Why I’m optimistic about multiculturalism

I agree with Toby Young below. English customs, traditions and attitudes are powerful in helping people to get along with one-another. Australia retains a strong English influence but is even more multicultural than Britain --  and we too have an almost seamless multiculturalism.  

When I sit in my favourite breakfast cafe, I often find that among all the customers there is only one or two who have my fair Celtic skin. There are always people of Chinese and South Asians as fellow-diners there plus  a great majority with Mediterranean skin -- presumably from everywhere between Spain and Iran. And there is NEVER the sligtiest disruption.  People line up nicely to order their food and the waiters keep bringing out wonderful-looking meals.  I have never heard so much as a raised voice.  That is real-life multiculturalism at work.  

And it so happens that I have these days  a female friend of Indian heritage whom I am rather soppy about.  See below:


Many of my conservative friends are beginning to catastrophise about the future of Britain in light of the pro-Palestinian protests that have erupted in our major cities over the past month. ‘I think you’re screwed,’ an American philosopher told me on Monday. ‘You should have raised the alarm about immigration from Muslim countries 25 years ago and now it’s too late. The fox is in the hen house.’

Such pessimism is coming to a head this weekend, with tens of thousands of protestors threatening to disrupt the Remembrance ceremonies which are taking place over two days owing to 11 November falling on a Saturday. If the two-minute silence is interrupted on either day by chants of ‘from the river to the sea’ or the Cenotaph has a Palestinian flag draped over it, we can expect a lot of hand-wringing about the failure of multiculturalism from right-of-centre columnists, as well as some Tory MPs. But unusually I find myself at odds with my colleagues on this issue. I’m not quite ready to conclude that a significant percentage of Britain’s Muslim population remains stubbornly unassimilated and rejects our way of life.

To begin with, the vast majority of Britain’s four million Muslims haven’t participated in these protests. Let’s suppose – generously – that 250,000 people have taken part in a pro-Palestinian protest in the UK since 7 October. If you subtract the 50,000 or so who aren’t Muslims but the usual middle-class rabble clutching Socialist Workers party banners, that means just 5 per cent of the Muslim population have been on the streets calling for the destruction of Israel.

And what of that 5 per cent? The press has focused on the most extremist people, like the two young women with pictures of paragliders stuck to their jackets and the young men using loudhailers to denounce the Jews – and such behaviour is deeply shocking. But there’s no evidence that most of the protestors support Hamas or Hezbollah or want Israel’s seven million Jews to be slaughtered by Islamist paramilitaries, even if that would certainly be their fate if the state of Israel ceased to exist.

I think the majority are engaging in a kind of wilful blindness, their natural humanity temporarily silenced by the excitement at being swept up in a tribal conflict. They remind me of QPR fans on their way to play a local rival like Fulham. Loud and intimidating and prone to chanting some quite unpleasant things, but they don’t even represent themselves – certainly not their best selves – let alone the entire population of Shepherd’s Bush.

Am I being too generous? Not according to the survey evidence. An ICM poll for Policy Exchange carried out in 2016 found that more than half of the UK’s Muslim population want to ‘fully integrate’ (53 per cent) and the vast majority  share the hopes and concerns of the rest of Britain’s citizens. True, they’re more likely to believe conspiracy theories – 7 per cent believe the Jews were behind the 9/11 attacks – but they’re also more likely than the general population to condemn acts of terrorism (90 per cent compared with 84 per cent) and less likely to sympathise with terrorists (2 per cent against 4 per cent).

We shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that Britain is one of the most successful multi-ethnic, multi-faith societies in the world. We have a Hindu Prime Minister, a Buddhist Home Secretary and a Muslim Mayor of London. Yes, there are occasional bouts of ethnic conflict, such as the clashes between Muslims and Hindus in Leicester following India’s victory over Pakistan in the Asia Cup cricket match last year. But, in general, Britain’s different ethnic groups rub along together remarkably well. In my part of west London I’ve never witnessed any racial tension. Catholic Poles and Muslim Somalis may not worship in the same temples, but when Saturday comes they cheer along the same football team at Loftus Road.

I hope I don’t sound too complacent. I know anti-Semitic incidents have increased by several hundred per cent in the past month, which is one of the reasons I helped create the October Declaration, an expression of solidarity with Britain’s Jews that has attracted more than 75,000 signatures. But I don’t feel as depressed about the future of our society as some of my fellow conservatives. I pray that nothing will happen to undermine the solemnity of the Remembrance weekend, and the pro-Palestinian protests will fizzle out as winter comes in. My hope is that the ugly scenes we’ve witnessed on our streets will be remembered as a blip, not as a watershed moment when we realised how catastrophic mass immigration has been for our way of life.


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