Argument: Multiculturalism politicizes identity in ethnic and religious terms

Issue Report: Multiculturalism vs. assimilation


Multiculturalism has encouraged the politicisation of identity in ethnic or religious terms. Earlier immigrant minorities, such as the Irish or the Jews, cleaved to their national and racial traditions in ways that were largely personal and private. They may have participated in public acts of worship but their ethnicity rarely took a political form. By contrast, the identity of being a Muslim has come to define many people in British society to the exclusion of all other characteristics.
The children of Irish or Jewish immigrants had some choice about whether to follow or reject their parents’ allegiances, matters which undoubtedly caused much family strife, but did not become political issues. By contrast, the children of immigrants from the Indian subcontinent or the Middle East have little option but to adopt the label of Muslim, which is thrust upon them by British society as much as by their own parents. If young Muslim women have embraced the hijab as a badge of identity in a way their mothers never did, as a public political symbol, this is more a result of the demands of British multiculturalism than a spontaneous assertion of allegiance.”