How We Rub along Together: When My Father Arrived in England in the Sixties, He Was Welcomed with Dog Mess through His Letter Box and Enoch Powell on the TV, Writes Mehdi Hasan. We've Come a Long Way since Then-So Why Do Politicians Claim That Multiculturalism Has Failed?

By Hasan, Mehdi | New Statesman (1996), April 4, 2011 | Go to article overview

How We Rub along Together: When My Father Arrived in England in the Sixties, He Was Welcomed with Dog Mess through His Letter Box and Enoch Powell on the TV, Writes Mehdi Hasan. We've Come a Long Way since Then-So Why Do Politicians Claim That Multiculturalism Has Failed?


Hasan, Mehdi, New Statesman (1996)


My father arrived in this country from India in January 1965, with a second-hand London A-Z stuffed in his jacket pocket and [pounds sterling]3 in his wallet. A child of empire, he was born in Hyderabad in 1938 and came to Britain to study and work. His first few days in London were absorbed in news of Winston Churchill's death on 24 January; he was one of the more than 320,000 people who filed past the catafalque in Westminster Hall during the three days that the former prime minister's body lay in state.

It was not long before my father became a proud British citizen of Indian origin; he has since had two British children and a British grandchild. He arrived, however, in a country struggling to accommodate and integrate its burgeoning immigrant communities. Racial and cultural discrimination was rife; bedsits and hostels prominently displayed signs saying: "No dogs, no blacks, no Irish." My father had dog mess posted through his letter box.

The previous year, Peter Griffiths had been elected to parliament as Tory MP for Smethwick with the support of the infamous slogan "If you want a nigger for a neighbour, vote Labour". Three years later, Enoch Powell delivered his "Rivers of Blood" speech in Birmingham.

But in May 1966, 16 months after my father's arrival, the then home secretary, Roy Jenkins, gave perhaps the most significant speech of all on the subject of integration to the National Committee for Commonwealth Immigrants in London. Jenkins defined integration not as "a flattening process of assimilation but as equal opportunity, accompanied by cultural diversity, in an atmosphere of mutual tolerance". It was a turning point for relations between majority and minority communities.

Britain has come a long way from the nativist and assimilationist 1960s, from Enoch Powell and racist hoteliers. Opinion polls suggest this is a nation at relative ease with its racial, religious and cultural diversity in all walks of life.

Yet, in recent months, multiculturalism has come under sustained assault from our political and media elite prompted by a headline-grabbing intervention by the Prime Minister.

"Under the doctrine of state multiculturalism, we have encouraged different cultures to live separate lives, apart from each other and the mainstream," Cameron said at a security conference in Munich on 5 February. "We have even tolerated these segregated communities behaving in ways that run counter to our values ... Frankly, we need a lot less of the passive tolerance of recent years and much more active, muscular liberalism." But his deputy, Nick Clegg, took a different view in a speech in Luton on 3 March, in which he praised multiculturalism as "a means by which we can communicate with each other, seek to reach understanding of each other, share a similar set of values".

Over the past decade, public figures have queued up to deliver the last rites for multiculturalism, the condemnation cutting across party and ideological lines. In 2005 Trevor Phillips, then chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality (and now of the Equality and Human Rights Commission), warned that multicultural Britain was "sleepwalking to segregation". His analysis was shared by the Archbishop of York--Ugandan-born John Sentamu--and the Chief Rabbi, Jonathan Sacks, among others.

In January 2007, before he became prime minister, Gordon Brown similarly claimed that multiculturalism had "become an excuse for justifying separateness". He preferred to talk of "Britishness" and a "stronger sense of patriotic purpose".

One thing links these criticisms: they lack a settled and accepted definition of "multiculturalism". "The doctrine of state multiculturalism" has a certain ring to it, but what does it mean? The Prime Minister did not bother to elaborate. In truth, over the years, Cameron, Blair, Brown, Phillips and the rest have constructed a mythical version of multiculturalism--a "cardboard cut-out", to use Clegg's phrase--and held it responsible for a raft of sins, from segregation and separateness to extremism and terrorism. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

How We Rub along Together: When My Father Arrived in England in the Sixties, He Was Welcomed with Dog Mess through His Letter Box and Enoch Powell on the TV, Writes Mehdi Hasan. We've Come a Long Way since Then-So Why Do Politicians Claim That Multiculturalism Has Failed?
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.