Many Cultures Living beside Each Other in Wales Give the Lie to Cameron; in the Aftermath of David Cameron's Headline-Grabbing Speech on the Subject, Reporter Sam Malone Examines the State of Multiculturalism in Wales and Asks Whether the Prime Minister's Damning Assessment Is Shared on This Side of the Border: WALES UNDER SCRUTINY

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Byline: Sam Malone

WHEN David Cameron attacked multiculturalism in Britain earlier this month he triggered a media storm.

Critics from the political Left accused the Prime Minister of "writing propaganda" for far right groups, while those on the Right argued his speech signalled the death knell for multiculturalism.

Nearly two weeks after he spoke at a security conference in Munich on radicalisation and the causes of terrorism, his comments are still rippling through society.

This week, Welsh politicians, faith leaders and racial equality champions entered the debate - each defending the importance of multiculturalism, not just in tackling terrorism but also in enriching lives.

In his speech, Mr Cameron criticised what he called "state multiculturalism", suggesting the policy had failed to provide a society which immigrants feel they belonged to.

Yet, Betty Campbell, Wales' first black headteacher and a former councillor of Cardiff's Butetown area - once known as Tiger Bay - said it was the arrival of immigrant merchant seaman looking for work in the early 1900s which helped define a society where different races, cultures and religions lived together in harmony.

Proof, she said, that multiculturalism has not only succeeded in Wales but has thrived for more than 100 years.

"When my father came over from Jamaica in 1921 looking for work in the coal industry there was already a large community of West Indians, Africans and Arabs," she said. "Most of these immigrants came as single men and then inter-married with Welsh or English women.

"This is what made the area so special, the fact that we had different nationalities living side by side.

"We did not have any of the fuss that we have now - all the different religions, races and cultures were just accepted."

The 77-year-old said she did not understand Mr Cameron's suggestions that multiculturalism had not worked and insisted Butetown should be held up as an example.

Arguably the most contentious statement made by the Prime Minister blamed the idea of multiculturalism as being the cause of divisions in society.

He said: "Under the doctrine of state multiculturalism we have encouraged different cultures to live separate lives. "We've failed to provide a vision of society to which they feel they want to belong. We've even tolerated these segregated communities behaving in ways that run completely counter to our values."

Yet, in response, Mrs Campbell said: "We haven't got the same diversity as we once had because many people have moved on.

"We used to have a large Spanish community and there were Jewish people and there was quite a number of people from Cape Verde and Sri Lanka; but it's still like a melting pot."

Mr Cameron also said there was a "hands-off tolerance" by white people in Britain to views of minority communities which would otherwise be condemned - such as forced marriages.

"Frankly, we need a lot less of the passive tolerance of recent years and much more active, muscular liberalism," he said.

The debate has also been fuelled further by other world leaders, or ex-leaders, condemning multiculturalism. French president Nicolas Sarkozy, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Australia's former prime minister John Howard and former Spanish prime minister Jose Maria Aznar have all in recent months said multicultural policies had not worked.

But, according to Saleem Kidwai, secretary general of the Muslim Council of Wales, this "failure" is one which has not occurred in Wales.

"As far as we are concerned multiculturalism in Wales is alive and kicking," he said.

"If you ask the majority of the Muslim community they are proud to be British and proud to be Welsh. It's not an issue of whether it's a success or a failure, it's about whether people have made a contribution to society. …