David Cameron's speech on multiculturalism in Great Britain

29TH MAY 2012
1. INTRODUCTION............................................................................................... 2
1.1 Problem Formulation .................................................................................... 3
1.2 Justification and Relevance. .......................................................................... 3
2. METHODOLOGY .............................................................................................. 4
2.1 Research Design ............................................................................................ 4
2.2 Case Study .................................................................................................... 5
2.3 Data .............................................................................................................. 6
2.4 Limitation ..................................................................................................... 7
2.4.1 Reliability ................................................................................................... 7
3. THEORY........................................................................................................... 8
3.1 Discourse Analysis ......................................................................................... 8
3.2 Power and Discourse..................................................................................... 8
3.3 Language and Discourse ................................................................................ 9
3.4 Critical Discourse Analysis ........................................................................... 10
4. DEFINITIONS AND SCHOLARLY CONTROVERSIES ........................................... 11
5. A BRIEF HISTORY OF MULTICULTURALISM .................................................... 13
6. MULTICULTURALISM DEBATE POST 9/11 ERA ............................................... 16
7. ANALYSIS AND INTERPRETATION OF THE SPEECHES ...................................... 20
8. CONCLUSION ................................................................................................ 25
BIBLIOGRAPHY.................................................................................................. 26
Appendix (speeches)
In most parts of the west, particularly in Europe, the general perception is that multiculturalism
has failed and there is an urgent need for a fundamental policy shift. The political buzz word
among political leaders, policymakers and even some scholars is that of integration to ensure
social cohesion. The term ‘multiculturalism’ has almost become a “dirty” word. Its critics
accuse it of promoting ethnic divisions within societies and threatening national unity and
identity. Whereby certain communities only seek to stay with their own, live their own way of
life, follow their culture, and speak their home language etc. it’s like “moving” with your culture
abroad. This ‘parallel lives’, critics argue has led to mushrooming of “ghettoes” and insecurity.
Since most new immigrants can’t speak the adopted country language, they can’t get jobs
increasing the number of unemployed people in the country and burdening the welfare state. But
worst of all, is that multiculturalism also breeds Islamic terrorism1.
In this paper, the term “Multiculturalism” is analyzed both in its normative and descriptive
1.1 Problem Formulation
Like the rest of Western Europe, debate on multiculturalism has been centered on the difficulties
of Muslim to integrate within the British society. In 2010, the British Prime Minister, Mr. David
Cameron described the ‘state of multiculturalism’ in Britain as a failure. This paper seeks to
primarily establish:
1. How does the discourse on multiculturalism by the current conservative British
Prime Minister resemble populist rhetoric?
1.2 Justification and Relevance.
Multiculturalism has been a major political debate for many years, stretching as far as the1960s.
But only became associated with increased immigration during the 1980s, 90s 2000s. September
11, 2001 terrorist attack on the United States, pushed it to the global center-stage as countries
Banting K & Kymilcka W D 2010. Canadian Multiculturalism: Global Anxieties and Local Debates. British
Journal of Canadian Studies, 23.1 p44-45.
sought to align their policies with America’s new foreign policy titled ‘War on Terror’. Initially
the world was sympathetic or even empathetic to the America’s cause. Justifiably, America
invaded Afghanistan to pursue those who had attacked it and within days the Mullahs in Kabul
capitulated and the US soldiers occupied the country. But as American foreign policy became
increasingly aggressive and unilateral, particularly the invasion of Iraq, it alienated allies and
increased anti-Americanism sentiments globally. More so in the Muslim world as Jihadist and
other Islamists both within and outside Europe clamored to bomb America and its interests
The killing in 2004 of the Dutch film Director, Theo Van Gogh for his film Submission which
was critical of Islam and the uproar caused by the Danish cartoons in 2005 only served to
heighten political tensions between Muslims and the West as rightwing politicians within Europe
scrambled to make political capital out of the fallout, some describing it as “The clash of
civilizations”3 borrowing Samuel Huntington’s phrase. These acts reinforced the notion among
conservatives populace within West that Islam was simply violent and its values were totally
incompatible with western ideals of freedom and liberty and warranted some sort of containment
with the media helping to create the misconception4.
2.1 Research Design.
The purpose of this chapter is to demonstrate the method chosen for answering the research
question, based on the problem formulation. This chapter will also include, research design,
limitations, relevance, and collection of data.
I have chosen a qualitative research strategy with emphasis on inductive reasoning approach. The
key features of this strategy include the focus on quality rather than quantity of data as well as
generation of theory at the end rather than testing it5. Qualitative research strategies are often
used by social constructivists and interpretivists in topics that tend to be subjective in nature and
Castles, S and Miller, M 2009. The Age of Migration. New York: Palgrave Macmillan p214-215
Huntington S.1993: The Clash of Civilization? Journal of Foreign Affairs.p1
Husain, A. The Media's Role in a Clash of Misconceptions: The Case of the Danish Muhammad Cartoons.
Harvard International Journal of Press/Politics 2007.12:112.
Bryman A.2008.Social Research Methods, pg366
seek to understand human behavior and reasons that govern such behaviors. Yin argues that this
kind of research is driven by a need to explain actions, through existing or emerging concepts
such as ‘multiculturalism.’6 The concept of multiculturalism is relatively new in the broader field
of social sciences.
I will use the social constructivist approach - which has increasingly become popular as the
umbrella term for new theories on social world. The constructivists argue that:
“ideas, knowledge, therefore all their meaningful realities as such is contingent upon
human practices, being constructed in and out of interaction between human beings
and their world and developed and transmitted within an essentially social context”7
Since ideas are socially constructed, they are therefore subjects of different ontological
interpretations and “meanings are continually being accomplished by social actors” 8 and that
society is not fixed on meanings allocated to concepts such as “multiculturalism”, “identity” or
“nations”, but that meanings are subjects of incessant negotiation and renegotiation.
Constructivism emerged to challenge old theories that earlier argued that ideas of social actors
were constant and indisputable through time and space. There are many tools used in examining
constructivist subjects, discourse analysis is just one of the widely used approaches. This paper
will however apply the Critical Discourses Analysis in answering the research question.
Data collection in qualitative research strategies is normally conducted through participant’s
observation or ethnography, focus groups, unstructured interviewing, language based discourses,
analysis of text and documents.9 In this case, this paper specifically examines the speeches of
British Prime Minister, David Cameron with regards to multiculturalism discourse in Great
2.2 Case Study
Since this research paper only examines the British case, it therefore fits a classical description of
a case study. Bryman defines a case study as “a detailed and intensive analysis of a single
Yin, R. 2011. A Qualitative Research from Start To Finish, Guilford Press, NY, P8
Mole R, 2007: Discursive constructionists of identity in European Politics. Palgrave Macmillan, London, p4.
Bryman A.2008. p19
Bryman A.2008.Social Research Methods, pg369
case”10. A “case” here can mean a country, a location, an institution, an event or even a diagnosis
of an illness. A case study is that in-depth and broad investigation of a single subject, looking at
a particular “case” from all possible angles.
Arch Woodside provides a more comprehensive definition. Woodside describes a case study as
“an empirical inquiry that investigates a contemporary phenomenon within its real life context,
especially when boundaries between phenomenon and context are not clearly evident”11
The study focuses on particularity of a phenomenon and not the general. Therefore the findings
of a case cannot simply be generalized. For instance, the findings in this research cannot be
applied in other Western European countries. They remain uniquely and solely applicable to
Great Britain and none other unless certain measures and changes are adapted to the study such
as when using sampling technique and this particular case is used as the ‘sample.’ However this
will demand other justifications for the ‘sample’ here to pass as a ‘representative’ of a wider
subject for instance in survey research. 12 Nevertheless it’s not my intention to generalize the
findings of this paper.
2.3 Data
I have selected textual data for this paper because in Silverman’s words “they are rich, easily
accessible and have real effects in the world.”13 Through textual analysis, and to be specific,
analyzing political speeches made by British politicians, I hope to understand the construction of
multiculturalism in Great Britain. Textual analysis in can be defined as the interpretation of text
(eg magazines, newspapers, film scripts, TV programs etc) in order to try and obtain a sense of
the world, interpret reality or understand culture better, to paraphrase Alan McKee14. In this case
the speeches are my text.
Indeed, Fairclough argues that:
“Text simultaneously represent aspects of the world, enact social relations between
participants in social events and the attitude desires and values of participants and
Bryman A.2008.Social Research Methods, pg53
Woodside, A.2010. Case Study Research .Theory. Method. Practice, Emerald, Boston pg1
Gary T.2011.How To Do Your Case Study, SAGE Publications, London, pg5
Silverman, D.2006.Interpreting Qualitative Data SAGE Publication, London p195.
McKee, A. 2003.Textual Analysis, SAGE Publication, London p1.
coherently and cohesively connect parts of the texts together…people do things in
the process of meaning making in social events, which include texturing, making
In this paper I will be analyzing speeches made between 2001 to date, or the period
commonly referred to post 9/11.
2.4 Limitation
2.4.1 Reliability
I’m aware of the glaring limitations of textual analysis, indeed the fact that there is neither a
single representation of the world, nor a single correct representation of the text. This means this
methodology is not repeatable and therefore, a different researcher might probably have a
different interpretation of similar data and draw a different conclusion altogether.16
The same applies to the qualitative strategy applied. Bryman describes the method as “too
impressionistic and subjective” and since this paper is based on what I consider as critical and
momentous, there is no denial that my own previous biases as the researcher such as political
views might have come to play.17 However, in as much as qualitative research and case studies
are not ‘generalizeable’. According to Bryman, they are still essential because a case study
comes handy in comparative studies or analysis, where the findings in a case are compared with
others in order to draw a general conclusion.18 In the same breath, Malcolm Williams argue that
there are instances where generalization is possible but within certain limits. He calls this
‘moderatum generalizations’ which refers to a pluralistic approach to research where interpretive
research is complemented by quantitative research for researchers to be able to generalize their
findings. Williams argues that most interpretive researchers actually engage in generalizations
though they rarely acknowledge it. He argues for “a pluralistic approach…which encourages a
much more openness to adoption of alternative strategies to improve the representative of the
research…and a willingness to admit the limitation of ones research”19
Fairclough N. 2003: Analyzing Discourse Textual Analysis for Social Research Routledge, London, p27.
McKee, A. 2003.Textual Analysis, SAGE Publication, London p118
Bryman A.2008.Social Research Methods, pg391
Bryman A.2008, pg392.
Williams, M.2000. Interpretive and Generalizations. Sociology vol.34, No. 2.p209-224.UK:BSA Publication Ltd.
To counter claims to validity, David Silverman suggests two critical points; Triangulation where
a researcher compares different kinds of data and draws conclusion from them or respondent
validation, where a research takes back the findings to the subject being studied to verify20 .
However, both of these aren’t applicable in this paper due to time constraints and inadequate
resources required to pursue such a venture.
3.1 Discourse Analysis
It’s a theory and a method that is concerned with construction of language within society. It’s
considered both constructive and constitutive of our social world. Can be used to answer many
questions as well as question many assumptions. The approach I shall follow draws on the ideas
and thoughts of the renowned French social Philosopher, Michael Foucault. A social
constructionist famous for his theory of power and knowledge, he argues that “knowledge is not
just a reflection of reality” and that “truth is a discursive construction, in which different regimes
of knowledge determine what is true or false.”21 According to Foucault, discourse shapes our
perceptions of the world and creating chains of language that binds us socially, plays the crucial
role of social construction of what we consider as realities. Foucault’s theories are considered as
“…he challenges many of the preconceived notions that we have about a wide range of different
subjects. Sexuality, madness, discipline, subjectivity, language”22
3.2 Power and Discourse
Foucault dispels widely held liberal notions of power; that power is repressive, that it’s a
possession that can be seized from someone else, or as the ability of an agent to impose his will
over the powerless or the ability to force them to do what they do not wish to do. He rubbishes
the link of “power possession and oppression” and argues that power cannot be owned but rather
is a set of relations and is therefore, both “productive and a restraining force”.23 Since power is
diffused throughout society, struggles are abound, for where there is power there is resistance. In
his view, power constructs our social world. And power is embedded in discourse which creates
Silverman. 2006. p290-1.
Jorgensen M and Philips L.2002: Discourse Analysis as Theory and Method, SAGE Publications, London, p13.
Mills S 2004: Discourse, Routledge, London , p15
Jorgensen M and Philips L.2002: Discourse Analysis as Theory and Method, SAGE Publications, London, p14
“truths” ideas, subjects or our social realities but also “excludes other ways of reasoning as
unintelligible”24. Our world is constructed within society through an intricate form of relations
between education, our experiences and upbringing. This is what allows certain individuals to
“speak the truths” or to be believed when speaking on specific subjects or policy issues. He also
argues that meaning is regulated by power that governs who can say what, where and when
under what circumstances and to who because truths are just but a construction of discourse. His
views follow from the 17th Century philosophy great, Thomas Hobbes, who believed that truth
can only be known through the boundaries of self-interest and language. To Hobbes there was no
real objective truth towards justice but only the truth we make up through our self interests and
through the limits of language25.
3.3 Language and Discourse
According to Foulcaudian thinking, discourse not only constitutes our social world, but also
propagates knowledge and “truths”. Knowledge and truth don’t exist independent of language
since knowledge is conveyed through language and organized through the structures,
interconnections, and relations that are built in language. Language should therefore be seen not
just as some concepts ‘out there’, but in its “concrete lived reality”26. What Stuart Hall describes
as “language and practice” or based on John Austin’s Speech Acts Theory “words are connected
to actions…saying is part of doing.”27
Foucault confirms earlier views of Mikhail Bakhtin’s argument that “language is not just an
abstract system of signs, but is essentially social and rooted in the struggle and ambiguities of
everyday life.” 28 In short, Foucault argues that discourse is the creation of knowledge via
language and therefore “nothing has any meaning outside discourse.”29 Since its discourse that
creates subject, governs how it will be talked about, describes and produces the object of our
knowledge and influences how ideas are put into practice as well as regulates the conduct of
others. Much of his works were on clinical psychology, criminology and sexuality.
Galasinski D and Barker C, 2001: Cultural Studies and Discourse Analysis, SAGE Publications, London p12.
Dooley K and Pattern J 2012: Why Politics Matters Carlisle Publishing Services, Canada p72
Maybin J 2001: Discourse Theory and Practice Reader SAGE Publications, London. P65
Hall S 2001: Discourse Theory and Practice Reader SAGE Publications, London. P74
Hall S 2001, P74
His thoughts are essential because just like he argued that “madness”, “homosexuality” or
“criminality” were essentially consequences of discursive, human practices and not preordained
historical objective facts, I will argue that there has always been “multiculturalism” in the sense
that several different cultures have been coexisting in the past albeit with sporadically hostility
and that the recent backlash on multiculturalism is a systematic creation of the conservative
political elite afraid of Islam.
Since language is central to the formation of subjectivity and “truths” or even ideology.
(Ideology here refers to “a systematic organized presentation of reality” or a systematic body of
ideas organized from a particular point of view or “beliefs to a given set of system of ideals”).30
Foucault’s thoughts are fundamental to my analysis of language in speeches as used by the
Conservative Political government in Great Britain in who is blamed for the failure of
multiculturalism and how it is used to convey that blame.
3.4 Critical Discourse Analysis
I will use CDA to analyze the speeches. CDA can be defined as “a type of discourse analytical
research that primarily studies the way social power abuse, dominance and inequality are
enacted, reproduced, and resisted by text and talk in social and political context. CDA therefore
wants to understand, expose and ultimately resist social inequality.”31 In Discourse and Ideology,
Norman Fairclough, often referred to as the founder of CDA, and one of the “followers” of
Michael Foucault thoughts, exploring his thoughts on the social struggles in discourse, argues
that “those who hold power at a particular moment, have to constantly reassert their power, and
those who do not hold power are always liable to make a bid for power”32.He argues that this
power struggle in discourse is as a result of the powers that be trying to enforce what he calls
“ideological common sense” acceptable to everyone, but as a result of diversity, conflict and
struggles ensue, hence the difficulty in achieving ideological uniformity.33
Hawking B. 2002: Language and Ideology, proscriptive cognitive, vol.2.John Benjamin Publishing, Amsterdam,
Van Dijk T.2003: Critical Discourse Analysis Blackwell Publishing Ltd, UK. P351
Fairclough N.2001: Language and Power, Longman, Harlow P57
Fairclough N.2001 P57
Its focus is multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary in nature as it covers broad range of subjects
such as linguistics, politics, philosophy, psychology among others. In practice, it takes
unambiguous positions with the aim to critically understand, “expose and ultimately resist social
In CDA likely concepts to be critically reached often include ‘gender’ ‘power’ ‘race’ ‘ideology’
‘social structure’ or ‘social order’ etc.
Populism like many political concepts can be defined in numerous ways. In this case it can
be can be defined as:
“a rhetorical style or anti status quo discourse that simplifies the political space by
symbolically dividing society between “ the people” (underdogs ) and its “other
“where identity of “the people” and “other” are political constructs constituted
through the relations of antagonism rather than sociological categories.”35
Populism is a political tool employed both by the right and the left, democrats as well as
autocrats, even progressive and reactionaries. Paul Taggart argues that this easy
adaptability is as a result of lack of any real key values. What Taggart calls “empty heart.”
To Taggart, “populism is the reaction against ideas, institutions and practices of
representative politics which celebrates an implicit or explicit heartland as a response to a
sense of crisis”36.
Multiculturalism is a broad concept that often defines definitions. Scholars still debate what
multiculturalism really means and whether it’s necessary at all.
According to Oxford online dictionary, the term multiculturalism is derived from Latin word
multus which means many or much and colere which means to cultivate and has since evolved to
refer to ideas, customs and social behavior of a particular people. From a descriptive simplistic
perspective, it simply means the existence of more than one culture in the society. This paper
will however provide a more comprehensive definition. I will first define culture then
multiculturalism in detail.
Panizza, F.2005.Populism and the Mirror of Democracy.London:Verso, p3.
Taggart, P.2000. Populism. Buckingham: Open University Press, P4-5
Hans Gullestrup provides one of the most compelling definitions of culture that suits this
research. He defines culture as:
the philosophy of life, the values, norms and rules, and actual behavior as well as the
material and immaterial products from these – which are taken over by man from the past
generations, and which man wants to bring forward to the next generation - eventually in
a different form – and which in one way or another separate individuals belonging to the
culture from individuals belonging to other cultures.37
Andrew Heywood defines multiculturalism (descriptively) “as cultural diversity that arises from
existence within a society of two or more groups whose beliefs and practices generate a
collective sense of identity.” 38 He further argues that some distinctive aspects of “communal
diversity” caused by racial, ethnic or language differences may force government to formulate
policies that celebrate and encourage this diversity. Hence he normatively defines
multiculturalism as “governmental responses to such communal diversity either in the form of
public policy or institutional design.”39 These responses in public policy, he argues, could be in
health care provision, housing, and education, political participation e.g. granting voting rights or
the right to be elected into office. This is formal recognition of the unique needs of certain
cultural groups and aims to “guarantee equal opportunity between and amongst all”.
Multicultural designs on the other hand, go further than just offering public policy related
goodies; it ensures that “government apparatus are fashioned around the racial, ethnic, religious
and other divisions in the society.” As a normative term, multiculturalism is a ringing
endorsement of communal diversity grounded on the right of diverse cultural groups to respect
and recognition.40
The ideas of “politics of difference” and “politics of recognition” are what cause revulsion
against multiculturalism amongst some liberals scholars. Actually, critics such Brian Barry,
dismiss the notion that culture is incommensurable and therefore people should be left alone to
lead their lives as they please calling it “the abuse of culture.” According to Barry, “some
cultures are admirable while others are simply bad.” 41 Using the example of Salman Rushdie,
Gullestrup, H. The Complexity of Intercultural Communication in Cross-cultural Management. Journal of
Intercultural Communication, 2002.Issue 6. p2
Heywood, A.2007. ‘Political Ideologies’ – An Introduction p313
Heywood, A.2007 pg313
Heywood, A.2007 pg313
Barry B. 2001 Culture and Equality. An Egalitarian Critique of Multiculturalism Polity Press, Cambridge, p266.
the author of The satanic Verses still haunted by a fatwa issued more than twenty years ago, he
argues that such are the acts that call for certain cultures not to be tolerated for they propagate
illiberal principles and practices that run counter to the western liberal values42.
Barry also dismisses Taylor’s claims that it is “crude” to tell an immigrant, “this is the way we
do things here.” Arguing that authorities should be even firmer and clearer, “this is the way things
ought to be done everywhere: we do things that way here not because it is part of our culture but because
it’s the right thing to do.”43 He argues that multiculturalism does not just enforce cultural relativism but
perpetuates illiberal attitudes bordering into criminality. He further argues that this celebrated “politics of
difference” is an affront to what ought to be the “politics of solidarity”44
On the other hand some scholars such as Will Kymicka or Charles Taylor believe that cultural
recognition or equality is a vital human need. Indeed, in his book, Politics of Recognition Taylor
argues that:
“Our identity is partly shaped by recognition or its absence…a person or a group can
suffer real damage, real distortion if the people or societies around them mirror back
to them a confining or demeaning or contemptible picture of themselves. Non
recognition or misrecognition can inflict harm, can be a form of oppression,
imprisoning someone in a false, distorted and reduced mode of being”.45
Multiculturalism is part of the broader human rights system against ethnic, racial and social
injustices that emerged after the World War II. Previously, the west was rife with racist and
ethnócultural ideologies that explicitly propounded the superiority of certain races and their
cultures and their divine right to rule over others. These ideologies were widely accepted in the
west and were underpinned in both domestic laws (racially biased laws) and foreign policies
(brutal conquests of overseas colonies see British atrocities against Mau Mau uprising in
Barry B. 2001 p286.
Barry B. 2001 p284
Barry B. 2001 p300
Taylor, C 1994.Multiculturilsm: examining the politics of Recognition, p25.
Kymilcka, W.2011Multiculturalism: Success, Failure and Future. Migration Policy Institute p5
Until it adhered to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial
Discrimination in 1975, Australia had ‘a white only’ immigration policy47. The US only ratified
the Treaty in 1994. Canada revoked its racist law in 1967 and ratified the Convention in 1970,
Great Britain 1966 and ratified Treaty in 1969, New Zealand 1966 and ratified Treaty in 197248.
Major British settler nations (Australia, New Zealand, and Canada) had an assimilation approach
to immigration. Immigrants were generally required to assimilate into pre-existing British
mainstream culture hoping that over time, they would become indistinguishable from native born
British people in their lifestyle and culture. Hence any groups that seemed incapable of this kind
of assimilation, particularly Africans and Asians, were prohibited from immigrating to these
countries or becoming citizens.49
Adolf Hitler’s Nazism was borne from a similar twisted purist ideology. In his book Mein
Kampf, he asserted the superiority of the Aryan race from which German race was spawned. A
master race superior to all other races. Hence the systematic weeding out of the Jews to minimize
interbreeding with inferior people. Hitler warned that the Aryan race was in danger of being
weakened by intermarriages to “foreigners” particularly the Germany Jews who he considered
lazy and intellectually deficient. He hugely despised the Gypsies as well who he considered
After Hitler led destructive World War II, the world recoiled against Hitler’s fanatical and
murderous use of such ideologies and through the United Nations effectively repudiated them in
favor of the new ideology of equality of races and peoples, when 1948 nations adopted the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights. As clearly outlined by the article 1 and 2 below.51
Article 1:
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed
with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of
Quataert. J 2009: ‘Advocating Human Dignity-Human Rights Mobilizations in Global Politics’p5.
‘ International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination’: http://treaties.un.org/pages
Banting, K and Kymlicka W 2010.’Canadian Multiculturalism: Global Anxieties and Local Debates’ p49
Ilie, Dirven and Frank 2002: Language and Ideology, proscriptive cognitive, vol.2.John Benjamin Publishing,
Amsterdam, P4.
Universal Declaration of Human Rights:
Article 2:
Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, color, sex, language, religion, political or
other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore,
no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or
international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it
be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of
This notion of equality among races and people spawned a series of political movements across
the world. From those seeking decolonization mostly in Africa, Asia and Latin America 1948-65,
to the struggle against racial segregation and discrimination initiated and exemplified by the
African America civil rights movements 1955-65, the struggle for multiculturalism and minority
rights that emerged in the late 1960s.52
Multiculturalism can also be said to be partly post-World War II liberal consensus that was
constructed at least partly in opposition to fascist ideology. Its genesis as an academic standpoint
first emerged during the social upheavals of the 1960s that plagued United States of America.
Particularly, the so called civil rights movements led by celebrated Afro Americans such as
Martin Luther King Junior advocating for non-violent struggle on one hand, and Malcolm X
calling for a violent revolution. The 1960s and 70s generally saw a growing trend of political
assertiveness by minority groups like the French speaking Canadians in Quebec, Scottish and
Welsh nationalism in the UK, separatists movement in Basque and Cataluña Spain, Flanders in
Belgium, Corsica in France, Maoris, in New Zealand, Aboriginals in Australia and Canada etc.53
The common narrative was the desire to end historical injustices that had led to their exclusion in
the social political and economic affairs of their states. Ethnic politics was a conduit for
liberation from century long white imposed structural disadvantage and ingrained inequality.
Patterns in international migration post 1945 also bolstered multicultural politics. As the
European empires retreated from their colonies following the World War II, they recruited
workers from abroad to assist in the process of post war reconstruction54. The drive to fill the
labor shortages drastically transformed European cities as immigrants took jobs in various parts
Kymlicka W, 2012. ‘Multiculturalism: Success, Failure and the Future’. P6
Heywood, A.2007. ‘Political Ideologies’ – An Introduction p311
Kelly P. 2002: Multiculturalism Reconsidered, Polity Press, Cambridge, p3.
of public sector and propelled these economies. Most of these immigrant workers were mostly
brought from ex-colonies. Britain recruited generally from the Indian sub-continent and West
Indies while France from Algeria, Tunisia, and Morocco, and Germany brought theirs as
Gasterrbeiter (guest workers who were denied citizenship) mainly from Turkey and the former
The 1990s brought about an intense migration due to increased refugee numbers as a result of the
ethnic conflicts fought in Rwanda, Sudan, Algeria, Bangladesh, Indo-China, and Afghanistan.
Coupled by the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989/91 and causing nationalist conflicts
particularly in Yugoslavia. Then the growing trend of economic globalization leading to intense
competition for international market, impacts for transnational corporations, and pressure to
produce goods for export rather than to satisfy domestic needs. It can also been attributed to the
development of dual labor market in industrialized west where there is stratum of low-paid, lowskilled and low-status jobs that domestic population don’t want to take.
By the turn of the millennium, western states had come to recognize multi-ethnicity, multireligion and multi-cultural trends as a fact of life and virtually all EU members’ state
incorporated it into public policy56.
Post 9/11 period has highlighted and associated together in public mind the issues of migration,
religion and terrorism as many nations adapt aggressive measures to control immigration in the
name of safeguarding their countries’ against terror. There is no doubt that terrorism to a large
extent is an outgrowth of religion and migration. Often attributed to extreme religious ideologies
such as the fundamentalist and apocalyptic views of Islam, Judaism, and Christianity or racist
offshoot Hinduism.57 The vicious terrorist attack on World Trade Centre and the Pentagon (two
of America’s symbols of global hegemony) on September 11, 2001 not only shocked the world
but also heralded a new dawn in international political system. Soon after the terrorist’s strike,
Bush administration launched the so called ‘War on Terror’, which redefined America’s foreign
policy and national security strategy.
Heywood, A.2007
Heywood, A.2007. Political Ideologies – An Introduction p312
Guerette T and Freilich J 2006 ‘Migration, Culture Conflict, Crime and Terrorism’p3.
The controversial military invasion of Iraq in 2003, led to many European Muslims rushing to
the defense of Iraq, which they viewed a small Muslim country being bullied by the US, the
world superpower and many of them were killed or captured. Some European youths are
reported to have been trained in jihadist camps in the Middle East or North Africa and some of
them are known to have returned to Europe. The London and Madrid bombings and numerous
attacks that have been so far been thwarted by European security personnel who have also
detained and deported many suspected radical Islamists. 58 French and Spanish authorities
thwarted several terrorists attempts including in 2008 that were meant to coincide with elections
in these countries. The suspects were mostly from the Pakistan militant hot spot Waziristan and
Some so called European homegrown terrorist have been killed such as Mohamed Merah who
died in a barrage of French Special Forces gunfire after a 33 hour siege on March 11 2012. He
had killed seven people, three soldiers from regiment that had dispatched troops to Afghanistan
and attacked a Jewish school in Toulouse killing four people including three children. Mera was
a French citizen of Algeria descent.59
He is said to have visited Afghanistan and Pakistan. And he reportedly told a police negotiator
shortly before he was gunned down that he had trained with Al Qaeda in the militant strongholds
of Kandahar in Afghanistan and Waziristan in Pakistan. He even regretted that he had not killed
many more French. His motivation was the fate of Palestinians, the French military presence in
Afghanistan and the French ban of the Muslim veil in public places. His brother, Abdekadeer
Mera is reported to have said he is proud of his brother’s actions. He was arrested and will likely
be charged for complicity.60
For one to effectively analyze the discourse around multiculturalism in Great Britain, one ought
to first understand the general outlook on multiculturalism in Western Europe. Right now the
Castles S and Miller M 2009: ‘The Age of Migration’p215
Toulouse Gunman, Mohamed Merah:http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-17456541
Toulouse Gunman, Mohamed Merah:http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-17456541
dominant stance in Europe is that multiculturalism is a failed policy with serious social
consequences. The policy is accused of the ills listed below:61
Rising Islamic extremism particular, fear of radicalization of Muslim youth -the so called
“homegrown terrorists.”
Parallel societies resulting to
social isolation of immigrants from the rest of the
population leading to ghettoisation
Perpetuates illiberal values incompatible with democratic societies such as; forced
marriages, female circumcision, honor killings and generally restricts the rights of
women and girls within immigrant communities.
Rising support for xenophobic tendencies, right wing populist parties and increased
incidences of discrimination
Loss of democratic space due to potential clash of “religious freedom” and freedom of
expression as exhibited by the uproar the Danish cartoons caused.
The malaise on multiculturalism has led to a growing unease even within Brussels. In fact, in a
report Commission by EU and prepared by The Group of Eminent Persons titled Living
Together- Combining diversity and freedom in 21st century Europe presented to the European
Ministerial Session in Istanbul 11th May 2011, eight obstacles to “Living Together” were
identified. I have summed them into the above five62.
It’s hardly difficult to see why multiculturalism is a failure. First of all, the debate on
multiculturalism is often generally conducted under the broader theme of security and illegal
immigration. Often than not, the debate goes hand in hand with that of Islamization and threats
posed by home grown terrorism. The discourse is always confined to the dangers posed by
resistance of immigrants to assimilate by fully adopting western culture on one hand, and fear of
foreign infiltration on western values. This conundrum gives rise to the rightwing extremist
parties with xenophobic nationalist sentiments such as the Danish People’s Party, British
National Party or Front National in France. Of course, this leads to racism and ethnic exclusion
of certain groups such as Muslims.
Banting K & Kymilcka W D 2010. Canadian Multiculturalism: Global Anxieties and Local Debates. British
Journal of Canadian Studies, 23.1 p44-45.
Balticness Journal: Thorbjorn Jagland speech www.cbss.org/component/.../id.../task,download/
Even though this issue has been on the rise since 1990s, the global economic crisis has simply
exacerbated the problem as European welfare states are challenged and stretched thin. The
Eurozone is currently stuck in a stubborn economic crisis with countries like Spain, Ireland,
Portugal and Italy fighting deep economic recessions. Austerity measures employed to revive the
engine of growth are hugely unpopular with Europe publics. The Greek and Spanish government
cuts on public service expenditure have already been met with violent street protests, some
associated with extreme groups such as the anarchists. Unemployment levels in both countries
have reached a record high 50 per cent63. The outlook of Eurozone remains grim as it registered
no growth in the first quarter of this year. Amongst the leading economies, only Germany
registered a positive growth of 0.5 per cent, doing heavy lifting and saving eurozone from
recession. France and Italy shrank even further. But Greece is in economic and political
In Greece, the painful austerity cuts have led to the election of 21 members of Golden Dawn, a
Neo-Nazi party hostile to immigrants. Buoyed by his party success, the leader, Nikolaos
Michaloliakos, vowed to throw out all immigrants and to punish those who stand in his way
“Those who have betrayed the homeland must now be afraid”, he thundered65. Of course such
extreme rightwing movements flourish during economic difficulties. As political leaders look for
scapegoats on whom to lay blame on, diverting attention from economic issues as well as
attracting rightwing voters. This is when the rhetoric on “mass immigration” and
“multiculturalism” are ratchet up as scapegoating game continues.
With Europe stuck in such economic difficulties and unemployment levels rising, some host
members are prone to support conservative values. This may be a short term comfort to some
people within the society but they risk alienating a section of the population even further as some
leaders become unflinching in their criticism.
Leading are insisting that all new arrivals must now adapt to their new national identity and
renounce their inherited ethnic or religious identities. And if these newcomers insist on
Unemployment Spain and Greece http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/financialcrisis/9181776/Youthunemployment-passes-50pc-in-Spain-and-Greece.html
The Economist 15th May 2012. http://www.economist.com/blogs/freeexchange/2012/05/euro-crisis-3
Neo-Nazi party on the rise in Greece http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/may/07/neo-nazi-golden-dawnparty-greece
preserving their faith and ethnicity, it must be a personal or private affair that should not be the
basis for political claims to multiculturalism66. “Our Muslim compatriots must be able to practice
their religion as any citizen can. But we in France do not want people to pray in the streets in an
ostentatious way”, Mr. Sarkozy said. “If you come to France, you accept to melt into a single
community, which is the national community. And if you do not want to accept that, you cannot
be welcome in France”67, The French president warned on a televised debate.
Since becoming the British Prime Minister in May 2010, David Cameron has made two
important speeches that have had far reaching implications with regards to multiculturalism:
Radicalisation and Islamist Extremism, and immigration. I have chosen David Cameron in his
capacity as the current Prime Minister of Great Britain, and as such, the head of British
Government and the leader of the Conservative Party, also known as the Tories. He therefore
articulates both his party’s and his government’s policies.
David Cameron’s speech on multiculturalism in Great Britain Delivered on 5th February 2011, at
Security Conference in Munich, Germany. The British Prime Minister, David Cameron sparked
a major debate when he decried “state of multiculturalism” in Britain and declared it a failure
blaming it on what he calls “political ideology of Islamist extremism” that radicalizes Muslim
youth. He argued that Britain instead, needed a stronger national identity:
…. we have got to get to the root of the problem, and we need to be absolutely clear
on where the origins of where these terrorist attacks lie. That is the existence of an
ideology, Islamist extremism. We should be equally clear what we mean by this
term, and we must distinguish it from Islam. Islam is a religion observed peacefully
and devoutly by over a billion people. Islamist extremism is a political ideology
supported by a minority. At the furthest end are those who back terrorism to promote
their ultimate goal: an entire Islamist realm, governed by an interpretation of
Sharia. Move along the spectrum, and you find people who may reject violence, but
Banting, K and Kymlicka W 2010. Canadian Multiculturalism: Global Anxieties and Local Debates, British Journal
of Canadian Studies,23.1 p45-6
Nicolas Sarkorzy declares multiculturalism had failed’ The Telegraph 11 February 2011
who accept various parts of the extremist worldview, including real hostility towards
Western democracy and liberal values. It is vital that we make this distinction
between religion on the one hand, and political ideology on the other. Time and
again, people equate the two. We need to be clear: Islamist extremism and Islam are
not the same thing68.
In this speech, Mr. Cameron points out the crisis and singles out Muslim and Islam as the root
cause of the failure of multiculturalism in Britain and seems to link the religion to terrorism. But
he cautiously evades swinging to the extreme right of politics by clarifying his stand. “It’s vital
that we make the distinction between religion on the one hand, and political ideology on the
other…Islamist extremism is a political ideology supported by a minority” Adding that “Islamist
extremism and Islam are not the same thing.” He purports to support religious equality and reject
religious intolerance by comparing Christian fundamentalists “who believe that Muslims are the
enemy” and Islamist extremists. Yet he emphasizes threat posed by Muslim youth: “… our
communities, groups and organizations led by young dynamic leaders promote separatism by
encouraging Muslims to define themselves solely in terms of their religion.”
He also criticizes the apathy and laxity in the British migration system which allows in
immigrants with culture he deems incompatible to ‘Britishness’, “we’ve even tolerated these
segregated communities behaving in ways that run completely counter to our values.” He calls
for a toughening of the entire British system proposing “a much more active, muscular
liberalism” that exalt the freedom of liberal democracy and “says to its citizens: this is what
defines us as a society. To belong here, is to believe these things69.
a) “…making sure that immigrants speak the language of their new home and ensuring
that people are educated in the elements of a common culture and curriculum.”
b) “We must build stronger societies and identities at home
c) “Now each of us in our own countries, I believe, must be unambiguous and hardnosed about this defense of our liberty”
From the three quotes above, one can infer that Mr. Cameron seeks to exhort others (presumably
Western Europe) to resist the forces “imagined enemy within.” A call to solidarity since western
values and culture are almost on the verge of total destruction. In addition, by linking learning
English language to British identity, he is implicitly invoking nationalist sentiments while
simultaneously articulating some inclusionary rhetoric.
The speech continues…
So when a white person holds objectionable views – racism, for example – we rightly
condemn them. But when equally unacceptable views or practices come from
someone who isn’t white, we’ve been too cautious frankly – frankly, even fearful –
to stand up to them.The failure of some to confront the horrors of forced marriage the
practice where some young girls are bullied and sometimes taken abroad to marry
someone they don't want to is a case in point. This hands-off tolerance has only
served to reinforce the sense that not enough is shared.
One of the reasons why the Munich multiculturalism speech sparked controversy is that it was
delivered on the eve of a rally in Luton organized by the far-right conservative party, popularly
known as the English Defense League (EDL). The party is openly Islamophobic. Its main
purpose according to its mission statement is to counter Islamic extremism. EDL is a reactionary
movement that was formed out of public anger against the action of a few Muslims youth
leaders who mocked the 2009 homecoming parade of Afghanistan based British troops in Luton,
with some demonstrators going as far as calling them “baby killers” , “butchers of Basra ”, and
“rapist”70. The event caused a major controversy and the five Islamist ring leaders who were
reported to be part of a banned radical Islamist organization called al-Muhajiroun were arrested
and charged for incitement71.
The British National Party (BNP), which has two members in the European Parliament, is openly
racist and Islamophobic. Among its concerns as clearly stated in its manifesto are “threats posed
by Islamism, the immigration invasion of our country, and the dangers of the European Union to
our sovereignty.EDL and BNP did not emerge from a vacuum. They are a response to an
ongoing confused dialogue about race, identity and religion in Great Britain particularly among
the conservative working class British citizen. They exploit ignorance and fear of Islam
especially among communities various communities that still experience “ parallel lives”72
EDL Manifesto http://englishdefenceleague.org/about-us/mission-statement/
Crackdown on Muslim Extremist http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/4974031/Calls-for-crackdown-onparade-Muslim-extremists.html
BNP Manifesto http://www.bnp.org.uk/manifesto
The Munich speech also caused excitement and uproar just because it was an entirely domestic
statement being read to international audience on foreign soil. This of course implied that British
Muslim somewhat posed serious danger to international peace and security to warrant their
mention at an international security conference.
Some analysts at the time thought that the timing of David Cameron speech was unfortunate as
his views could have easily been misconstrued to mean solidarity with the English Defense
League that openly calls for de-islamization of Britain and has been involved in several violent
protests with the British Muslim while BNP is openly racist. Until 2010 the party’s constitution
banned membership of non-white Britons and had repatriation of non-white as a key migration
Generally, this singling out of a religion or ethnic group often feeds into public hysteria and
paranoia about certain groups and breeds social discord. It’s borne of a strong distrust of a
certain community. This is oversimplification of a complex issue, for multiculturalism is not just
about Muslim and their unwillingness or willingness to integrate into western society. Or
radicalization of Muslim youth and the subsequent terror threats they pose to wider society
cannot be used as a measure for failure or success of multiculturalism in Britain.
David Cameron speech on immigration delivered 10 October 2011 at the Institute for
Government in London, the prime minister said he wanted even tougher action on
migration in Britain. Speech reads:
“For our part in government, we are creating a new national crime agency with a
dedicated border policing command which will have responsibility for safeguarding
the security of our border. But I want everyone in the country to help … including by
reporting suspected illegal immigrants to our Border Agency through the
Crimestoppers phoneline or through the Border Agency website. Together, we will
reclaim our borders and send illegal immigrants home. We are also going to change
the Citizenship test. There's a whole chapter in the Citizenship handbook on British
history but incredibly, there are no questions on British history in the actual test.
Instead you'll find questions on the roles and powers of the main institutions of
Europe and the benefits system within the UK. So we are going to revise the whole
test and put British history and culture at the heart of it…”73
Immigration policy http://www.number10.gov.uk/news/prime-ministers-speech-on-immigration
In his speech, Cameron skillfully constructs a generally unflattering account of immigrants. In
his coded rhetoric “they” comes across as the unwelcomed “other” invading Britain. Particularly,
when he says “we will reclaim our borders and send illegal immigrants home” and “I want
everyone in the country to help including reporting suspected illegal immigrants”. This implies
an invasion, constructing a siege-like mentality. He is articulating but also stoking fears and
anxieties among the conservative white British populace amid the so called immigrants’
invasion. “I want everyone in the country to help…”could easily open doors to ethnic profiling
as some bigoted individuals could see this as a license to harass those who visibly look different.
By calling on everyone to be involved, the Prime Minister also opens up a social divide of “us”
vs. “them” placing the immigrants whether legal or illegal as the “other”. This is likely to
endanger the lives of immigrants because they don’t walk around with labels on their forehead
saying “hey I’m legally in Britain”.
Cameron also argues that “mass immigration” is creating “discomfort and disjointedness in some
neighborhood.” It might be true and even unfair to the native British citizens enduring such
unwarranted pressures from immigrants. However, this language still directs the blame squarely
at the immigrants, the imagined “enemy within.”
Speech continues paragraph:
“…It created the space for extremist parties to flourish, as they could tell people
that mainstream politicians weren't listening to their concerns or doing anything
about them…I want us to starve extremist parties of the oxygen of public
anxiety they thrive on and extinguish them once and for all”74.
While this statement shows Cameron determination to address concerns about what he calls
“mass immigration” it also betrays his longing to gain wider support beyond the mainstream
conservative party. Cameron is slickly pandering to the supporters of the rightwing extremist
parties indirectly telling them, “see, we’re doing something about it.”
There is no denying that any responsible government or leader has the primary obligation to
protect its citizens from any kind of danger or even undue pressures and inconveniences. But Mr.
Cameron’s language from the above extract of his speeches has a rightwing populist tone.
Particularly, when he says “but after five years, they will be asked to leave, regardless of the
Immigration policy http://www.number10.gov.uk/news/prime-ministers-speech-on-immigration
contribution they have made or could make in the future.” This almost implies that all Non-EU
working immigrants in Great Britain do not want to leave once they land in Britain and that they
have to be forced to do so. It contributes to the creation of the alien “other” as they continously
articulate public concern as well as feed it.
Based on the analysis above, this paper has confirmed that the current Conservative British
Prime Minister, David Cameron is not a bigot, but uses populist rhetoric on multiculturalism
discourse not just to galvanize and solidify mainstream conservative support base, but also to
reach out to the far-right supporters of parties such as the English Defense League and the British
National Party. Through well coded populist rhetoric, Cameron’s speeches on immigration and
radicalization, and Islamist extremism implicitly construct a social divide of “us” vs. “them”.
Following the broader themes in conservative ideology where “us” here is presumably
conservative white British, belonging to the Church of England, devoted to the family and
assumed to be the normative mode of being. ‘Them’ the immigrant or Muslim on the other hand,
is generally placed as “that” problematic “other” or outsider threatening homogeneity and unity
of the “British people”.
Assuming singleness and unity of “the people” devoid of any fundamental divisions until “other”
arrives in the scene, is a classical feature of populism. Critical is the very process of naming identifying who the enemies of “the people” are. In this case ‘Islamist extremism ideology’ and
their illiberal practices such as forced marriages as well as terrorism. Another group identified is
Immigrants, flooding Britain causing “discomfort and “disjointedness” in some neighborhoods.
He shares these views with Baroness Warsi, the current co-Chairman of the Conservative Party
who thinks influx of immigrants threaten “community cohesion” and is changing the faces of
estates “overnight”. This is the kind of populist language that has partly contributed to the retreat
in multiculturalism in Great Britain and to a larger extent Western Europe. As Foucault, argues
“truths” is created in discourse and “nothing has meaning outside discourse”.
The more the rightwing parties rise and pose challenge to leadership, the more the discourse on
multiculturalism gets louder and confused as mainstream political leaders such David Cameron,
Nikolas Sarkozy or Angela Merkel are forced to take populist stands to assure their political
survival. But this populist language might just help bolster the far right parties and earn them the
legitimacy they crave arguing that their views are endorsed by mainstream political leadership.
This could be disastrous even to the future of EU itself as some of these forces oppose the EU
itself. Therefore, eventhough the threat to European values – egalitarianism, openness and
tolerance as stated by the EU Constitution Treaty 2005 is widely perceived to come from Muslim
and their religious beliefs, reactionary and conservative forces arising as a response to the rapid
transformation of Western Europe are also a threat to the same European Union ideals they
purport to protect.
Though the findings in this report are solely meant for Great Britain, comparative studies of
similar cases in Western Europe might help us to understand better the general discourse on
multiculturalism within Europe as British liberal ideals of freedom and democracy are widely
shares across board. However, these findings cannot be broadly generalized.
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