Saturday, February 5th, British Prime Minister David Cameron spoke at a security conference in Munich. In light of the growing evidence that the United Kingdom has become a “safe haven” for Islamic militants, Mr. Cameron’s remarks strongly criticized Britain’s multicultural approach to the nation’s immigrants. The policy, initiated in the 1960s, recognizes the right of all people in Britain to live by their own traditional values. Many argue that this strategy is responsible for the fractured sense of British identity and lack of social cohesion 50 years on.
While Mr. Cameron is not the first leader to decry European “multiculturalism” – Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and President Nicolas Sarkozy of France have both weighed in on the potential dangers- he went so far as to encourage governments to practice less tolerance. Britain’s new leader argued that this “hands-off tolerance” had encouraged Muslims and other immigrants to cut themselves off from the mainstream, creating segregated communities in which extremism can thrive.
The British Prime Minister went on to call for an end to what he perceives to be a dangerous double standard, stating “We have even tolerated these segregated communities behaving in ways that run counter to our values. So when a white person holds objectionable views- racism, for example- we rightly condemn them. But when equally unacceptable views or practices have come from someone who isn’t white, we’ve been too cautious, frankly even fearful, to stand up to them.”
While the Mr. Cameron’s analysis may seem simplistic, it touches upon key spaces of analysis of race, immigration, identity, inequality, and the way that the last 10 years have introduced Islam as a particular factor. In the March 2011 issue of The Sociological Forum, Sociologists, Katja M. Guenther, Sadie Pendaz, and Fortunata Songora Makene explored many of these same themes in their article “The Impact of Intersecting Dimensions of Inequality and Identity on the Racial Status of Eastern African Immigrants.” While the research of Guenther, Pendaz, and Makene focuses primarily on east African immigrants in the American mid-west, many of the theses that the authors operate on serve as interesting lenses for the European multiculturalism debate. more...