But you couldn't tell that if you read the uber-right Daily Telegraph's treatment of the speech - and, of course, that is the only treatment interesting to the American rightwing, who are far more ready to embrace Islamophobia than their conservative colleagues in the UK. Here's the key section of the Telegraph article that has the bigots of the American extreme Right dancing for joy:
Tony Blair formally declared Britain’s multicultural experiment over yesterday as he told immigrants they had ‘’a duty” to integrate with the mainstream of society.Typical of the Dully Torygraph to trumpet this speech as an end to "Britain’s multicultural experiment" and then entirely ignore key passages from Blair's speech that gives that claim the lie. They link to the full text of Blair's speech but obviously don't expect their readers to wade through it. In that expectation they appear to be correct, for if those readers here in the U.S. blogging about this had cared to do so, they would have found the speech is very different from the Telegraph's "take" on it. Like this:
In a speech that overturned more than three decades of Labour support for the idea, he set out a series of requirements that were now expected from ethnic minority groups if they wished to call themselves British.
These included “equality of respect” - especially better treatment of women by Muslim men - allegiance to the rule of law and a command of English.
If outsiders wishing to settle in Britain were not prepared to conform to the virtues of tolerance then they should stay away. He added: “Conform to it; or don’t come here. We don’t want the hate-mongers, whatever their race, religion or creed. “If you come here lawfully, we welcome you. If you are permitted to stay here permanently, you become an equal member of our community and become one of us. The right to be different. The duty to integrate. That is what being British means.”
the reason we are having this debate is not generalised extremism. It is a new and virulent form of ideology associated with a minority of our Muslim community. It is not a problem with Britons of Hindu, Afro-Caribbean, Chinese or Polish origin. Nor is it a problem with the majority of the Muslim community. Most Muslims are proud to be British and Muslim and are thoroughly decent law-abiding citizens. But it is a problem with a minority of that community, particularly originating from certain countries. The reason I say that this is grounds for optimism, is that what the above proves, is that integrating people whilst preserving their distinctive cultures, is not impossible. It is the norm. The failure of one part of one community to do so, is not a function of a flawed theory of a multicultural society. It is a function of a particular ideology that arises within one religion at this one time.No "Clash of Civilisations" for Tony, I'm glad to say. Also interesting, he begins the whole speech by talking about how the socialist Labor Party he leads is the only party ever to introduce anti-discrimination legislation in the UK and how whites have become more tolerant of multi-cultural Britain over the years. Then there's this:
The whole point is that multicultural Britain was never supposed to be a celebration of division; but of diversity. The purpose was to allow people to live harmoniously together, despite their difference; not to make their difference an encouragement to discord. The values that nurtured it were those of solidarity, of coming together, of peaceful co-existence. The right to be in a multicultural society was always, always implicitly balanced by a duty to integrate, to be part of Britain, to be British and Asian, British and black, British and white. Those whites who support the BNP's policy of separate races and those Muslims who shun integration into British society both contradict the fundamental values that define Britain today: tolerance, solidarity across the racial and religious divide, equality for all and between all.Which comes right before that key phrase "We must respect both our right to differ and the duty to express any difference in a way fully consistent with the values that bind us together."
So it is not that we need to dispense with multicultural Britain. On the contrary we should continue celebrating it.
My guess, there will be legislation and education initiatives to make support for extremist Islamist ideology as abhorent as support for white supremacist ideology. Which is as it should be. There will be more use of current legislation to enforce equal treatment of, for instance, women and other religions (watch out, evangelists) in religious settings and faith schools of all stripes. Again, I'm fine with that. There is to be a requirement for competence in English for citizenship. Again, not a problem. Even native-born Welsh, Irish and Gaelic speakers are expected to be bilingual.
Tony may be a poodle for Bush in foreign policy, and a control freak like all his New Labour kin when it comes to dissent against his accepted line, but on this he's hit the common thread, the Mother Lode of British multiculturalism. He notes that no mainstream UK party would use race as a political card - that it is inconceivable that the current Conservative leader would do so, for instance. Unfortunately, that isn't true of the Torygraph. They truncated Blair's closing sentences in the quote they provide in their main article. The actual final phrasing was:
The right to be different. The duty to integrate. That is what being British means. And neither racists nor extremists should be allowed to destroy it.It is illuminating that the Telegraph - the UK's primary media home of "Little England" Islamophobia and generalised white supremacist racism - decided to leave off that last sentence.