Is It Time to Drop the Term Multicultural?; Trevor Phillips, the Head of the Commission for Racial Equality, Claims the Term 'Multiculturalism' Is Past Its Sell-By Date. Emma Pinch Found out What People in Birmingham Thought

The Birmingham Post (England), April 6, 2004 | Go to article overview

Is It Time to Drop the Term Multicultural?; Trevor Phillips, the Head of the Commission for Racial Equality, Claims the Term 'Multiculturalism' Is Past Its Sell-By Date. Emma Pinch Found out What People in Birmingham Thought


Multiculturalism has, apparently, had its day. The new way, according to Trevor Phillips, is to promote a 'core of Britishness' among the country's diverse population.

This core is made of common values -British democracy, the English language, and 'honouring the culture of these islands, from Shakespeare and Dickens'. But where does that leave Birmingham, the city where 'multicultural' is a well-used description.

Yesterday, faith and community leaders around the city all expressed the view that 'Britishness' and multiculturalism were by no means incompatible. Bishop Joe Aldred, vicechairman of the Council for Black-led Churches, said he thought Mr Phillips's comments smacked of opportunism and political manoeuvring.

'I do not believe if you drop the term multicultural it changes thedynamics of what we are all doing. Everyone in Britain needs to have a stake in the country they live in. You don't do that by ignoring what new Britain is.

'It is a reality that there are different types of people living in Britain in terms of colour, ethnicity, religion, faith and culture. To try to deny that is the case is futile.' He said there needed to be a 'core essence' of 'Britishness', but suggested what Mr Phillips thought it meant was not what it actually was.

'I'm not sure that it is knowing Shakespeare or Dickens,' he said. 'It cannot be merely about the people and the things which made Britain in the past. It has to be at the core of what it means today.

'People coming into Britain need to have things and symbols of what they have come from and it cannot be ignored.

'British culture is not just about what is traditionally from these islands. I am from Jamaica and I would not like to think that to embrace British culture I put aside people that have meant much to me. Britain is a hybrid of histories and always has been.' Dr Mohammed Naseem, chairman of Birmingham Central Mosque, said: 'Understanding and tolerance of difference is the hallmark of any culture and it is only the uncivilised who cannot tolerate difference of opinion. …

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