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The Morality of Multiculturalism

Duration:
45 minutes
First broadcast:
Wednesday 09 February 2011

If the government cutbacks hadn't already done so, the Prime Minister David Cameron looks as if he's finally closed the door on state-sponsored multiculturalism; as he defined it "where different cultures have been encouraged to lead different lives." The argument that we have been too tolerant of other lifestyles, cultures and values was an interesting one to make when the English Defence League took to the streets of Luton this weekend. I don't suppose the PM had them in mind when he called for a new "muscular liberalism" but the fact that the EDL claimed the speech reflected their concerns shows how difficult this subject has become in modern Britain.

Is the fight against racism and prejudice, which also celebrates multiculturalism and the hyper diversity of our country, also an essential element of the tolerance we like to take pride in? Or is multiculturalism part of the problem? Rather than tolerating difference it makes an issue of it at every point - institutionalising identity politics, creating cultural walls that stand in the way of integration. Without a collective identity and shared sense of values how can we hope to build a strong society that can withstand extremism? But who's values and should the state ever get involved in trying to shape and define the identity of specific communities?

Chaired by Michael Buerk with Michael Portillo, Kenan Malik, Claire Fox and Matthew Taylor.

Witnesses:
Professor Tariq Modood - Professor of Sociology, Politics and Public Policy and Director of the University Research Centre for the Study of Ethnicity and Citizenship at the University of Bristol.
Douglas Murray - Author and Director of the Centre for Social Cohesion.
Father Phil Sumner - A priest who has worked for over 30 years bringing communities together in moss side and Oldham.
Tim Lott - Novelist and broadcaster, who has written about the lives of working class people.

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