Globe, Migrants, Multiculture, United Kingdom

Immigrants, identity and multiculturalism

Multiculturalism arose as a response to the challenges presented by immigration and as a way of proposing the democratic inclusion of immigrant ethnic minorities into society.”


Claudio Chipana


The cultural wealth and diversity of the United Kingdom is apparent in its many traditions, ethnicities, languages and religious faiths.

These have been brought here and created by immigrants who have come to this country fleeing from war, hunger and persecution.

The post-colonial immigration which took place in the post-war period is mainly an effect of uneven economies, globally and north/south and of troubled geopolitical situations such as is the case in the Middle East.

The United Kingdom, which is essentially a diverse and multiethnic country, was made by immigrants, not only because it is a country which has accepted immigrants but also, and more importantly, because it needed an immigrant work force, take as an example the reconstruction of the post-war period.

It follows that, faced by the present challenge of reviving the country’s economy; immigrants may be a key factor in extricating the United Kingdom from this difficult situation.

Multiculturalism arose as a response to the challenges presented by immigration and as a way of proposing the democratic inclusion of immigrant ethnic minorities into society, maintaining their identity but at the same time adopting the values and institutions of the recipient country through a process of dialogue and mutual respect.

Critics of multiculturalism, for their part, have always considered immigration to be a risk to national unity, an imposition of foreign values and a way of taking jobs away from the native population. This vision, however, always came hand in hand with racial prejudice. Today this prejudice is apparent in the islamophobia which is prevalent throughout Europe.

And, ten years on from the publication of the Macpherson report investigating the death of Stephen Lawrence caused by a racist attack twenty years ago, the perception of the police as being institutionally racist still persists.

The events of 9/11 in 2001 and 7/7 in 2005 contributed to an exacerbation of unfavourable attitudes towards Moslem communities and towards immigration in general, but also towards any measures for promoting equality of rights for ethnic minorities and the promotion of values different to western ones.

This is the situation which is a backdrop to the “blacklash” or negative reaction towards multiculturalism, which has increased in the last ten years.

For their part, the tabloid press has played an important role in creating an anti-immigration, anti-multiculturalism campaign.

This arm of the press has been busy presenting a negative image of the immigrant with stories about the wrongful use of public services such as the National Health Service and housing services or how they have taken jobs away from the native population.

A decisive moment of this “backlash” is the speech given by David Cameron in 2011 in Munich at a meeting on European security – the timing of this speech is important to bear in mind-.

On this occasion the Prime Minister, Cameron declared that “state multiculturalism” had failed. Cameron focused his speech on security in Europe with the proliferation of extremist groups among the young of the Moslem communities.

Cameron linked the radical teachings of these groups to multicultural policies that in his judgement had only served to promote parallel communities and the creation of ghettos.

What are the fundamental reasons for these attacks on multiculturalism? Does multiculturalism have a future?

 (Translated by Jane Martin) – Photos: Pixabay

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