Greek Diaspora divided over British PM's comments on multiculturalism
British PM says multicultural policy has not worked in the UK a view rejected by Australian leaders in multicultural affairs
British Prime Minister David Cameron has declared state multiculturalism a failure in the UK. "Under the doctrine of state multiculturalism, we have encouraged different cultures to live separate lives, apart from each other and apart from the mainstream," he told the Munich Security Conference last Sunday.
"We've failed to provide a vision of society to which they feel they want to belong. We've even tolerated these segregated communities behaving in ways that run completely counter to our values," he said.
In arguing the failure of multiculturalism, Mr Cameron said that the policy could lead to terrorism, singling out extremist Islam as the biggest internal terror threat in the UK.
"This hands-off tolerance has only served to reinforce the sense that not enough is shared. And this all leaves some young Muslims feeling rootless." "And the search for something to belong to and something to believe in can lead them to this extremist ideology," he said.
Mr Cameron's speech came just months after German Chancellor Angela Merkel declared multiculturalism in her country had also failed. "The approach [to build] a multicultural [society] and to live side-by-side and to enjoy each other … has failed, utterly failed," she told members of her Christian Democrat party in October last year.
Ms Merkel was also present at the Munich conference that heard Mr Cameron argue for a shift in policy away from multiculturalism and towards a, "much more active, muscular liberalism".
Mr Cameron's comments at the weekend drew strong criticism, particularly from Muslim groups, who are concerned at the PM's link between multiculturalism and terrorism.
"The Prime Minister today took aim at multiculturalism through the lens of security, when in fact we need a discussion on our shared values that includes all of us, not just Muslims," Farooq Murad, Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain said in a statement.
"The Big Society should be about how we can work together to solve our common challenges; not to further isolate, sideline and demonise particular communities," he said. Mr Murad went on to criticise the timing of Mr Cameron's speech, which coincided with a rally by right-wing group, the English Defence League in Luton, north of London.
"We find it very disappointing that at a time when we should seek to stand together to fight violence and extremism, Mr Cameron omits any reference to this extremist group spreading hate and bigotry against British Muslims in towns and cities up and down this country," Mr Murad said.
Mr Cameron's speech also drew criticism from Australia, where Executive Director of the Australian Multicultural Foundation, Dr Hass Dellal told Neos Kosmos that multiculturalism is an inescapable reality for Britain.
"Multiculturalism is not a vision or an ambition, much less an ideology or creed. It describes societies like Australia and the United Kingdom as they are and as they are destined to be," Dr Dellal said.
"We can take from Prime Minister Cameron's speech that the failure of multiculturalism is really in the absence of any long-term and visionary multicultural policy in the United Kingdom, not the failure of culturally diverse communities living together."
"We are learning that by providing opportunities to connect with one another through social engagement, participation and active citizenship, we can strengthen one's sense of belonging and commitment to the nation," he said.
Dr Dellal's criticisms were echoed by Victorian Minister for Multicultural Affairs and Citizenship Nick Kotsiras, who said, "the challenge is to use our differences as a uniting force, to assist us to live peacefully with our neighbours and to enable newly arrived migrants and refugees wishing to live in Victoria the opportunity to do so."
However Mr Cameron's speech did garner some support from more established Greek Cypriot groups in the UK. Agatha Kalisperas, Director of the Hellenic Centre in London told Neos Kosmos, "I love London because it is a multicultural society, but what I think Cameron meant is that if you choose to live in this country … you have to abide by the laws and you have to learn something about the culture of this country."
"I have people from the older generation, Cypriots, who ask me 'where is Queen Elizabeth Hall or where is the Royal Albert Hall'." "You don't want to live in a completely homogeneous country … but I think there should be some loyalty to the country," she said.
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