Friday, 23 November 2007

Is Multiculturalism Dead?

Not long ago Britain was proud to proclaim itself a multicultural society in which all cultures were welcome and celebrated in their diversity. Whilst Britain might not be a perfect society, it felt it was managing its diversity a lot better than most other places. Then a series of seismic events came along - the northern milltown riots of 2001, 9/11, 7/7 – and Britain started to ask itself what multiculturalism really meant. The mood of skepticism was even voiced by the Commission for Racial Equality whose Chairman, Trevor Phillips proclaimed “We are sleepwalking our way to segregation. Britain must scrap multiculturalism”.

The talk now is of building greater integration and cohesion rather than in highlighting people’s difference. Does this mean that multiculturalism is a discredited failure or can it make a comeback as an idea? Is integration simply another word for assimilation? Is government trying to create a one-size-fits-all model of British citizenship under the pretext that diversity is a threat to our security? Are their any emerging alternative models which might take us beyond the current dispute?


Munira Mirza will argue that multiculturalism is dead

Someone from the Respect Trust will make a defence of multiculturalism

Phil Wood will make the case for Interculturalism as a new model.

Munira Mirza is a writer and researcher on issues related to cultural policy and identity. She is co-author of the report Living Apart Together: British Muslims and the Paradox of Multiculturalism. She also edited the book Culture Vultures: Is UK arts policy damaging the arts? and in 2005 she presented the BBC Radio 4 documentary series, The Business of Race. She is a founding member of the Manifesto Club, a new organisation that aims to champion humanist politics in the 21st century. Originally from Oldham she is now based in east London.

Phil Wood has been a partner in Comedia since 2000. Prior to that he worked for Kirklees Council variously as a community development worker, assistant head of culture and director of the Creative Town Initiative. He is now directs Comedia’s Intercultural City project and is the co-author (with Charles Landry) of The Intercultural City: Planning for Diversity Advantage, to be published in December 2007. He has been an advisor to the government’s Commission on Integration and Cohesion, Council of Europe and British Council on cultural diversity issues.