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Last Updated: Tuesday, 9 August 2005, 11:22 GMT 12:22 UK
How multicultural is Britain?
Dancers at the 1997 Notting Hill carnival
Shadow Home Secretary David Davis has criticised the government's policy of multiculturalism as "outdated".

Questions needed to be raised as to how "the perverted values of suicide bombers" had been able to take root, he told the Daily Telegraph.

Mr Davis said people from different cultures should integrate more and urged the government to "build a single nation," and demand a "respect for the British way of life".

Mr Davis' comments come after new figures show a 600% rise in religious hate crimes in London, mostly against Muslims, since the suicide bomb attacks.

What are your experiences of multiculturalism? Is the concept outdated? How has multiculturalism enriched Britain's society?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we have received so far:

This topic was suggested by Francesca, Surrey, UK:
Is Mr Davis right to attack the multiculturalism policy?

If I emigrated to another country, I would expect to have to fully integrate into their society. Why would I make it harder for myself otherwise? If Britain isn't for you then stay where you are.
Sharon, Maidenhead, Berks

The immigrants who live here do so because they wish to participate in a civilised, Christian-based society. The overwhelming majority of immigrants fit in completely and continue to follow their own religions. This is how it should be. We should not change the basics of our country being based on a Christian background. Otherwise we shall decline to the standards of the Third World which we and our immigrant population do not want.
Colin, London, England

How can you possibly have a multicultural society? It's a contradiction in terms. Do you ever hear France, Germany, Holland, even America being referred to as multicultural? I rest my case.
Greg Halliwell, Richmond, UK

Take food. It is now virtually impossible to find traditional English food. Fish and chips, roast beef, pie and mash, sausage and chips? Most restaurants are Indian, Chinese, burger bars, Italian... Opponents of multiculturalism presumably want all these closed down.
Mark Jones, Surbiton

Long live multiculturism but lets embrace integration and tolerance
Bev, London, UK
I grew up in a small mining community with no ethic minorities at all. Since going to university and living in London I now have friends from every part of the globe and feel my life is much richer because of it. But, integration is the key here. I work in the NHS and we spend millions every year on translators and printing patient information into different languages - why? Surely if you live here, you should be able to speak the language at least. Long live multiculturism but lets embrace integration and tolerance.
Bev, London, UK

Whoever asked any of us if we wanted a multi-cultural society? It has ruined this country and will continue to do so. Racial harmony is a myth put about by those with vested interests. What we now have is a country torn apart by cultural divides.
Chris, Surrey, Croydon

I am oriental, I disagree with one of the post here that we have a micro-state. Oriental people in general have a very open mind and our culture is one that is very accepting to others with different faith, culture or sexual orientation. We do our best to blend in. But I do not think we are well represented in the British media, as opposed to American ones.
Erik, Hampshire

Multiculturalism is divisive and does not help anyone. The only way for everyone to live more peacefully is to consider themselves a part of the whole. Multiculturalism spends more time celebrating the pieces of the pie rather than the whole pie.
Roger, Southampton

As I understand it, when you visit other countries, especially Muslim ones, we must respect and conform to their religious and cultural beliefs. Yet when people visit and settle in Britain, they are encouraged by the mantra of 'multiculturalism' not to respect the beliefs and culture of the indigenous peoples. So why the difference and why is it always stacked against the white non-Mulism Europeans?
Jeff Hall, London

Multiculuralism is the sign of a developed liberal democracy
Jonathan, Southsea
Multiculuralism is one of Britain's greatest strengths, and its the sign of a developed liberal democracy. In order to participate people do need to be able to communicate in English, and have some understanding of our political processes, but that should never mean their should be any sacrifice of the cultural diversity of the UK.
Jonathan, Southsea

What David Davis is doing here is opening the debate on multi-culturlism - which because of the political correctness that is rife in this country, many have been afraid to start because of being branded a racist or bigot. He not once says that to be British you have to do X, Y & Z - and those critics should read and think about the article first. Its the opening of a debate - which frankly needs to be had.
Grant W., London

David Davis's comments come from a poor analysis of the causes of terrorism. The London bombings were not because of 'multiculturalism' but because of our foreign policy. Mr Davis should ask himself what is the alternative in a multi-racial mute-faith society? Is he advocating a monoculture Britain where there is no Notting Hill Carnival and the closure of mosques and temples? Of course not. So what exactly is the alternative to multiculturalism? I am perplexed.
James Wild, London UK

I am a Pakistani British born Muslim and have never actually felt 'different' from the society that I live in until very recently. The isolation of certain segments of the population through the media has meant I have to choose between whether being British or Muslim is more important to me. What have I got to ask Mr. Davis is why I can't be both? That seemed to work before so why are you enforcing some uniform perception of 'Britishness' on me? Similarly if this does go ahead, I expect Mr. Davis will also extend this idea to all the British ex-pats in Spain who don't speak a word of Spanish and have done a fantastic job of 'integration' into Spanish society.
Rianna Khan, London

It is human nature to remain in our groups of society
Alan, Cardiff, Wales
Multiculturism is a myth. It is human nature to remain in our groups of society - how often do you see a sheep in a flock of cows, or a pigeon in a flock of seagulls? Groups tend to stick with 'their own', but of course this does not mean that we should not respect the views of others, so long as they do not interfere with our values. Here in Cardiff, is one of the earliest examples of a mixed society living in harmony - I hope that recent events do not break that harmony.
Alan, Cardiff, Wales

In reply to Alan, Cardiff, South Wales, UK. I am from the same city and disagree with your view that there is 'mixed society living in harmony in Cardiff'. I don't know where you are living or socialising or even working, but I can assure you that it is far from harmonious here.
Jane Simmonds, Cardiff , Wales, UK

It all depends on where you live, that determines your experiences. Some deprived areas of the country are where the problems of separate societies seem to exist, whistle stop bus tours by MPs won't help , we need long term investment in to communities and people who are prepared to listen to disenfranchised people and bring people together.
Naeem, Coventry

I live in multi-ethnic Leicester and find that multiculturalism exists largely to divide. In my experience, where almost all cross-faith/race friendships occur outside the workplace is (perhaps sadly) where ethnic minorities speak, dress and behave as mainstream society does. I am a teacher and am committed to anti-fascism, but as a third generation immigrant (Irish) and potential immigrant to Australia, I believe that it is the obligation of the individual to attempt to integrate as much as is reasonable, not the duty of the nation to adopt an 'anything goes' attitude.
Tom M, Leicester, UK

Multiculturalism does work and should be encouraged. It is completely understandable that some immigrants tend to set up their "mini" versions of their homelands - it is no different to the hundreds of British ex-pats on the Costa Del Sol doing exactly the same.
Anon, London

If you don't enforce integration into the country's society you end up with what Britain has today
Lynn Price, S Wales
Multiculturalism is a myth. If you don't enforce integration into the country's society you end up with what Britain has today, microcosm societies living side by side with no interaction and no understanding of each other. It is time to end all this idiotic political correctness and to stand up for British culture.
Lynn Price, S Wales

Can someone please define this 'British way of life' that Mr Davis speaks of? Is it Queen Liz and the Union Jack? The Sun newspaper and xenophobic lager louts? Warm beer and cricket? If that's the 'British mould' that some people think we must fit into, then I think I'll stick with my vibrant, multicultural Scotland, thanks.
Hugh, Edinburgh, Scotland

Multiculturalism is a by-product of secularism. Britain tolerates other religions and cultures and the rights of individuals to live by their values within the confines of the law. If Britain seeks to restrict these rights, then it is no longer a secular society and will lose the tasty flavour of variety from its lands.
Ibrahim, London

Multiculturalism has been a complete failure. It has made Britain into a divided country and left many British people feeling isolated in the communities they have grown up in.
John, London

Well done Mr Davis for actually having the bottle to speak his mind. The electorate may feel it but our politicians are too worried to speak their mind. This was proved by Hazel Bears and her baffling comments on targeted searches of certain ethnic groups. It seems political correctness prevails over common sense for many in power.
Richard Gribbin, Dartmouth, Devon

What about equal rights for Christians?
Jen, Bromsgrove
Multiculturalism means embracing other cultures but not our own. In Birmingham, Father Christmas was banned last year, lest it upset the minorities, and we had to have 'Winterful,' not Christmas. Despite this, we had a celebration for Diwali and Ramadan. What about equal rights for Christians?
Jen, Bromsgrove

The UK has become a multicultural society and that's a good thing. I am Pakistani by origin but was born and brought up in this country. I am as British as the next person. It is tragic that the misguided and clearly wrong activities of the few have caused Asians and Muslims in particular to become the focus for hate crimes.
Javaid, Oldham

I agree with comments against faith schools etc. We've been so careful not to offend that we've encouraged people to come here and recreate 'home'; that can't be good for them or us. Britain should benefit from their input, their food, their customs, but they should also benefit from getting to know ours.
M Williams, Oxfordshire

A nation's culture defines its political, economic and social structures and values. A true multicultural society would therefore be one which recognises different political social and economic structures and values. But that's the dichotomy - it then ceases to be one 'society'. And if we cease to be one society we won't survive.
Hugh, London

The sooner we drop the idea of 'multiculturalism' the better
Gary, UK
The sooner we drop the idea of 'multiculturalism' the better. Instead of politicians finishing every sentence with the word 'community', I would rather they talked about 'society' and common British values. After all, reference to communities and multiculturalism infers different rights, responsibilities and values on cultural and religious groups; something I suspect that the supporters of multiculturalism would be keen to avoid.
Gary, UK

When migrating to a new country it is important to integrate fully within the culture of that country. The many races living in this country should either be British above and beyond all other cultural demands or beliefs or they should get out. There can and should be no compromises in this respect. If I migrated to Australia I would either have to integrate with the Oz way or doing things or I will come well and truly unstuck.
John Andrews, London England

If someone could define what "British culture" is supposed to be, maybe then we could decide whether we agree with it. All we are getting at the moment is yet another set of pointless political sound bites.
Alex, Cambridge

Multiculturalism is overrated. In many areas with high immigrant populations there are problems. I fear that the "traditional" way of British life is being lost as we try to accommodate those from other cultures. No other country would do this. In my opinion Britain's government thinks too much about multiculturalism and uses "buzz words" when in actual fact they should be thinking about how they are going to solve the recent problems.
L, Worcs

I like living in a society where people are allowed to think different things and view the world in different ways
Peter, London
So David Davis wants to introduce 'thought crime' for anyone who doesn't think in the way that he says British people ought to. Personally I like living in a society where people are allowed to think different things and view the world in different ways - I seem to remember it's called 'choice'. Tolerance of other's views is what makes us different to the extremists who promote terrorism. Bigotry and fundamentalism are two sides of the same coin.
Peter, London

Multiculturalism does not work. However, I believe that integration is the key to the success of any society that includes people of diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds. Integration breads understanding and mutual respect. Multiculturalism breads hatred and division. People who come to our land should at the very least learn to speak our language and become part of our community.
Steve Smith, Leeds, UK

Having a loyalty to more than one culture is fine as long as a balance is found and the host country culture is not neglected. It is not a case of having to choose between two cultures. At the moment it does seem that some communities are still too inward looking and are not embracing, in this case, British culture and values enough.
Robin, London, UK

Multiculturalism is fine when it means just that i.e. the freedom to enjoy the characteristics of different culture. After all, a person may not enjoy modern art but they wouldn't suggest that others shouldn't be able to do so. However, multiculturalism has been extended in this country to such an extent that it protects the rights of individuals to hold views, in the name of "culture", that are contrary and detrimental to Britain's prevalent, liberal way of life.
Jon , London

What does it mean to be British? We're a mongrel breed, made up of many different cultures and races who have invaded and settled on the island. Isn't the appeal of London that it so readily embraces multiculturalism?
Lee, Hebburn, England

Having people of other faiths, races, and cultures living here is (or should be) an enriching experience. Indeed, I've only just married my British-born Pakistani girlfriend (I'm white), and have found her family and culture to be very open and welcoming. But she and her family are as British as I am; they just have different roots. There is no question of them living in a ghetto, and they are fully integrated into our society. My wife doesn't even have a 'foreign' accent; she speaks posher than I do! Unfortunately, her family represents only one side of the coin; on the other is a whole group of people who try to set up their own little state within the UK, whether they be Chinese, Asian, etc, or of a variety of different faiths. This is what should not be pandered to. If people don't like our rules and way of life, and don't want to participate, they shouldn't come here. Don't attack us, just move somewhere you'd be happier. It's just common sense, not racism.
Rob, London, UK

David Davis is absolutely correct, by encouraging separatism we have created a divided society. Can we now do what we should have been doing for the last 30 years and insisting that anyone who comes to live in this country must learn to speak English and must abide by our laws.
Saly Marshall,

I think most of us need to except the fact that Britain is a completely mixed country now. Many people of different race, religion and sexuality mix together at work, schools and in pubs and restaurants. However, there will always be the few who want it to be the way they want it, be it Islamic extremists or BNP members. All groups like that need to take their heads out of the sand.
Christian H, North Wales

We should cease the practice of creating official documents in other languages
David E, London
We should stop actively promoting the idea that it's OK for different ethnic groups not to integrate into the UK. A start would be to actively encourage the use of English as our common language. We should cease the practice of creating official documents in other languages.
David E, London

Multiculturalism in Britain has never worked as people hoped. It has only created a society where the wishes of the minority are deemed more important than the wishes of the majority. There is much done to help people retain their culture when they come to the UK but nothing to protect what is a unique and vibrant way of life which is of course the British one. I want to see people from all walks of life in the UK as variety enriches us all but only if people want to be part of British culture and not expect the British people to become part of theirs.
Simon, Oxford, England

"Multiculturalism" is a fact, not an abstract concept. We have welcomed many and varied cultures into this countries for the better part of half a millennium - Jews, Huguenots, West Indian, Asian, Eastern European. We cannot turn the clock back, and quite frankly, I for one would not want to. All the people of different cultures who have come here have contributed to this country, making our own culture more diverse. Just think, if it was not for people of other cultures seeking to live here we would not have stores open all hours or some of our favourite foods - chicken tikka masala and even pizza and hamburgers. I am more than happy with multiculturalism, so let us not be driven into a culture of xenophobia by a few fanatics about the place.
Pauline Fothergill, Halifax, United Kingdom

Multiculturalism can only work when the respective cultures share the same values. Tolerance is the key up until that point - the main issue being that some people are not tolerant and respectful of others. Background and religion are uses as an excuse to justify harsh actions against differences that should be discussed and resolved. In short, there needs to be a bit of give from all cultures.
Tony, London

A society cannot have multiple cultures without tearing itself apart - as history bears witness
Ed, London, UK
How can "multiculturalism" enrich society when all it does is segregate people? To me its a contradiction in terms. A society cannot have multiple cultures without tearing itself apart - as history bears witness. Multi racial is good; multi-cultural is bad.
Ed, London, UK

My (Caribbean) parents were invited here in the 50s and 60s and collectively West Indian immigrants have more than given back in tax and wider cultural terms. My father chose to be buried here and that's as integrated as you can get. We're now onto the third and fourth generations and, if we're holding down jobs and homes and not breaking the law, we owe nothing to white people anymore. I can't speak for any other immigrant group though.
Ken, London, UK

Yet again, the Tories demonstrate how out of touch with reality they really are! In France, integrationist policies have contributed to the development of a chasm between different ethnic groups and have allowed the development of one of the largest fascist parties in Europe. The UK should be proud of its multiculturalism and the relatively good level of tolerance that exists in the UK. It would be a disaster if the UK were to listen to the likes of David Davis.
Kevin, York UK/Aix en Provence, France

The government and various other meddlers have done more to destroy multiculturalism than anything else. By the very fact that the government seems to care more about minorities than the majority indigenous population has caused much resentment, not least the government's inability to control its borders which has led to Britain being swamped by illegal immigrants and asylum-seekers who the hard-pushed British taxpayer has to feed and clothe.
Sue Hudson, London, UK

I accept different cultures, am eager to learn about their ways of life
JC, London, UK
I am half Indian, half English. Apart from a little racism at school, I've had no problems in my life in this country. This is because I am open-minded and do not dictate to others how they behave. I accept different cultures, am eager to learn about their ways of life, and I respect others. Whenever I hear comments like 'Britain doesn't make me feel good' I am angry because it's just nonsense. Britain bends over backwards for ethnic cultures and all those communities do is whinge and attack the hand that feeds it. If ever anyone says they feel alienated, they only have to look in the mirror to find the cause of that alienation. Nobody can make you feel inferior but yourself.
JC, London, UK

It is vital that the cultures and beliefs of everyone are respected - but not at the cost of Britain's traditional culture and values. More integration would lead to an increased acceptance of each other and a greater send of national identity.
FG, Cambridge

What would David Davis have us do instead? Why lose our individuality and ethnicity, to a uniform 'Britishness' which doesn't and can't exist. I consider myself British and am white and come from the Midlands, where I work there are Welsh, Scottish, English, German, Spanish, Italian, South African, Australian and New Zealanders. We all work together but have our own regional individuality through cultural upbringing. How unsurprising for the increasingly out of touch Tory party to invent a new way of appealing to the marginalised middle and old aged voters to whom it is committed and thus ensuring that it has no hope of being re-elected into government in the near future.
Andrew, London

I have seen Muslim friends blend seamlessly into British society while still holding onto their religious values. Multiculturalism does not work, it only promotes division. Embracing your adoptive country's way of life is the way to remove racism and promote religious awareness.
Pauline, Suffolk

Britain appears to be almost unique in the world in its willingness to be a cultural doormat. When you visit other nations, they expect you as a matter of course to respect their culture and, to a greater or lesser degree, adhere to its practices. Over here we seem to be quite willing to abandon everything just in case it might upset someone. Tolerance is a virtue, but we have made it our fault. We should be proud of our culture - it's what makes people want to come here in the first place. It is not racist, religionist, xenophobic or offensive to hold on to all the good things of British culture. Without it, our national identity will be sunk without trace.
Chris, Bristol, UK

What Mr Davis fails to realise is that this is a debate that has occurred numerous times over many centuries, every time a number of people from a national or racial group has settled in Britain. Each time the 'native' population get nervous and each time, a couple of generations further down the line, a cultural blending has occurred and everyone just gets on with things. It's sad to see that we still fail to remember and learn from our own history and get so paranoid about these things.
Katherine, London, UK

A country can never become multicultural because people respect their own faiths and values, often causing tension. I hate to say it, but the more "multicultural" Britain becomes, the more tension will occur, the government can do nothing to prevent it.
Ian, Lowestoft

I never thought I would ever agree with a Tory, but in this instance I have to applaud David Davis for saying how it is. Multiculturalism never had a snowballs chance in hell of working, as we are all beginning to see. What we all need to work towards is a multiracial society, with being British the goal, after all, the reason immigrants arrive on our shores is because they want to embrace out culture and become British too, isn't it? Why else would they come?
D Harper, Blackburn

Multiculturalism is the best thing to have happened in human history. Instead of ignorance and fear of those with beliefs different to our own, we have the chance to understand and celebrate. However, along with this comes responsibility, compassion, respect and tolerance, which have to come from everyone. These are relatively new values for those who have lived their lives in cultural isolation. Multiculturalism can (and will) work, but it will take some time for the old ways to disperse.
Dave, London, UK

Multiracial Britain yes, multicultural Britain no
Ed Hollinshead, UK
David Davis is the first politician post 7/7 to speak any sense. Multiculturalism should never have been promoted as the best way to integrate thousands of very different races and backgrounds into a country which has an already established culture. British acceptance of disjointed and segregated communities all in the name of tolerance has done serious harm to our nation community as a whole. Black, white, Muslim, Christian, Jew, we all fit into one group, but overall we should consider ourselves and be encouraged to consider ourselves British. Multiracial Britain yes, multicultural Britain no.
Ed Hollinshead, UK

I think there is still a long way to go. While we are told to celebrate our diversities, is it not these very differences that seem to cause all the problems. Perhaps we should stop looking at are differences and focusing on what we have in common.
J Ford, Wycombe

As a South African living and working in the UK (largely due to Affirmative Action in South Africa) I find it frustrating that those of us from Commonwealth countries have to follow all the right channels and deal with a lot of "red tape" in order to work in this country, whereas it appears that many other foreigners are allowed into the country only to enjoy the social benefits provided, essentially, by people like myself who are contributing to this country's economy.
Jeanne Berkeljon, London

Mr Davis has hit the right note for me. His views are absolutely spot on. Multiculturalism, for all its political correctness, has created a divided society. We must all fit into the same British mould, only then can we live together and appreciate the diversity within.
Alan W, Birmingham

This rather depends on how multicultural people want it. Immigrants integrating into the community and adding a new slant from their place of origin is fine, but simply creating a miniature version of their homeland in Britain is not. Integration should come first, not second.
Mike, Brighton

I would rather live in a society that respects and celebrates different cultures equally
Carole, Lancashire
What is 'the British way of life'? Who are the 'we' that media commentators and politicians keep referring to? I have very good friends of different races and faiths to myself who live in the UK and I love experiencing their culture. I would rather live in a society that respects and celebrates different cultures equally than one which tries to create a monoculture which means nothing to anyone.
Carole, Lancashire

I have been in England for past 6 years. I came to this country, because I wanted and was prepare to follow the rules of this country. However I have learnt and experienced that not everybody arriving is prepared to do this. They choose to live here but will not socialise with others, will not try to speak English and try to impose their beliefs. This is wrong.
Natalie, Manchester, UK

I believe that the whole principle of multiculturalism is fundamentally flawed. It creates racial discourse by 'ghettoising' communities across the UK. I agree with David Davis that what we have to do is integrate people into a single identity to stop the 'us and them' mentality.
Ian Jerram, Chesterfield, England

In my hometown there are two distinct and very separate cultures. There is the Muslim Asian culture and the white British culture. People from both of these communities live parallel but separate lives with hardly any interaction between the two. There is a very large Muslim population in this town, but I don't personally know any of them. We tend to work in separate places, socialise in different places, and live in separate places within the same town. The cultures of the 2 communities are from the furthest opposing ends of the spectrum. Multiculturalism has failed in Burnley.
Sean Magee, Burnley UK

I think such an experience would benefit most people
Helen, Croydon
I don't think single faith schools help integration and multiculturalism. People from other cultures remain 'other'. I went to a very 'cosmopolitan' school in the 70s and I didn't really notice the differences in my fellow pupils despite the fact that they included Christians, Jews, Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs. I think such an experience would benefit most people.
Helen, Croydon

Multiculturalism has not 'enriched' our society at all. Instead, it has caused a slew of social problems as a result of its demands for self-imposed apartheid. In many parts of our big cities, society has become deeply fractured, with different ethnic groups resenting the presence of others. It would be nice to think that we will one day be 'integrated', but frankly I think it is a foolish pipe-dream.
Gordon McStraun, UK

Things are very multi-cultural here in Finsbury Park with Irish, Greeks, Turks, West Indians, Africans, Arabs, Persians, Chinese and even a few Brits like me. Just a shame that one small section of people had to act as if they were right and everyone else was out of step with them. We'll get over it though.
Brian Hundig, Finsbury Park

I respect other people's views, beliefs and ways of life but at the same time I believe that they should respect mine. I also think that there is a so-called British way of life and that the phrase of When in Rome should to a large extent apply.
Mike, Eastleigh

Multiculturalism has enriched the society here in many ways. This includes introducing variety, gaining an understanding of other kinds of people, a growth in the range of foods available and new types of clothing styles. Britain has become a 3-dimensional society from multiculturalism.
Abdul Ali, Manchester


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