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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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