EU Leaders' Rejection Of “Multiculturalism” Aimed At Far-Right Demagogues (4/1)     Print Email

  • “The multicultural approach, saying that we simply live side by side and be happy about one another, has utterly failed.”— German Chancellor Angela Merkel in October 2010.
  •  “Under the doctrine of state multiculturalism, we have... failed to provide a vision of society to which [minorities] feel they want to belong.” — British Prime Minister David Cameron in February 2011.
  •  “Multiculturalism is a failure. The truth is that in our democracies, we cared too much about the identity of the migrant and not sufficiently about the identity of the country that welcomed him.” — French President Nicholas Sarkozy in February 2011.

This remarkable convergence in the timing and shifts in the public stances of major conservative European leaders stems from a common motive –“protecting your right flank” in a era where popular discontent with the effects Muslim migration in Germany, Britain and France has reached the boiling point, according to a well-informed article in Foreign Policy Magazine.

The point made by the authors -- Justin Vaïsse and Jonathan Laurence – is that these three European leaders’ tactical shifts come at a bad moment for their countries’ efforts to cope with tensions over the assimilation of Muslim minorities. These public pronouncements by national leaders are liable to jeopardize years of efforts by their own interior ministries to put in place new rhetoric and “demanding yet fair policies” toward local Muslim communities aimed at more successful integration.

Ironically, the leaders’ new political tactics against far-right populists also comes at time when opposing long controversial "multiculturalism” amounts to shooting a ghost.

The much-maligned "multiculturalism," which all three leaders have singled out in their broadsides, is really a political anachronism. The article’s authors say that multiculturalism’s “traditional meaning -- allowing communities to live segregated from society or somehow beyond the writ of the state --  has long been abandoned by European countries.

“The current uproar over Islam's "compatibility" with European values made more sense in the early-to-mid 1990s, when lambs were still being slaughtered in bathtubs, foreign imams arrived on tourist visas, and sidewalk prayers were the only option many Muslims had. Back then, the religious practices of Muslims in Germany -- much like elsewhere in Europe -- were still filed under foreign affairs, not domestic politics. Germany, Britain, and France, which together are home to around two-thirds of Europe's 16 million Muslims, have worked over the past two decades to bring the practice of Islam into line with that of other major religious communities, while cooperating with Muslim groups to marginalize violent extremists. After years of leaving Islam outside domestic institutions, public authorities began to treat the faith as a domestic religion, encouraging Muslims to embrace national citizenship, and bringing Islamic organizations into the fold. Dozens of high-level national politicians -- including Sarkozy -- expended significant resources and political capital overseeing this process in the 2000s, and no one could mistake their solutions for multiculturalism.”

  --  European Affairs