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Multiculturalism loses appeal in Europe

disclaimer: image is for illustration purposes only
by Staff Writers
Paris (UPI) Feb 11, 2011
Multiculturalism seems to have lost its appeal in Europe, after French President Nicolas Sarkozy this week joined a flock of leaders who have declared the concept a failure.

"The truth is that in all our democracies we have been too preoccupied with the identity of those who arrived and not enough with the identity of the country that welcomed them," Sarkozy said in remarks on French television.

His comments echo those made by leaders including British Prime Minister David Cameron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Across Europe, an increase of immigration during the 1990s and early 2000s has increased concerns over the erosion of national identities.

Critics of multiculturalism say the failure to integrate immigrants has led to a growing minority that lacks basic language skills, isn't able to find a job and overburdens national welfare systems.

Fears that isolated Islamist communities could produce home-grown terrorists have lent increasing support to far-right parties that play on xenophobia and anti-Muslim sentiments. Last year, a far-right party in traditionally tolerant Sweden entered Parliament for the first time after campaigning against multiculturalism.

The concept seems to have lost appeal even in countries where it was highly valued for many years.

Cameron criticized what he called "state multiculturalism" in a speech on extremism at a high-level security conference in Munich last week.

"We don't tolerate racism in our society carried out by white people; we shouldn't tolerate extremism carried out by other people," Cameron said. "It certainly means changing the practice, changing the groups you fund, the people you engage … the people you let into the country. It needs a whole new way of thinking."

Merkel as early as last October declared that multiculturalism in Germany had been a total failure.

In his comments Thursday, Sarkozy said politicians needed to be more confident in tackling immigration.

"It is in silence that extremists prosper," he said. "As soon as we pronounce the word, people accuse us of being racist."

He said he was in favor of building mosques, adding that our "our Muslim compatriots must be able to live and practice their religion, like anyone else," but added that France shouldn't have to adapt to Islam.

Critics of the anti-multiculturalism debate say that mainstream politicians are using populist slogans to fish for voter support. They also point to the threat of alienating important Muslim allies, for example Turkey which has been vying for EU membership for years, or discourage highly qualified immigrants from entering Europe.

At least in Britain, Muslims don't feel they have failed to integrate. The Wall Street Journal cites a Gallup report suggesting that 77 percent of British Muslims identify "very strongly" with Britain. This compares to 50 percent of non-Muslim Britons.

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