Textverständnis und Analyse: Sachtext "Multiculturalism is not the best way to welcome people to our country" by J. Hari
The commentary “Multiculturalism is not the best way to welcome people to our country” by Johann Hari, published in The Independent on 5th August 2005, deals with the question whether multiculturalism may do more harm than good for the growing together of British society.
Influenced by his own immigration background, Hari is highly critical of the concept of a multicultural British society. The author believes the idea of multiculturalism to be misguided where it lends an arm to the creation of hermetically sealed-off cultures existing side by side but not coming into close contact with each other. He favours the idea of a melting pot in which different cultures merge and interact.
In Hari’s opinion multiculturalism regards immigrant cultures as homogenous and unchanging, thus allowing conservative mind-sets and traditional structures to be upheld. This way, groups within certain immigrant communities often supressed like women or homosexuals would not be able to enjoy the freedom that a democratic society has to offer.
The general liberality of British society would mostly and involuntarily benefit those keen to defend a traditional patriarchal system, mainly conservative, religious Muslim leaders and misogynistic young men. Open-minded immigrants would find it hard to resist due to the fact that they could not rely on the mainstream culture to support them. Thus, multiculturalism would inadvertently help what it was trying to eradicate: intolerance and even racial and sexual discrimination.
For Hari, the only way to overcome cultural segregation was to create more opportunities for people from different cultures to come into contact and to promote mixed-race marriages.
Great Britain has traditionally considered itself a liberal country that takes pride in being host to immigrants from many of its former colonies and Europe. Until recently multiculturalism was thus regarded as a concept of live and let live, believing this tolerant attitude to be helpful in making newcomers feel at home in Britain.
For many years Britain has fostered the creation of immigrant boroughs, separate community centres and faith schools, thereby allowing the gap between the host culture and the immigrant cultures to get wider. This has helped mainly conservative groups to establish their traditional values and rules within their community, making it harder for those willing to change. The wake-up call that seems to have lifted Britain from its slumber was the London bombing in 2005. The attacks by home-grown terrorists opened the eyes of many to the misguided tolerance towards religious fanatics and close-minded traditionalists. Yet Britain still has to do more to break fresh ground for more progressive forces.
In contrast to Great Britain the United States has been an immigrant nation from the start and the idea of a “melting pot” for a long time dominated the American self-image. A common American identity seemed to soak up and merge different immigrant cultures. Later the so called “salad bowl theory” appeared to be more appropriate as the realisation caught on that there was not just one American culture, but that the different immigrant groups retained parts of their cultural identity.
However, American history and recent political developments concerning immigration laws serve to show that the equal pursuit of the American Dream independent of race or social background is by no means a self-evident truth. From the landing of the first slaves from Africa on American soil, it took the US no less than 150 years to grant full Civil Rights to its Afro-American citizens. The election of Barack Obama as the first black president of the United States in 2008 was considered as confirmation for the opening process of the US mainstream society. This, however, cannot belie the fact that many Afro-Americans are still at a disadvantage to white Americans.
All in all, both Great Britain and the United States have benefited from their multicultural societies; nevertheless both countries still have a long way to go to solve their most pressing problems. In Britain the long-lasting indifference to conservative and repressive tendencies within certain immigrant groups have prevented women and gays from grasping the opportunities offered by a free society. In America ethnic minorities still have to fight unequal conditions that limit social, economic and professional advancement.
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