09 Aug 2011

Multiculturalism as a Political Concept

As a concept, multiculturalism has been thrust into the media spotlight as a result of the recent tragedy in Norway. Lately, this term has received frequent usage from journalists, bloggers, and political commentators, yet many do not understand its true meaning.

In essence, multiculturalism is the tolerance and support of cultural and communal diversity. It is often referred to as a societal “salad bowl”, as opposed to a “melting pot”.
Yet, a certain Norwegian narcissist has ensured that the word multiculturalism as gained political connotations.
Of course, I am talking about Anders Behrong Brevik, a man who describes himself as a “political dissident” on a crusade to combat “multiculturalism”. His 1,500 page “manifesto” describes his Islamophobia, and blames feminism for the erosion of the fabric of European society.
Yet, what is more concerning for Western Europe is that there has been a simmering discontent for multiculturalism in recent years. Writing for The Telegraph India, Adheesha Sarkar notes that many Europeans have become disillusioned with cultural communities, as many have been alienating themselves from western society.
Political Condemnation
Prior to the Norway attacks, many political leaders in Europe have been touting the failure of multiculturalism. Sarkar notes that David Cameron once lamented that Britain had, “even tolerated these segregated communities behaving in ways that run counter to our values”.
A similar disdain for multiculturalism encouraged Nicolas Sarkozy to ban the burqua, and made Andrea Merkel state that immigrants should be forced to learn German in order to pass at school and get a job.
Several political organisations share a similar hostility towards multiculturalism. Both the Swedish Democratic Party and Italian segregationist group Lega Nord, had their far-right sympathies revealed in a recent post:
“Breivik is a product of Multiculturalism. If Europe was not multicultural, then the shootings would never have occurred” said Erik Hellsborn, representative of the Swedish Democratic Party, the political organisation led byJimmie Åkesson that are openly against a multicultural society.
Hellsborn, reported in his personal blog that the Oslo and Utøya attacks are the consequence of the failure of mass immigration and the diffusion of Islam.
“The individual is responsible of the massacre, but if we investigate the deep motivation we find out that the root of the problem is multiculturalism,” said Hellsborn, in the interview for the Hallands Nyheter.
“These thoughts and affirmations echo the line of thought of the Lega Nord deputy Mario Borghezio, who affirmed that ‘Breivik ideas are good, some of them very good. But immigrants lead those ideas into the violence.’”
Multiculturalism as a Governmental Policy
Numerous countries outside Europe, such as Trinidad and Tobago, have been able to live harmoniously with several different cultures coexisting within their borders.
Bernadette Arneaud of the Trinidad Express explains how each culture is able to flourish, as, for example, Trinidadians of African descent maintain an Afrocentric culture, while East Indians can freely express their culture.
Yet, in the wake of the Norway attacks, Arneaud fears that the government of Trinidad and Tobago may sanction multiculturalism into legal policy, and fears that such legislation will emphasise differences, as opposed to fostering a community spiritInstead, Arneaud believes that educating young children about diversity, and the history of Trinidadian ancestors is the best method to encourage a national culture.



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