Advancing multiculturalism – learning lessons from scholarly advocacy

Murji, Karim (2012). Advancing multiculturalism – learning lessons from scholarly advocacy. In: Garner, Steve and Kavak, Seref eds. Debating Multiculturalism II. London: Dialogue Society, pp. 235–242.



Is multiculturalism dead? It is certainly assailed on almost all sides. In Britain in 2011 the Prime Minister David Cameron’s disavowed it in the spring but then backtracked somewhat on the importance of diversity and inequality after the riots in parts of England in August 2011. In between those events, on what is being called ‘22/7’ in Norway, Anders Breivik launched a murderous assault in the name of cleansing Europe against the spread of Islam. Multiculturalism has other opponents. Radical anti-racists see it as an inadequate, shallow response to discrimination, indeed even as a cloak for liberal assimilationism. Alongside that, there are people on the right and the left who see it as too concerned with cultural separateness rather than national identity or community cohesion, or class inequality. From these points of view, the end of multiculturalism is due to the various and prolonged attacks on it, and/or the excesses and claims to cultural difference and separateness that are claimed in its name. Some scholars argue for another term – interculturalism – instead of multiculturalism. For Rattansi (2011) for instance, this entails a stress upon encounters and dialogues between faith and ethnic groups; a rejection of ideas that any group has strictly definable boundaries that demarcate it from others; and a refusal of the view that non-Western cultures have little in common with the west, along with a recognition of their long and shared histories (though see Meer and Modood 2012 for a view that the interculturalism is not as distinct from multiculturalism as is claimed).

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