The façade is crumbling around them, people are refusing to be hoodwinked into believing in something that doesn’t jive with reality. About time. KGS
Council of Europe warns on multiculturalism
By Peggy Hollinger in Paris
Published: February 16 2011 13:10 | Last updated: February 16 2011 13:10
The Council of Europe, guardian of the European convention on human rights, has backed the growing number of heads of government denouncing multiculturalism as a failure, warning that it poses a threat to security.
“As we understand it now, multiculturalism allows parallel societies to develop within states,” said Thorbjørn Jagland, secretary-general of the council, in an interview with the Financial Times.
“This must be stopped. It is also clear that some parallel societies have developed radical ideas that are dangerous. Terrorism cannot be accepted.”
Mr Jagland came to the defence of Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, David Cameron, UK prime minister, and Nicolas Sarkozy, French president, who have all warned recently that the tradition of encouraging diverse cultures to live side-by-side has damaged national identity and helped to promote the radicalisation of immigrant youth.
Mr Cameron went so far as to say that a new, more “muscular liberalism” was needed that barred government aid to groups that did not share Britain’s liberal values.
The comments by European leaders have been welcomed by groups who see their hardline positions on immigration, race and security justified by the apparent shift in mainstream politics to the right. However, they have sparked an outcry from the left and from Muslim groups, who see themselves targeted by the references.
Mr Jagland said the European leaders had opened an “important debate” that needed to be pursued. “We must be careful that we do not misunderstand multiculturalism, because diversity of cultures is desirable,” he said. “But we need to focus on what will hold our society together.”
All three had based their arguments on a European identity shaped by the common values and fundamental rights enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights. This included rights such as equality between the sexes and opposition to forced marriage. “We should not accept attitudes and behaviour that contradict this,” he said.
Mr Jagland said that recent events in north Africa had shown the dangers of allowing Europe’s stand on human rights to be diluted by a tolerance of cultural or ethnic differences. “Upholding human rights is a security issue. When you don’t have human rights, you get instability in society,” he said.
Mr Sarkozy said that France, which last year banned the full veil, would not tolerate “a society where communities coexist side by side. If you come to France, you accept to melt into a single community, which is the national community, and if you do not want to accept that, you cannot be welcome.”
However, this tradition has not helped France, which has Europe’s largest Muslim community, to find a solution for the abnormally high unemployment that weighs on its young male immigrant population. The country was also hit by riots in 2005 in city suburbs dominated by north African immigrants and their descendants.
The Council of Europe has appointed a group of leading academics and former politicians to prepare recommendations on how governments can face the challenges posed by greater cultural diversity. It will report in May.