Muliculturalism has failed. So said Chancellor
In some ways the term confuses more than it clarifies. If political declarations could do the trick, those speeches might have buried the debate, but the obstinate facts behind the term cannot be brushed aside with political declarations. A recent report - Living Together: Combining Diversity and Freedom in 21st Century Europe, written by a group including
As in the past, however, many immigrants into
But, the Report asks, what is wrong with multiple identities? If
Firstly, most of those who have come to
The Report highlights several causes that contribute to this malaise:
To minimise the strains in society, the Report argues that all long-term residents in European countries should be accepted as full citizens - and all, whatever their faith, culture or ethnicity, must be treated equally by the law, the authorities and their fellow citizens. As residents in
To apply these principles in practice, the Report urges states to extend the full rights and obligations of citizenship, including the right to vote, to as many of their resident population as possible and - as an interim step - to give all foreign residents the right to vote in local elections. At a minimum, newcomers should obey the law, learn the language used by the majority of their new neighbours, and make themselves economically useful in their new society.
The Report proposes seventeen guiding principles, which policymakers, opinion leaders and civil society activists can refer to as a checklist for positive diversity. Much of the Report is couched in terms of 'should' rather than 'must.' It explicitly states that it aims to "minimise compulsion and maximise persuasion". Hence many of its recommendations are addressed as much to civil society as to public authorities. Teachers, the media, employers, trade unions, civil society, churches and religious groups, celebrities and other role models, all have a role to play in changing public attitudes in the direction of greater tolerance and mutual respect.
The Report starts from the universal validity of human rights reflected in the
At the same time special treatment does not imply special privileges. The right to freedom of expression must not be curtailed, by law or practice, to appease violent intimidation by minorities asserting values that are not shared by the wider community, as in the case of the cartoons of Mohammed. Nor should public statements tending to build or reinforce public prejudice against members of any group - immigrants or others - be left unanswered by figures in society who command respect. Laws against discrimination in all areas of public life should not only be explained to the wider public - take the recent burqa ban in
The Report urges states to present citizens with a more realistic picture of
Beyond its strategic recommendations, the Report also proposes more than forty specific measures to improve the situation: facilitating migrants' access to citizenship, easing the practical plight of asylum seekers, developing education in what it terms "intercultural competencies" and media literacy, as well as guidelines for ending discrimination in the media and promoting a better balanced narrative about migration. It also proposes measures to monitor discrimination, racism and xenophobia at local and regional as well as national levels, and urges politicians not to seek political advantage by pandering to extremists and playing the migration card.
It is no small mountain to climb, but the Report is confident that, if states recognise its principles and follow its recommendations,
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