VARIOUS TEXTS: Separatist Multiculturalism

Separatist Multiculturalism

And because no clear national identity was on offer to new citizens, inherited ethnic and religious identities filled the gap. The language of citizens and citizenship was not even routinely used until the 1990s.

Separatist multiculturalism may have acted as a conservative force in the minority communities, preserving traditional ways of life, but it was often felt as a radical and disruptive force by the existing white communities in the towns of high immigrant settlement. As Graham Mahony, a former Bradford race relations official, has put it, `a form of internal colonisation'. Older white people have often been left bemused* and confused by the effects of modern multiculturalism — `They keep themselves to themselves' or `They don't want to fit in' are the phrases you often still hear.

It is true there is sometimes an element of white hypocrisy in the complaint about people not `fitting in'; after all, multiculturalism was partly a response to white Britain's refusal to allow immigrants to join in. But times have changed.

And there is another point here. When equality was merely about granting abstract rights to migrants, as it was in the 1960s and 1970s, it was easy enough, at least in theory. But when Muslims, and other groups with strong traditionalist beliefs, started to ask society not only to give them more space but to adapt its own rules to accommodate them it is not unreasonable for the majority to wonder what they are getting in return. If you demand more, should you not contribute more in some way, or at least acknowledge that integration cannot be completely on your own terms?

Indeed, perhaps in addition to the liberal multiculturalism of equal rights and the separatist multiculturalism of those, like orthodox Jews and pious Muslims, who just want to be left alone to be different, there is a third category — most often associated with Muslims - that one might label extra-territorial multiculturalism or reverse integration, where the minority wants the majority society to shift its norms, values and laws to better suit the minority.

So, to summarise the story of multiculturalism so far: it starts with colour-blind liberalism and minorities seeking full membership of British society before switching to a more `groupist' identity politics and the right to be different, partly because of the perceived* failure of the first approach. Separatist multiculturalism sided with the imams against Salman Rushdie in the late 1980s; it encouraged people to wear non-western dress not just on special occasions and to continue speaking an ancestral* language at home; it judged the chauvinistic assumptions of many South Asian households by a different standard to that applied to white Britain; it was happy with South Asians going back to the subcontinent for arranged marriages with non-English speaking spouses despite the damage to integration this often caused (and the misery for many young women). It even considered the absence of fathers in African-Caribbean households to be a cultural trait that just had to be accepted.

Separatist multiculturalism preserves in aspic the patterns of life of the first immigration generation and thus slows down integration, making some British South Asian communities seem laughably old-fashioned to their actual South Asian cousins. In its extreme form separatist multiculturalism even indulged* or turned a blind eye to practices that were the opposite of the liberalism that inspired it: forced marriage, female genital mutilation, the hounding* of gays. How widespread some of these aspects of 'community elder' multiculturalism are is hard to tell. But Jasvinder Sanghera*, the co-founder of Karma Nirvana, a charity that supports South Asian women affected by forced marriage and honour-based crimes*, receives about 600 calls a month from women seeking her help. One reason the small charity is so busy, according to Sanghera, is because of the reluctance of many white professionals to intervene for fear of causing cultural offence) Sanghera, who ran away from home aged sixteen to escape a planned forced marriage, says that no one can know for certain how many thousands of South Asian women are affected each year, but she points out that the suicide rate among young Asian women is three times the national average. The original liberal multiculturalism of the 1960s was working too slowly against entrenched* discrimination and needed a shove. But by making ethnic separateness the basis of this political change — rather than a broader notion of social justice — it helped to harden ideas of `us' and `them'. Instead of a common life across ethnic boundaries, in too many places it has produced a rather cold, formal practice of tolerance.
764 words

The British Dream - Successes and Failures of Post-War Immigration by David Goodhart, Atlantic Books, London 2013, pp. 196-197

* bemused - verwirrt, betäubt
* perceived - wahrgenommen, erkannt
* ancestral - seiner/ihrer Vorfahren
* to indulge - Nachsicht zeigen
* hounding - Hetzjagd
* Jasvinder Sanghera (e.g. 'Shame' or 'Daughters of Shame' * honour-based crimes, eg. Ehrenmorde
* entrenched - tief verwurzelt

1. What prevented new immigrants before the 1990s to fit into the white British society?
2. What does the author mean by liberal, separatist and extra-territorial multiculturalism? What are the differences?
3. What are the negative consequences of the forms of separatist and extra-territorial multiculturalism?
4. What were the most serious mistakes the British government made concerning the integration of immigrants?
5. Explain why integration of immigrants into a society has to be a 'two-way process'.
6. From what you have learned in your course, what immigration waves have the British had to face since the 1950s until today?

amazon.de The British Dream
David Goodhart

amazon.de Shame
Jasvinder Sanghera

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