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Better words mean better thinking


Written 5 March 2008. Posted here 1 June 2010.

For many years, I was fed up explaining to Anglo-Saxon Britons that an "arranged marriage" did not preclude a free choice about whether to marry a candidate spouse.

Then about a decade ago, the phrase "forced marriage" came into common usage. At a stroke the debate changed. Now almost everyone in the country agreed that forced marriages are an abomination, and not to be confused with arranged marriages.

David Cameron may have done the country a similar service in a speech he gave on 26 February 2008.

A couple of years ago, Trevor Phillips launched an attack on "multiculturalism." I have always felt that attacking multiculturalism is completely inane. The opposite of multiculturalism is monoculturalism; who wants to live in a monoculture? It would be desperately boring!

However, a real issue is buried in this farcical debate about "multiculturalism". We do need to promote a Britain that has cohesion, where all citizens come together for the common good.

In his speech, David Cameron used a new term, "state multiculturalism" which I have not come across before. However, on Google I found a few instances, even after excluding web pages referring to David Cameron's speech and pages where the words were simply juxtaposed. Though Mr Cameron may not have invented the phrase, he certainly deserves credit for bringing it into common usage.

In one sense, Mr Cameron was simply using the "Aunt Sally" debating tactic. He defined "state multiculturalism" in such a way that I find it hard to imagine why anyone would ever want to support it. However, he did have a serious message.

In their desire to avoid offending religious or ethnic minorities, state institutions often bend over backwards, annoying the majority community and damaging community cohesion, while doing nothing tangible to help the religious or ethnic minority whose feelings they were trying to protect. Instead of such over-concern regarding imagined hurt feelings, all citizens should be robust in standing up for our shared values such as condemnation of forced marriage.

By agreeing to condemn "state multiculturalism," we can put an end to Trevor Phillips's multiculturalism debate, and move forward towards building the cohesive Britain that most of us desire.

Full text of Mr Cameron's speech on the Conservative Party website.


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