Multiculturalism versus its opponents is simply one manifestation of the age-long struggle between liberty and its opponents. It is not about personal differences of opinion but between the values of an open and a closed society.
The principles on which multiculturalism rests are not new. The foundations of liberalism and multiculturalism were outlined with great clarity in what is justifiably the most famous political essay in British history, John Stuart Mill's On Liberty. In Mill's original formulation: "The sole end for which mankind are warranted ... in interfering with the liberty of action of any of their number is self-protection ... the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a ... community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others." This, the classic formulation of liberalism, is, of course, what is frequently paraphrased as, 'You should be able to do anything you want provided it does not interfere with others'.
Its basis is simple. Every individual who exists is unique, and wishes to pursue their life in a different way. The individual must be able to choose for themselves. Those who oppose "multiculturalism" - that is, the right to pursue different cultural values subject only to the restriction that they should not interfere with the similar right for others - are merely playing the same roles as those who previously thought Protestants should be prohibited from practising their religion in Catholic countries, that Jews were not entitled to vote, and atheists should not be allowed to be MPs. Multiculturalism has nothing to do with an assertion that there are no universal values. The very statement that people should be able to do only such things that do not interfere with others is clearly an assertion of a universal value. It merely states that insofar as they do not interfere with others, people should be able to choose freely which values they wish to pursue and they may not have these imposed on them. A person, for example, may wish to wear a yarmulke, a turban or a hijab or none - they are free to choose.
What is prohibited is one group or person imposing their will on others. The endorsement by Christian churches of slavery was a barbaric infringement of the rights of others, regardless of whether its acceptance was a "cultural norm" - as it was. Female genital mutilation is another such imposed act of …