Britain joined Germany and France in questioning Europe's
approach to multiculturalism, saying that it no longer works for
other cultures to live 'apart ... from the mainstream.'
British leader David Cameron, in the midst of epic budget cuts,
is backing a radical shift in his country's famously open model of
social integration. At a security conference in Munich Feb. 5, he
closed ranks with French and German leaders, saying the "doctrine of
multiculturalism" has failed in a Britain that encourages "different
cultures to live separate lives, apart from each other and apart
from the mainstream."
As in France and Germany, Mr. Cameron's declaration seems aimed
at one group - Muslims. More precisely, it taps a growing public
concern in Europe about those from Islamic backgrounds who are
increasingly numerous and becoming a permanent part of Europe's
social fabric. In Britain and across the Continent, that unease is
fueling right-wing parties but also influencing mainstream
electorates worried that Europe is losing its traditional identity.
In Munich, Cameron distinguished Islam from extremism. To the
international audience there, including US Secretary of State
Hillary Rodham Clinton, he said Muslim clerics must adhere to a list
of principles that constitute British identity - gender equality,
democracy, and pluralism - to participate in state affairs.
Most controversially, he said many Muslim groups that act as
intermediaries with the larger society are insufficiently
straightforward and take public money while pushing concepts of
worldwide sharia (Islamic law) and jihad that radicalize youths.
A setback to better relations?
In Britain, Muslims complain Cam-eron is singling out their
faith. Some experts worry his approach may reverse modest but
significant gains in improved relations since the national shock in
2005 when Muslims who were born in Britain bombed the London transit
system. Cameron's new tack, they say, could give comfort to jihadi
"This mixes multiculturalism and integration with the wider issue
of terrorism and extremism in a way that tarnishes Muslims and
blames the entire community," says Mohammed Shafiq, chief executive
of the Ramadhan Foundation, one of Britain's largest Muslim
"In the trenches, among those Muslims who deal directly with the
street, Cameron's message undermines their credibility and damages
the trust needed for them to help, to sit with kids in mosques and
homes," says Jonathan Githens-Mazer, director of the European Muslim
Research Center at the University of Exeter. "It looks like a double
standard. It is very difficult to see what Cameron thought he would
achieve with that speech."
Is multiculturalism 'dead'?
Last summer French leader Nicolas Sarkozy said multiculturalism
was dead as the French cracked down on immigrants, Gypsies, and
crime. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said shortly after that
"multi-kulti" had failed amid a national debate sparked by a
racially loaded bestseller written by German bank official Thilo
Sarrazin that criticized Arabs.
In January, the only Muslim woman in the British Parliament and a
member of Cameron's Cabinet, Baroness Sa-yeeda Warsi, said anti-
Muslim sentiment had "passed the dinner-table test" to become
socially acceptable. Ms. Warsi says the devotion of observant
Muslims is often parlayed in the popular mind into extremism. …