The definition of multiculturalism depends a great deal upon the context in which it is discussed. Concept of multiculturalism is constantly varying as more people make their voices heard to a recurrently increasing audience. Multiculturalism implies the diverse perspectives people develop and maintain through varieties of experience and background stemming from racial, ethnic, gender, sexual orientation and/or class differences in our society.
Multiculturalism is the acceptance or promotion of various ethnic cultures. It is diversity valid to the demographic make-up of a specific place, often at the organizational level, e.g. schools, businesses, neighborhoods, cities or nations. In this context, multiculturalists advocate extending equitable status to distinct ethnic and religious groups without promoting any specific ethnic, religious, and/or cultural community values as central.
Multiculturalism should preserve the ideals of equality, equity, freedom and respect for individuals and groups as a principle fundamental to the success of a nation.
Background of British Public Life Style that embraces Multiculturalism – the Evolution
Britian is one of Europe’s most multi-cultural nations. There are a number of policy drivers and historical happening that have led Britian to evolve into multicultural society that it is today. There is no infliction of immigration in the 1914 and 1948 Nationality Acts. Immigration remained low, however until after 1948. In 1953 the total number of immigrants to Britain was 2000 and by the end of the first half of 1962 the number had risen to 94,500.
The 1948 British Nationality Act established positive immigration rights to Citizens of Commonwealth countries. Britain experienced an increase in immigration rate in post war era due to deficiency of labor. Initially men alone came to Britain for jobs but in late 1960s and early seventies their families joined them. These included mostly Hindus, Sikhs, Muslims and Buddhists as well as Christians and they settled in London, in the Midlands and the North and in the seaport towns of Liverpool and Cardiff.
The immigration load of 1960s and early seventies made UK an ethnically and religiously diverse community. The idea that the immigrant would ultimately merge and become part of the host culture which was given in mid-50s was rejected. These communities develop their own cultural values. Racial tension increased and by the end of 1950s immigrants were subjected to unprovoked racist attacks. This resulted in the notion that immigration and race relations were politically controversial issues and there was a growing campaign to introduce immigration controls.
Between 1950 and 1955 certain control measures were adopted to reduce the influx to Uk as the number of West Indian, Indian and Pakistani immigrants increased. But in spite of the strict immigration policy the population of immigrants is still growing
Over the last decade most of the immigrants came from the Indian subcontinent or the Caribbean, i.e. from former British colonies. In 2004 the number of people who became British citizens rose to a record 140,795 – a rise of 12% on the previous year. This number had risen dramatically since 2000. The huge majority of new citizens come from Africa (32%) and Asia (40%), the largest three groups being people from Pakistan, India and Somalia.
This resulted in changes to the ‘British way of life’ and the UK became known as a multicultural community. However, more recently the term multiculturalism is becoming a contested concept both in sociological discourse and in recent policy making.
The term multiculturalism is generally thought to have arisen in Britain in a speech by the then Home Secretary, Roy Jenkins in 1966. While this term is current in the UK there are often instances where local politics can serve to exclude minority cultures while promoting the values of the dominant white culture. Multiculturalism is also a term which describes aspects of social policy. Multiculturalism is used in a number of ways which can serve either to celebrate difference or to act as a cover for what, in any real terms, is another form of enforced assimilation. It also needs to be recognized that diverse ethnic groups now consist of large numbers of people who have been born in Britain.
Causes for Reduction in People’s Moral Value and Multi-cultural Understandings of Harmony in UK
1. Materialistic Lifestyles and Lack of Religious Influences – Nowdays people are inclined towards economic advancement rather than social advancement on basis of sticking to the moral values. Simplicity has been taken over by extravagent life styles and extra needs. This brings human cirlce of behavior and brings about significant impact on the entire social fabric.
There is lack of religious and spiritual influences on people, and they do not tend to believe in virtues and moralities. In the “The Twilight of a Great Civilization”, with reference to lack of religious influences on nations and consequent emergence of immoralities, Theologian Carl Henry stated that “there is no fixed truth, no final good, no ultimate meaning or purpose, and that the living God is a primitive illusionâ€¦ it champions mysticism, occult forces and powers, communion with nature and exotic religions”. This concept of illusional God is taking up roots in various sections of British society.
2. Fragmented Family Structure – A dysfunctional family is detrimental to the development of an individual and usually results in low self-morale. Among the numerous factors for the deterioration of morals among the youth, such as lack of religious education and appreciation and peer pressure, a dysfunctional family were stated as the leading causes.
The family is the basic building blocks of society. Abuse whether sexual, physical, emotional, or mental is a very real and crippling problem in families today. Young adults, couples and elderly struggle with anxiety, depression, panic attacks, sex addiction, abuse, incest, sleep disorders, divorce, mid-life illness, death and many more problems. The family has dramatically changed over the last 30 years. This results in the deterioration of morals, values, beliefs, priorities, and life styles. Such disjointed social systems where an individual is so aloof from family would definitely show rejection and lack of trust to other members of the society especially those from “alien” cultures. Lack of harmony in family structures ultimately lead to lack of harmony in multi-cultural society.
3. Disillusioned Youth – Young people are taught in our schools and colleges that ethics, morals, right and wrong depend upon the situation. Some teachers and professors use the concept of Values Clarification to inculcate students that their desires represent valid moral and ethical values. Many of these people have come of age and are among our highest leaders today. Morality is vital in all areas of society. It is the critical education young people obtain that imparts ethical values that endow with lasting benefits. Today’s teachings produce mixed results.
Name calling and bulling due to racism is prevalent in British schools and educational systems. This causes discomfort to students from other cultures and creates sense of disharmony.
4. Negative Messages by Media – Billboards, magazines, TV commercials, music videos all portray messages of sex, violence and extravagant lifestyles. Blood gore horror flicks or action packed ones are all full of images of violence. Even video games have element of adventure by infusing streaks of violence by use of guns, explosives, daggers. These channels of exposure to voilence makes us prone to being emotionally insensitive, and enhance trends of agression, anger and violence in the society. Violent and aggressive trends call up for dis-harmony amongst various segments of multi-cultural society.
5. Racist Behavior – Racists do not like foreign people who live in the UK, either as immigrants or as visitors. Racist behavior is more widespread in areas where there are many immigrants or in towns where there are many international students. Racist behavior implies the use of slang expressions.
The British Crime Survey reveals that in 2004, 87,000 people from black or minority ethnic communities said they had been a victim of a racially motivated crime. They had suffered 49,000 violent attacks, with 4,000 being wounded. At the same time 92,000 white people said they had also fallen victim of a racially motivated crime. The number of violent attacks against whites reached 77,000, while the number of white people who reported being wounded was five times the number of black and minority ethnic victims at 20,000. Most of the offenders (57%) in the racially motivated crimes identified in the British Crime Survey are not white. White victims said 82% of offenders were not white.
6. Hatered Flared due to Terrorist Attacks – According to a report by BBC race-hate crimes increased by almost 600 per cent in London in the month after the July 7 bomb attacks, with 269 more offenses allegedly “motivated by religious hatred” reported to the Metropolitan Police, compared to the same period last year.  Muslim community living in Britian becomes subjected to harsh attitudes because they are all believed to be from terrorist groups. Religious leaders of Muslim groups hold the view that government and race bodies for pursuing a policy which, he claims, has alienated Muslims. These views were stated to be “absurd” by the Commission for Racial Equality. This rift between those representing Muslim community and the Commission for Racial Equality reflect a deep set sense of opposing views.
Suggestions to Enhance Understanding and Harmony amongst Various Sections of British Society
Media Propagation – Media can play a vital role in promoting peace and harmony oriented messages.
Role of Educational Systems – Children and students should be taught respect and tolerance for other cultural and religious trends prevalent. They must be taught to “tolerate and accept” rather than to “retaliate and reject”. Students from different ethnic backgrounds should be encouraged to share knowledge about their cultural heritage, and the teacher can add the element of “fun” and “interactive learning” in the whole process, so that the students affiliate positivity with this exercise. At higher educational level, knowledge can be shared on wider platforms through tutorial, or intellectual discussions.
Role of Government and Legal Bodies – Fair and transparent government mechanisms, policy making, and legal framework. Human rights should be followed rigidly and justice should be available to all regardless of color, race or religion.
Role of Peace Organizations – Various organizations can come into play to drive peace and harmony campaigns. For example, “Peace Boat” has been active in the field of education for peace and sustainability through the organization of educational voyages, based on lectures, workshops and study-exchange programmes both onboard the ship and in ports of call. Their Global University and International Student (IS) programmes provide innovative approaches to peace and sustainability-related studies through intensive learning onboard and direct exposure to issues in various countries.
Equal Opportunities and Freedom to Express Cultural Values – Government should ensure equal opportunities regarding availability of basic necessities, housing, education, health care, employment should be available to all the communities and social strata’s of UK. People should not feel awkward to expressing their cultural norms in anyway. Law should be made flexible to allow people to wear hijabs and veils (Muslim women), turbans (Sikhs) etc at work and educational places. Government should ensure that the performance of various religious cultural activities and festivals are not hindered in any way.
Changes at Individual Level – At the end of the day all these suggestions can add up to be nil if each one of us individually fails to take others as they are. Each one of us must work and evaluate our holistic approach of going about things. No one can compel us to exhibit tolerance or respect towards other communities unless we feel the need to do so within ourselves. The question might be: “Why the need to change anyway?” The answer: Change for a secure, peaceful and brighter tomorrow!
Policy Areas to be covered by Government to Promote a Multi-cultural Society
In UK 50 years ago, when for the first time the effect of mass immigration was experienced, the need for policy, political and legal changes was felt. With this the concern of the Government was to integrate and assimilate the incoming groups into host communities.
Policy making is very crucial as it can help in formulating policies which helps in determining the representation which various ethnicities receives in television or press. It helps in determining the code of conduct for these communities, the dress code, and content of education, the freedom for observing religious holidays and to celebrate festivals.
With the years Multiculturalism has initiated many disputes but the The UK Government has focused less on establishment of multicultural policy and more on issues of inclusion and cohesion.
While it was principally ignored under Margaret Thatcher’s Government the success of New Labor has meant that the term has grow to be a common currency in political debate and in policy making. In 1997 the ODPM was given task for a social exclusion unit which aims to embark on research into a number of different areas. Social inclusion and cohesion are not just used in relation to diverse ethnic groups but are the basis for policy making in a number of other areas such as mental health, early years education and homelessness. Issues of inclusion cover a host of areas and can range from the numbers of ethnic minorities using childcare facilities, to those undertaking further education of some kind to increase their employment prospects.
Policy making aimed at reducing inequalities in both the labor and the housing market. In order to be successful anti-racist strategies need to be multi-faceted and aimed at subjective, institutional, and structural racism. Past policies have been deficiently focused because there is no clear consensus in Britain what equal opportunity and multiculturalism mean either in ideological or practical terms. According to a Policy Studies Institute (1982) report found that in the majority of diverse ethnic communities’ rates of unemployment were twice as elevated among these groups as they were in the governing host group. There is a continuing disparity in terms of wages, exclusionary modes of hiring and higher unemployment rates, certain ethnic groups experience greater success in the labor market than do others. Housing policies also tend to discriminate against asylum seekers/refugees and other diverse ethnic groups. Clearly there are problems in the categorization of diverse ethnic groups and in present policy making, which, instead of greater inclusion sometimes tends to further leave out such groups.
In the light of above mentioned scenario of policy decisions and proceedings, it is suggested that to sustain and promote a healthy Multi-cultural Society the Government should address the following policy areas:
1. Economic Policy Areas – Economic policies should attract intellectual capital, trade, skilled migration, education, tourism, and science/technology. Establish partnerships between government agencies and business, industry, tourism, and education sectors to promote and maximize the economic advantages of cultural diversity and promote the State as a destination to work and live together. Develop supporting strategies for multiculturalism in international relations, tourism, trade and export areas. Develop educational and promotional activities to increase awareness of the economic benefits of multiculturalism. Develop strategies in the public sector to better capture the benefits of a diverse workforce.
2. Policies to Support Communities – Policies should be developed for funding and investing in communities to further multiculturalism through research, policy development, advocacy, community awareness, festivals, services, projects and networks. Policies should be formulated in consultation with agencies and stakeholders in the community and across government on multicultural affairs.
3. Policies to Strengthen Multiculturalism in the Public Sector – Government agencies should ensure that regardless of cultural and linguistic backgrounds, all communities have equal access to services.
4. Policies to Strengthen Community relations and anti-racism – Policies should be designed for strengthening the sense of belonging in their local environment and in the global community. Policies should be taken up to promote positive and cohesive community relations across the whole community through a renewed community relations plan.
5. Policies to Develop Multicultural Education in British Schools – Educational systems should be developed keeping in view the requirements and cultural backgrounds of students coming from various backgrounds. Methods of teaching and interaction should promote multi-cultural harmony amongst the students.
6. Policies for Equal Opportunities – Policies should be developed to eunsure that people from all communities have equal access to basic necessities, housing, education, health care, and employment
Transparency in Government Operations
Transparency in government operations will definitely bring in good understanding between different sections of society. In principle, a basic requirement for transparency in the overall structure and functions of government is a clear demarcation of the boundaries between the public and private sectors and, within the former, between different levels of government with respect to the state enterprise sector.  Transparent government operations would mean sound government policies, administrative frameworks, finances, good governance, and overall fiscal integrity. Transparent government operations would be accountable to all the communities dwelling in the UK. It would clearly distinguish provision of rights, protection by law and facilities by the government to the people. This would cumulate a sense of justice and equality in the society and hence promote greater level of social security and harmony.
Role of Public in Promoting Harmony and Understanding
Public can play a major role in promoting harmony by abiding by the law and respecting multicultural policies. As discussed earlier each one of use must develop a sense of tolerance and respect for other members of the society. Public can actively participate in other communities’ cultural activities and not only promote a sense of harmony but also learn about other cultures. At homes parents must teach their children how to respect and deal politely with foreign children at schools. At work place, shopping malls, community centers we must learn to respect and treat all members of the community equally.
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