Nov 6, 2017 in Research

Multicultural London

The contemporary London is truly considered to be the most multicultural city in the world. As a result of several huge waves of migration, representatives of nearly every race, nation, culture, and religion have settled in the capital of the United Kingdom (All together now, 2006). In fact, newly-arrived immigrants and native dwellers have been facing the problem of identity in a multicultural London. Having been extremely popular before, the phenomenon of multiculturalism is the subject to severe debates in contemporary Britain. Yet in 2000, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom highly appreciated "the chance in this country to achieve an open world, an open economy, and an open global society with unprecedented opportunities for people and business" (Vetrovec, 2001, p.2). Nowadays the world society's attitude towards multiculturalism has changed significantly. State policy of multiculturalism has been publicly criticized by David Cameron in Munich Speech, who expressed a great concern about the consequences of the "acceptance and respect for cultural and religious identities of minorities" (Garner & Kavak, 2012, p.9). David Cameron made an emphasis on the fact that the biggest threat the United Kingdom had faced came from terrorist attacks. Highlighting the idea that "terrorism is not linked exclusively to any one religion or ethnic group", Prime Minister argued that "this threat comes in Europe from young men who follow a completely perverse, warped interpretation of Islam" (David Cameron's Munich speech on multiculturalism, 2011). David Cameron noted that multiculturalism is the cause of terrorism and made an emphasis on the fact that the United Kingdom requires a strong national identity policy (David Cameron's Munich Speech on Multiculturalism, 2011). Moreover, foreign key politicians, such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy, focused on the present crisis of multiculturalism and stated that this phenomenon "has failed to counteract fragmentation and extremism" (Garner & Kavak, p.9).

Definition of the Politics of Identity in Multicultural Societies

The politics of identity is pursued, being represented in the "ideas of Afrocentricity, ethnicity, femaleness, gay rights"(Madood, 2007, p.2). The defeated Nazism proclaimed conclusive differences between certain races, such as Aryan, Jew, Slav, and many others. After the failure of this terrifying ideology, anti-racism movement developed (Madood, 2007, p.1 ). In his famous speech about his dearest dream, Martin Luther King proclaimed his vision of the future life, where people of different races would cooperate as equal. Women highlighted their natural differences from men, underlining their sexual features, such as care and empathy. Gay movement made a stress on the exploration of homosexuality and a possibility to escape shame and prohibition discussing these relationships (Madood, 2007, p.1).

According to a dictionary, the notion "identity politics" means "political attitudes or positions that focus on the concerns of social groups identified mainly on the basis of gender, race ethnicity, or sexual orientation" (Identity politics, 2003). Nowadays, this politics is the synonym of the notion "multiculturalism". Tracing the politics of identity, the following issue should be taken into account: people can belong to several identity types, such as religion, gender, ethnicity (Kennedy & Hall, 2006, p.123). Individuals may have ethnic origins from a great range of countries over several generations. Therefore, the criteria to define the belonging to a certain ethnic group are problematic. Such formal criteria as the country of birth or ethnic ancestry have certain drawbacks. They do not take into account assimilation processes and "the degree to which individuals consider themselves to be "ethnic'" (Kennedy & Hall, 2006, p.123). Belonging to a certain identity group is not always matter of skin color. It may be defined by a sense of belonging to the nation, its land and culture. Therefore, individuals can have more than one identity. For example, during the war actions in the First World War, representatives of different nationalities defended interests of the United Kingdom. Approximately a third part of British troops in France consisted of Indians. "The initial rush of volunteers was impressive" (Niall Ferguson, 2004, p.305). The mood of the soldiers is brightly expressed in the lines:"The bugles of England are blowing o'er the sea... and how could I stay?" (Niall Ferguson, 2004, p.305). The representatives of different nationalities from British colonies "were not reluctant conscripts. They were... all volunteers, and enthusiastic volunteers" (Niall Ferguson, 2004, p. 306).

Developing the issue of identity politics, Tariq Modood, one of the Britain's multicultural theorists, highlights that the concept of multiculturalism has two meanings: broader and narrower ones. Multiculturalism in the broader sense is a politics of identity, "being true to one's nature or heritage and seeking with others of the same kind public recognition for one's collectivity" (Modood, 2007, p.2). In Britain, the restricted sense of multiculturalism is more common. Modood states that in the UK, mostly a great migration of peoples from outside Europe, but not existing of a political movement, caused the development of a multicultural society. This society is united by the political idea of multiculturalism in the narrow sense – by "the recognition of group difference within the public sphere of laws, policies, democratic discourses and the terms of a shared citizenship and national identity" (Malik, 2002, p.2). Suggested by Roy Jenkins, the salad bowl theory illustrates the basic features of this phenomenon, opposing it to the melting pot theory, typical for the USA (Kalpakli, 2008, p.248).

Post-immigration multiculturalism has its controversial features. This phenomenon can be related with racism and sexism. In its extreme, negative form, assumptions that certain features concern all members of an ethnic group can be attributed to racism (Kennedy & Hall, 2006, p.123). Frantz Fan adds that racism is not a static phenomenon in its nature. It is dynamic and constantly changed (Garner & Kavak, 2012, p.9). Appearing at the end of the eighteenth century, ideas of the scientific racism were developed till the middle of the twentieth century. Being explained by physical differences of diverse races, the so-called "scientific" data claimed the superiority of certain nations. This pseudo-scientific theory justified racist practices, slavery and colonization. It led to the mass destruction of Jews on the basis of racial impurity (Garner & Kavak, 2012, p.9).

History

"During the 20th century London's identity could be said to have gone four phases: imperial London, cautiously modernist London, swinging London and multicultural London" (Identity and Icons, n.d.). At the beginning of the 20th century London was an imperial city, famous for its world's markets. Londoners could order diverse exotic products, such as bananas or coco nuts, brought from overseas British colonies (Coconuts and sugar, 1920's). The historical origins of contemporary multiculturalism of London roots in slavery and colonialism. In fact, in the Ottoman Empire, the religious tolerance and accommodation towards non-Muslims were even greater than contemporary ones (Modood, 2007, p.5). After the Second World War, there were three official policy responses to the waves of post-war immigration: assimilationism, job policy based on the refusing to provide citizenship to immigrants, and multiculturalism (Herbert et al, 2006, p.2). The significant feature of the contemporary multiculturalism is that "it introduces into western nation-states a kind of ethno-religious mix that relatively unusual for those states" (Modood, 2007, p.8).

In fact, London is truly considered to be the city of multiple cultures, historically alien to Britain. To illustrate, in autumn 2000, the Commission on the Future of Multi-Ethnic Britain stated in The Parekh Report that Great Britain is the place of habitat of "many different groups, interests and identities, from Home Counties English to Gaels, Geordies and Mancunians to Liverpudlians Irish to Pakistanis, African- Caribbeans to Indians" (Parekh, 2000, p.10). Next, the United Kingdom and London, particularly, successfully combine historical and modern features. On the one hand, the society is guarded with color racism, stratification, aggressive national identities of Scottish, Welsh and English (Modook, 2007, p.9). On the other hand, London positions itself as an ancient city, closely connected with the glorious history of the country (Modook, 2007, p.9). Since the Second World War, most European societies have experienced a phenomenon of multiculturalism, when individuals of diverse races, nations, and cultures had to live and cooperate in the same area. London appeared in the center of the migration process, becoming the home for natives of outside Europe countries. Muslims account about a third part of non-white immigrants. Taking into account the great number of Muslims among the migrating nations, they are "central to the merits and demerits of multiculturalism as a public policy"(Modook, 2007, p.4). The events of 11 September 2001 in the USA caused careful and scrutinizing attitude towards the adherents of this religion(Modook,2007,p.5). "Britain has to address an anti-Muslims cultural racism as Muslims become a significant feature" (Modook, 2007 , p.9).

Problems, Challenges and Ideals posed by Identity and Hybridity

In the contemporary progressive and antiracist society, slogans claiming pluralism and multicultural society are common thing and only few people ask the question whether multiculturalism is good. Malik argues that "pluralism is both logically flawed and politically dangerous"(Malik, 2002 ). Malik considers the key arguments for multiculturalism as, first, the only means of building democratic and progressive society and, second, the strong biological necessity in "cultural attachments', publicly protected, to be incorrect and misleading (Malik, 2002).

To illustrate the inaccuracy of the above-mentioned position, Malik gives understanding of the concept of pluralism by philosophers Isaiah Berlin and John Gray, who argue that our life and different events may be seen from the different points of view. They highlight that a universal truth does not exist, replaced with a great range of conflicting truths. Representatives of different races, nationalities, cultures have different sets of cultural, social, moral values and expectations. The most surprising thing is that all these truths and beliefs are valid. Berlin focuses on the idea that pluralism is the best way to save human beings from tyranny and dangerous ideologies, such as racism, based on the inequality of different races (Malik, 2002). Malik claims that the above-mentioned arguments for pluralism are logically incorrect and misleading. For instance, a pluralist proclaiming different viewpoints on issues may not argue that the building plural society is the only best way of a society organization. "Once you dispense with the idea of universal norms, then no argument can possess anything more than, at best, local validity" (Malik, 2002).

Kymlicka makes a stress on the normative issues lift by the rights of minority ethno- cultural groups. She studies their connections with the key principles of liberal democracy, including "individual freedom, social equality, and democracy"(Kymlicka, 2012, p. 25). She notes that the problem of minority rights is the key issue of political theory (Kymlicka, 2012, p.25). The failure of communism in Eastern Europe caused the increasing of ethnic nationalisms. The "nativist backlash against immigrants and refugees', "the resurgence and political mobilization of indigenous peoples' contributed in the tensions caused by ethno-cultural minorities(Kymlicka,2012, p.26). Kymlicka distinguishes three stages in the debates over the minority rights. The first stage represents the rights of ethno-cultural minorities as communitarianism. This stage lasted up to 1989. The subject to the debates was the priority of individual freedom. Liberals claimed that "the individual is morally prior to the community" (Kymlicka,2012, p.27).Communitarians advocated the preference of collective values. They regard "individuals as the product of social practices" (Kymlicka, 2012, p.27). The second stage of debates regard minorities rights within a liberal framework (Kymlicka, 2012, p.28). The researcher highlights that a great variety of ethno-cultural groups do not approve the defense, but prefer equal participation in the activities of contemporary liberal societies. The accent was made on the equal access to education, technology, literacy, mass media. The subject to the second stage of debates was the issue of "the possible scope for minority rights within liberal theory"(Kymlicka, 2012, p.29). During the process of debates, several questions arose about relations between the fundamental liberal principles and minority rights. The opponents wondered: first, if minority groups were truly liberal, why their members required minority rights, and, second, why the representatives of ethno-cultural groups were not pleased with the traditional rights of citizenship (Kymlicka, 2012, p.30). Stating his position, Joseph Raz notes that the autonomy of individuals is closely connected "with access to their culture...Minority rights help ensure this cultural flourishing and mutual respect" (Kymlicka, 2012, p.30). The third stage of the debates regarded minority rights as a response to nation-building. Both minority rights advocates and their opponents made the assumption that "the liberal state, in its normal operation, abides by a principle of ethno-cultural neutrality" (Kymlicka, 2012, p.33). According the this point of view, the treatment towards culture is similar to the treatment to religion. Individuals are expected to be free to make their private affairs that are not the subject of state concern.

The process of nation building includes developing a common language, the national idea, and equal opportunities to get social institutions, based on the official language (Kymlicka, 2012 , p.36). The third stage of debates raises two major questions as for the preferable forms of nation building and appropriate terms of integration for ethno-cultural groups (Kymlicka, 2012, p.49).

Multiculturalism advocates bring two major arguments in favor of their position. They argue that multiculturalism is "the only means of ensuring a tolerant and democratic polity in a world in which there are deep-seated conflicts between cultures embodying different values" (Malik, 2002). The second benefit of multiculturalism its adherents see in "a basic, almost biological, need for cultural attachments" (Malik, 2002). This need requires a recognition, approval and defense of different cultures (Malik, 2002). Modood notes that "multiculturalism is the form of integration that best meets the normative implications of equal citizenship and under our present post-9/11, post-7/7 circumstances stands the best chance of succeeding" (Modood, 2007 , p.14). He states that multiculturalism should exist "as a policy idea qualifying citizenship and informing actual policies as well as relations in civil society"(Modood, 2007, p.16). Modood focuses on the report of the Commission for Multi-Ethnic Britain "The Future of Multi-Ethnic Britain" considering this document to be the significant policy official account in the United Kingdom (Modood, 2007, p.17). The researcher underlines that the major benefit of multiculturalism consists in the possibility of the national identity to provide and renew individuals' sense of national belonging (Modook,2002 ,p.18).

On the other hand, multiculturalism has serious drawbacks. An American researcher Iris Young argues that different groups are socially unequal, seeing the way to improve the situation in public affirmation and recognition of the unique cultural and social achievements of these groups. Nevertheless, the requirement of equal recognition contradicts the statement that cultures are incomparable. Malik focuses on the fact that the necessary condition for the similar treatment to different cultures is their comparison."If values are incommensurate, such comparisons are simply not possible" (Malik,2002). The difference in its nature cannot make the observers appreciate the dissimilarity of the rest individuals. It may lead to the aversion and cruel or violent treatment towards human beings that differ. Malik (Malik, 2002). Finally, after the London bombing of 2005, many Londoners, journalists and politicians changed their view on the issue of multiculturalism. William Ptaff claims that the bombing is the result of unreasoned and catastrophic policy of multiculturalism. Kepel adds that these tragic events children of the British multicultural society. The apogee became the terrifying mass murders committed by Bravik, who dared to claim that he had expressed his own protest against multiculturalism by such crazy behaviour. Discussing the disadvantages of the phenomenon, Malik states that "multiculturalism is an authoritarian, anti-human outlook. True political progress requires not recognition, but action" ( Malik, 2002).

To sum up, the contemporary London is considered to be the most multicultural city in the world. This phenomenon is the consequence of several migration waves. Newly-arrived immigrants face problems of identity in multicultural London. Nevertheless, the key politicians have change attitude towards an increasing identity policies in the capital. Yet in 2002, Tony Blair highly appreciated the chance to achieve the global open society. After the acts of terrorism caused by multiculturalism policy-making, the attitude towards the phenomenon is strictly negative. Nevertheless, there are constant debates over this controversial issue of identity policy.

Multiculturalism can be defined as the recognition of group difference within the public sphere of laws, policies, democratic discourses and the terms of a shared citizenship and national identity. The historical origins of contemporary multiculturalism roots in slavery and colonialism. People can belong to several identity types, such as religion, gender. Individuals may have ethnic origins from a great range of countries over several generations. Therefore, the criteria to define the belonging to a certain ethnic group are problematic. Belonging to a certain identity group is not always matter of skin color. It may be defined by a sense of belonging to the nation, its land and culture. Therefore, individuals can have more than one identity.

There are everlasting debates over the above-mentioned phenomenon. Multiculturalism advocates bring two major arguments in favor of their position. They argue that multiculturalism is "the only means of ensuring a tolerant and democratic polity in a world in which there are deep-seated conflicts between cultures embodying different values" (Malik, 2002). The second benefit of multiculturalism its adherents see in "a basic , almost biological, need for cultural attachments". On the other hand, multiculturalism has serious drawbacks. Theoretically, the requirement of equal recognition contradicts the statement that cultures are incomparable. Practically, many journalists and politicians accuse the multiculturalism policy of being the indirect reason of terrifying acts of terrorism. The issue of the way the policymakers should choose is extremely controversial. Nevertheless, one thing is clear: this way should be carefully thought over to escape the errors of the past.

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