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Multiculturalism is tearing Britain apart

In 2024, we need to rediscover what brings us together.

Rakib Ehsan

Rakib Ehsan
Columnist

Topics Identity Politics Politics UK

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Britain’s struggle to integrate some of its ethnic and religious minorities continued to cause significant social problems in 2023.

There was nothing on a par with 2022’s disorder in Leicester, when Hindu and Muslim youths fought street battles with each other over the course of several weeks. That eruption of inter-ethnic violence on to the streets of a British city ought to have been a moment for us to take a deep breath, and to work out how to bridge these divisions. Yet it seems that over the past 12 months, too many have been keen to brush this fracturing of community relations under the carpet. Even local politicians, such as Labour MP for Leicester West Liz Kendall, have continued to romanticise Leicester as some sort of paragon of multicultural harmony.

Such complacency has left serious tensions unaddressed. A reminder of this arrived in September. In Peckham in south-east London, a middle-aged Asian shopkeeper was filmed violently restraining a young black woman in a row over a ‘no refunds’ policy on hair products. The footage went viral, prompting a campaign of intimidation and harassment towards the shopkeeper. Racially abusive messages were daubed on his shop front, including ‘Go to hell Patel’ and a call for ‘parasitic merchants’ to be rooted out of the local community. It echoed the racist rhetoric used by Ugandan dictator Idi Amin, who confiscated the businesses of Asian families before expelling them in the early 1970s.

The Peckham incident should have been taken far more seriously. Among other things, it drew attention to long-standing tensions over the fact that largely British Pakistani-owned businesses are catering to black British communities. Indeed, ethnic conflict over business ownership played a key role in the 2005 Birmingham riots. Yet, as with the unrest in Leicester, too many among our political and media class have chosen to look the other way.

The impact of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on social cohesion has been far more difficult to ignore. It has drawn attention to and exacerbated the animosity of some British Muslims towards the Jewish community, evident most obviously in the overt anti-Semitism on display at ‘pro-Palestine’ protests. This distinctly Islamist anti-Semitism is a clear problem in the UK today. And it is flourishing amid the failure to integrate certain British Muslim communities. Anti-Jewish conspiracy theories are tragically prevalent among the most socially segregated British Muslims.

Tensions between different ethnic and faith groups have undoubtedly grown over the past year. But instead of trying to strengthen communal bonds, and address our long-standing failure to integrate certain ethnic and faith groups, the British state has been doing the opposite – it has doubled down on cultivating a dangerous and divisive identity politics.

In recent months, it has emerged that both the Metropolitan Police and the Crown Prosecution Service have been developing formal relationships with divisive, self-appointed Muslim ‘community leaders’, several of whom have publicly endorsed Hamas or chanted anti-Semitic slogans. Elsewhere, the state has been allocating public funding to organisations that advance certain identity groups’ interests at the expense of others. There have even been cases of ‘anti-extremism’ funding being awarded to extremist groups. In February, the independent review into the government’s counter-terror Prevent programme – which aims to identify would-be extremists – found that it had funded a group led by an individual with pro-Taliban sympathies.

Our politicians have not risen to the challenge of integration. Supposedly ‘hardline’ Tories, such as former home secretary Suella Braverman, may have criticised multiculturalism in a few headline-grabbing speeches. But the Conservative government has still done little to arrest the state’s descent into the identitarian quagmire.

The problem is that the alternative – a Labour government – is likely to make things worse, deepening the grip of identity politics over the state. The Corbynista era may be over, but Labour remains a party in thrall to woke politics. It is simply not interested in binding a diverse society together on the basis of shared national values and mutual obligations. Many Labourites are disdainful of our history and traditions.

With the next General Election looming over us, we need to demand more from our political representatives. Britain has long been regarded as a successful multi-ethnic, multi-faith democracy. There are strong foundations to build on. But as we head into 2024, we must stop being so complacent about the forces that are corroding social cohesion. We need to start focussing on integration over identity politics if we are to forge a stable and unified society.

Rakib Ehsan is the author of Beyond Grievance: What the Left Gets Wrong about Ethnic Minorities, which is available to order on Amazon.

Picture by: Getty.

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Topics Identity Politics Politics UK

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