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Making multiculturalism work
19th June 2013
by David Barclay
In the light of the widespread rejection of state multiculturalism, this report advocates a new approach to living together, grounded not in theory but in practice – the localised ‘political friendships’ through which people learn to live and work together.
Drawing on a range of interviews with people involved in two major initiatives – community organising and Near Neighbours – Making multiculturalism work argues that ordinary relationships across religious and cultural difference are the key to addressing the malaise of the public square and pursuing a meaningful ‘multicultural settlement’. These are forged not by adherence to abstract national values or an idea of what multiculturalism should look like in theory, but rather by common action – working side-byside and pursuing common goals.
In fostering this common action, the report argues, we should abandon any ‘progressive tests’, in which groups are required to show that they are sufficiently politically progressive in order to merit a ‘place at the table’. Instead we should use ‘relational tests’, in which organisations must be willing to work with people from different backgrounds and perspectives.
We should also let people be open and honest about their motivations and objectives – religious and secular – rather than suppressing difference in pursuit of an ideological neutrality to which all must subscribe.
“David Barclay’s thoughtful new Theos pamphlet offers constructive ideas about the importance of building contact, relationships and trust from below, and how that can contribute to the practical pursuit of a shared society.”
Sunder Katwala, Director, British Future
“To those who lament and those who celebrate the reported demise of ‘multiculturalism’, David Barclay points to a way of engaging which is more widespread, more invigorating, and more effective than any ‘-ism’: the core human practice of forming friendships.”
Rt Revd Dr Michael Ipgrave, Bishop of Woolwich
“This important report presents a constructive way forward on one of the neuralgic issues facing contemporary Britain: how to forge a common life between different faith groups and people of no faith without demanding everyone abandons what they cherish about their way of life in order to do so.”
Luke Bretherton, Associate Professor of Theological Ethics and Senior Fellow of the Kenan Institute for Ethics, Duke University