Monday, January 29, 2007 

Multiculturalism, David Cameron and doing the exact thing they're accusing others of.

Amazingly, David Cameron has made something of a better speech on multiculturalism than Blair did back in December. Sure, the belief that multiculturalism has failed is still there, and describing the Muslim Council of Britain as similar to the BNP is not just stupid, it's ignorant, but let's leave it there for the moment.

Some of Cameron's speech was based at least partially on the Policy Exchange's report "British Muslims and the paradox of multiculutralism" (PDF), which this morning created lurid headlines in the tabloids, which Five Chinese Crackers delights in tearing apart. The poll conducted alongside the study is actually far more reassuring than it is frightening or alarming, as Sunny points out on Comment is Free. It's also worth noting that the more radical 16-24 year-olds views would be based on a far smaller sample of the 1,003 who were questioned, which will potentially skew the results. A truly representative survey would sample around 1,000 16-24 year-olds, which would probably alter the results quite substantially.

My problems with the study, which I've flicked through, are also similar to Sunny's. It seems to think that political Islam is one of the main problems, yet their very own poll shows that 51% felt that no Muslim organisation reflected their views, including organisations such as Hizb-ut-Tahrir. The organisation with the highest amount other than their own mosque was the Muslim Council of Britain, with 6%. These are the very same organisations about to be accused by another Tory policy review of promoting victimhood and being as potentially divisive as the BNP. The study also suggests that history lessons can contain an anti-Western bias, which proves that none of the authors have gone near a comprehensive classroom in years, or bothered to actually talk to any history teachers.

The attacks on multiculturalism are similarly wrongheaded. There is no contradiction between multiculturalism and integration; they are interdependent. Where multiculturalism has failed is that there has not been enough of the second. While some on the right regard 7/7 as the end of multiculturalism, others noted just how the people murdered that day were the very embodiment of that very social policy. They may not have known each other, they may have been purposefully avoiding each other's eyes before they were killed, but they showed that we're successfully living together and think nothing of it.

This is where the Policy Exchange is completely right. There has to be an end to seeing Muslims as different, and some on the left are just as guilty of this as the right is. They're neither victims, nor are they the enemy within. This is where the MCB can be criticised, and where the ideas of the New Generation Network come in.

And so how do the Tories intend to stop Muslims being seen as different and potentially a threat? By, err, naming the very organisations which are seeking to represent them (but failing) and saying that they're the problem. Vilifying them by comparing them to the BNP is just as counter-productive as some of the views the more radical of them espouse. Cameron himself says he wants a more calm debate, then he appears to be doing just the thing that's going to bring in the mouth-breathers. As ever, a compromise has to be struck, and neither Labour nor the Tories have managed it yet.

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Monday, November 20, 2006 

New Generation Network: a manifesto for our times.

Remember the Euston Manifesto? No, no one else does either. It was the Harry's Placers' and pro-war left's attempt to move on from the war they promoted and have since started to flee from like rats from a sinking ship, or those in Baghdad who've had to become refugees in order to escape the violence there which was helped along by their support. Unfortunately for them, it fell flatter than Tara-Palmer Tompkinson's breasts, and matters weren't helped when such renowned leftists as Michelle Malkin and Bill Kristol found common cause with their sentiments.

Let's hope then that the New Generation Network's manifesto doesn't go the same way. Calling for an entirely new discourse on race relations, ethnic minorities, religious intolerance and more or less everything in-between, the document is full to the brim with level-headed, simple and excellent analysis of where Britain currently is, and where it needs to go, urgently. Masterminded by Sunny Hurndal, who started the Pickled Politics blog and who is also one of the most refreshing and stimulating of those who have risen to a sort-of fame through political blogging, it's little short of excellent.

OK, I may be laying it on a little thickly. It does however echo many of the arguments which Obsolete has been trying to make for a number of months now, as have many other bloggers who have been watching the "debate" over Muslims descend into intolerant and inflammatory attacks from extremists on all sides. Without naming names, the manifesto makes clear that some of the media is playing a dangerous role in what is going on. Sunny, in his accompanying article, mentions the Sun front-page story about the home vandalised in Windsor, which was blamed on Muslim yobs, when the police came to the conclusion that it certainly wasn't, as the Ministry of Truth first exposed, (Obsolete also covered the story at the time with incredulity) and also should have mentioned the way the Express has been demanding a ban on the niqab, justifying its calls with horribly slanted reader-phone in polls. Editors and journalists need to recognise their role both in promoting inter-community relations and in making sure that inaccurate reports are corrected. There has yet to be any such correction to the Sun's story, and Unity didn't even receive a response when he attempted to put the record straight to the Sun journalist responsible for the story. Whether the toothless PCC will do anything about it, as it seems likely that complaints have been made, is another matter.

There is, and already has been some controversy, however. The manifesto makes clear its opposition to unrepresentative lobby groups which have sprung up only in the last decade or so, such as the Muslim Council of Britain, the Hindu Council UK and the Network of Sikh Organisations, to name but three. The Muslim representative groups in particular have come in for criticism of late; MCB and the Muslim Association of Britain were attacked by Martin Bright and some left-liberal commentators over their apparent support for and adherence to the beliefs of the Muslim Brotherhood. While some of this is to an extent true, it shouldn't be a reason on its own to ignore everything those groups say. The MCB especially in the last few months seems to have taken the concerns of some on board, and seems to have moved towards appearing more moderate, both when sought to comment and to appear on discussion panels. This could also be down to the new leadership at the top from Dr Muhammad Abdul Bari who took over from Iqbal Sacranie who had previously voiced his disgust as homosexuality in no uncertain terms. Such moves should be welcomed, while the organisations themselves should be increasingly encouraged to canvass actual opinion in their communities, both in order to make themselves more accountable and to gauge exactly the public thinks their role is or should be.

The six main principles of the New Generation Network are, in brief:

1) An end to communal politics, as dealt with above
2) Against prejudice, against all races and religions
3) For equality
4) We believe in freedom of speech, rightly, as incredibly close to being an absolute. This should not be in contradiction with our views on extremists of all kinds; the way forward is to expose such arguments for what they are: unrepresentative, unworkable, irresponsible and illogical.
5) We are for respecting people's multiple identities
6) A new national conversation about race

All those in mainstream politics should be able to support it. Now's the time to sign and then to build this network. You can add your support at the New Generation Network site, or by emailing with your name and title.

Related posts:
Ministry of Truth - Nice work, Sunny...
New Generation Network - Race and faith - a new agenda - the manifesto in full
Sunny Hurndal - This system of self-appointed leaders can hurt those it should be protecting

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