by Sherry Stanczyk
In light of the ‘failed’ multiculturalism in Europe and the growing fear of terrorism and the radicalism of minority groups such as Muslims, the question of whether multicultural policy is beneficial to society or not is currently a heated issue. Last year, British Prime Minister David Cameron blamed multicultural policy for fostering Islamic extremism, and in Norway, multiculturalism was the motive behind Anders Breivik’s mass killing.
Multiculturalism is the visibility of minority cultures, languages, and religions in a society, and multicultural policy is written law by a country’s government that seeks to preserve, sustain, and regulate this diversity. One of the most well-known examples of multicultural policy is the Canadian Multicultural Act, which was included in the Canadian Charter of Rights of Freedoms in 1982, with the goal of preserving and protecting minority cultures and languages. The main goals of the act, as summarized by the government of Canada’s website, include guaranteeing all citizens the ability under law to preserve, develop and share their heritage and language, as well as the endorsement and support of activities that show the understanding and respect for diversity in society and make the use of languages and cultures of the “individuals of all origins”. The act applies not only to French Canadians and Canadian Aboriginals, but also to minorities of all religious and ethnic minority groups.
In theory, the idea of multicultural policy enforced by government sounds wonderful; the creation of a diverse and cultural society in which everyone is accepted and free to be themselves. However, multicultural policy has a growing number of dissenters who criticize it, and with some valid reasons. Kenan Malik criticizes multicultural policy for creating a society of ‘plural monoculturalism’ and a culture which imposes identities onto people. Instead of creating one whole and symbiotic society, multiculturalism forces different groups of people to remain separate and divided from each other, as well as stifles the individuality and dissenting opinions of individuals from minority groups. In this kind of environment migrants and minorities are not given a chance to fit in, and remain easy targets for hate crimes and racism. And if these immigrants never truly blend in with their host society, it is far easier for these groups foster hateful and radical views against the country they live in.
There are truths to these criticisms; if a society is segregated into little communities, differences are both kept and created. But if one were to look at the flip side of multiculturalism–assimilation, do we really foster a stronger and more united community? I would not only say that the answer is no, but that it creates an even less united community. This is namely because assimilation works far easier in theory than it does in real life; shedding one cultural or religious identity for another is neither easy, nor desirable for most people. Should we enforce to the children of immigrants that their heritage is something that is wrong and needs to be changed, and to other children that anyone different is someone to be ridiculed or afraid of? Instead, if we have multicultural policy that attempts to spread this diversity, instead of secluding it in their respective communities, it offers a way for the entire community to connect. The idea may sound too ideal against the realist views of anti-multiculturalists, but the idea that assimilation will erase racism or ethnic tension is even more idealist. It is also worth noting that multicultural policy does not mean that everyone is free to disregard a country’s written laws and rules if it does not suit their religion’s or culture’s. Xenophobia can only move society back as a whole.
Malik, Kenan. “What Is Wrong With Multiculturalism?” Pandaemonium, 4 June 2012. Web. 11 Nov 2012.
“The Canadian Multiculturalism Act.” Parole Board of Canada, n.d. Web. 11 Nov 2012.