views.<ref>City of Amsterdam policy document, February 2006. Wij Amsterdammers II: investeren in mensen en grenzen.</ref> In turn society is increasingly hostile to Muslims: a survey showed that 18% in Britain think that "a large proportion of British Muslims feel no sense of loyalty to this country and are prepared to condone or even carry out acts of terrorism".<ref>Daily Telegraph. Islam poses a threat to the West, say 53pc in poll. 25 August 2006. [37]</ref> A TNS/Global poll showed that 79% in Britain would feel "uncomfortable living next to a Muslim".<ref>Daily Star, 8 September 2006, quoted at Islamophobia Watch [38]</ref> A major attitude survey of teenagers in Flanders showed that 75% refuse to have a relationship with a black person, a Muslim, or an immigrant. Half want all immigration stopped, and 41% say they distrust anyone from another ethnic background.<ref>Meeste Vlaamse jongeren afkerig van buitenlanders, Trouw, 2 October 2006. [39]</ref>

The rejection of the multicultural consensus in Europe included the revival of a traditional national identity, often defined by ethnicity. Paradoxically, that excludes not only first-generation immigrants, but their identifiable descendants, from full membership of the nation. New terms for minorities of immigrant descent have come into use: the (originally geological) term allochtoon in Belgium and the Netherlands, and 'nichtdeutsche Herkunft' or 'ndH' in Germany ('non-German origin'). Both are applied regardless of citizenship. The renewed emphasis on historical culture places higher demands on cultural assimilation. Immigrants must learn to identify and describe culture heros and historical figures such as Isambard Kingdom Brunel and William of Orange.<ref>Both came second, in polls to find the Greatest Briton and the Greatest Netherlander. Winston Churchill beat Brunel, and Pim Fortuyn beat William of Orange. BBC reports [40] and [41].</ref> The adoption of semi-official 'national values' may occasionally undermine the national unity, which it is supposed to promote. For instance, the 'Muslim test' in Baden-Württemberg implies that those who do not accept homosexuality, cannot be German. It was criticised for this, and/or for inconsistency (it was introduced by a Christian-Democrat administration).

[edit] References

<references />

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

de:Multikulturalismus es:Multiculturalismo fr:Multiculturalisme ko:다문화주의 he:רב תרבותיות nl:Multiculturalisme ja:文化多元主義 pt:Multiculturalismo ru:Мультикультурализм fi:Monikulttuurisuus sv:Mångkultur ta:பல்லினப்பண்பாடு zh:多元文化政策


Personal tools
what is world wizzy?
  • World Wizzy is a static snapshot taken of Wikipedia in early 2007. It cannot be edited and is online for historic & educational purposes only.