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Equality Chief Branded as "Right-Wing"

Equality Chief Branded as "Right-Wing"

Old Apr 6th 2004, 11:40 pm
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Default Equality Chief Branded as "Right-Wing"

Equality Chief Branded as "Right-Wing"
By Anushka Asthana and Gaby Hinsliff
The Guardian | April 7, 2004

Britain's race relations chief Trevor Phillips was attacked by politicians,
community leaders and commentators yesterday after he called for the country
to abandon its attempts to be more multicultural.

In a newspaper interview the head of the Commission for Racial Equality said
that 'multiculturalism suggests separateness' and added that the UK should
strive towards a more homogeneous culture with 'common values ... the common
currency of the English language, honouring the culture of these islands,
like Shakespeare and Dickens'.

His views drew stinging retorts yesterday. Lord Taylor of Warwick, the black
Conservative peer, described Phillips as too right wing. 'If you take his
line to its fullest extent you are going to get a situation like the one in
France where they are banning Muslim girls from wearing headscarves. It
certainly wouldn't work in Britain.'

And the idea of imposing British values on the country's different racial
groups was likened by the Asian Labour MP Keith Vaz to the work of Christian
missionaries. 'Britishness cannot be imposed on people of different races,
cultures and religions,' he said. 'In Britain's multicultural society
differences are celebrated, not exploited. It has been a great achievement -
the envy of Europe.'

Phillips's remark that 'people should be allowed to be a bit different' drew
a stinging response from Lord Herman Ouseley, former head of the Commission
and current chairman of Kick Racism out of Football. He said the idea of
allowing people to be different was 'a load of nonsense'.

'We have differences whether we like it or not. Even if you take black and
brown out of it there are still different ages, classes and locations. Most
people who come here as migrants have a sense of Britishness but also a
recognition that there are different cultures.'

There were also murmurings by members of the Muslim community who said they
felt Phillips's comments were aimed directly at them. 'We should not have to
hold the whole society hostage by forcing them to keep to one strict
culture,' said Riaz Ahmed, who was the mayor of Oldham during the height of
the racial tensions in the town. 'Britain is rightly a multicultural
society - why do we want to kill it off when most black and Asian people
consider themselves British, obey the laws but retain some of their

The Muslim Council of Britain also said it was concerned. A spokesman said:
'It is a major statement with profound policy implications. We need to speak
to Trevor himself, but at first glance his comments appear to be too Muslim
specific when we are already under so much pressure.'

However, there was some support for Phillips. David Lammy, the
Constitutional Affairs Minister and one of Labour's leading young black
politicians, said multiculturalism was in danger of encouraging polarised
communities living separately alongside each other. He said multiculturalism
had 'served us well in the past' but second- and third-generation immigrants
wanted something different. 'Young ethnic minority people in this country
feel as British as anyone - in fact the majority were born in this country,'
he told The Observer . 'What Trevor's saying is that having been born and
raised here, I feel passionate about this country and I find it really
worrying when I come across young people my age - Muslims - who are not able
to feel as included as I do.'

The editor of Prospect magazine, David Goodhart - who recently caused a stir
with essays along a similar line - said he thought Phillips was merely
stating the obvious. 'We need to strike a balance between diversity and the
common culture. Over the past 20 years the Left have often forgotten the

Right-wing philosopher Roger Scruton also agreed: 'Multiculturalism is a
recipe for disintegration and instead we should have a common culture that
also embraces differences. I welcome this because previously heads of the
commission have been in favour of not just multiculturalism but have made
blanket accusations against the white majority for being racist.'

Union Against Multi-Culty

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