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Questioning the critics of multiculturalism

Multiculturalism in Britain has been questioned by many commentators and politicians who see it as having failed by encouraging people to see themselves as ‘black’, ‘white’ or ‘Asian’ but not ‘British’.

Political theorist, Dr Varun Uberoi, questions this criticism and his work has gone on to influence both British and Canadian politics and media.

Writing for The Independent in 2011, Uberoi unpicked the inconsistencies in David Cameron’s speech in Munich where Cameron blamed ‘state multiculturalism’ as the reason young Muslim men found it hard identify with Britain.

In articles in Political Studies and Soundings, Uberoi argued that policies of multiculturalism are likely to have helped to include minorities in the way people understand British identity through, for example, multicultural education in schools.

Uberoi’s research was presented in the House of Lords and showed that UK politicians are in favour of multiculturalism policies even while appearing to reject them.

The Home Office Chief Scientist noted the importance of this finding, while those leading the Labour Party’s Policy Review said that his articles ‘helped to shape policy making discussions around…immigration, integration and multiculturalism’.

Beyond Britain, Uberoi focussed on Canada where policies of multiculturalism are more developed. He was invited to Ottawa to meet with the Canadian Department of Citizenship and Immigration, to discuss whether or not to follow Britain in rejecting policies of multiculturalism. Uberoi responded that Britain was actually taking Canada’s lead in using such policies to shape national identities and what it means to be British.