Britain rejects former generals’ view on multiculturalism

February 15th, 2008 - 6:36 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Gordon Brown
By Dipankar De Sarkar
London, Feb 15 (IANS) The British government and senior Asian MP Keith Vaz have strongly rejected a report that is said to reflect consensus by a group of retired generals that Britain’s multicultural society is to blame for problems of terrorism and extremism. The report by the Royal United Services International, the country’s oldest military think tank, says Britain is becoming a soft touch and a “fragmenting, post-Christian society” with a “misplaced deference to multiculturalism”, all of which undermined the fight against extremists.

The report said Britain “presents itself as a target, as a fragmenting, post-Christian society, increasingly divided about interpretations of its history, about its national aims, its values and in its political identity.”

The problem, it adds, “is worsened by the lack of leadership from the majority which in misplaced deference to ‘multiculturalism’ failed to lay down the line to immigrant communities, thus undercutting those within trying to fight extremism. The country’s lack of self-confidence is in stark contrast to the implacability of its Islamist terrorist enemy, within and without.”

But the conclusions of the report, whose authors include a former member of the opposition Conservative Party, were rejected by the Labour Party government for whom multiculturalism has long been an article of faith.

A spokesman for Prime Minister Gordon Brown said not only is Britain not a fragmented society but that some of the recommendations of the report have already been introduced with the creation of a National Security Committee whose brief includes both counter-terrorism and national cohesion.

“The safety and security of our citizens is the government’s main priority, and the government rejects any suggestion that Britain is a soft touch for terrorists,” the spokesman added.

The spokesman said some of the report’s claims “do not stand up to scrutiny”.

Keith Vaz, chairman of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Home Affairs, also rejected the report, saying multiculturalism had nothing to do with terrorism.

“I don’t accept what the report says. It is absolutely wrong to blame multiculturalism as being responsible for aiding terrorism. We have the toughest laws on terrorism in all of Europe and they are going to get tougher, as they rightly should,” Vaz said.

Goan-origin Vaz, who came to Britain at the age of 14, said the retired generals did not appear to have examined multiculturalism and “see what benefits it has given the country”.

“Over time, immigrant communities have come in because they want to be part of British values - they don’t come here because they want to be different.

“What we have got to do is to acknowledge that communities are different but then there must be an overarching set of British values that people subscribe to. That’s exactly what we are doing.”

The report comes after the Archbishop of Canterbury, the leader of the Church of England - Britain’s main Christian denomination - last week stirred a row by speculating that the introduction of certain aspects of Islamic Sharia law in Britain may be “unavoidable”.

It was written by Gwyn Prins, professor at the London School of Economics, and Lord Salisbury, scion of a leading Conservative family and a former cabinet minister, and emerged from a series of private seminars involving a group of former senior military and intelligence officers.

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