As of now, the leader of the British National Party Nick Griffin is scheduled to debate the question of whether multiculturalism has gone ‘too far’ in Trinity College’s Philosophical Society on October 20.
I have written many times about the problems with policies of multiculturalism – which, let us remember (though called ‘intercultualism’ in this country), is the state’s knee jerk response to what it perceives as the problem of difference, brought about by immigrants. Multiculturalism, I have argued, is not about fostering and upholding ethnic pluralism, but rather about racial states legislating for national homogeneity and supremacy, accepting only what Alana Lentin and Gavan Titley call in their new book ‘good diversity’, one that does not challenge (white, Christian, settled) privilege. Euro-multiculturalism is rife with contradictions. It speaks of integration yet limits immigration, legislates against veiled women and Muslims praying in public, outlaws what it considers harmful practices such as forced marriages, without providing protection to trafficked women or offering asylum to women whose children are in danger of female genital mutilation.
According to European politicians such as Cameron, Sarkozy and Merkel, European multiculturalism has reached a crisis point. Yet states supported immigrants (and their ‘cultures’) only as long as they filled much needed labour shortages during the economic boom and invested in capitalist European economies, so that ‘we’ can maintain ‘our’ way of life. Despite token ‘plans against racism’, race and racism were not mentioned in the rush to ‘good diversity’, which leaves in its wake all those carriers of ‘bad diversity’ – black Africans, veiled Muslim women, poor asylum seekers, undocumented migrants.
The critique of the politics of multiculturalism notwithstanding, when racists like Nick Griffin attack multiculturalism, I reach for my intellectual and political guns. What Griffin is really about is naked racism, which he cleverly masks in attacking multiculturalism. Indeed, in February of this year he argued that the British government is simply reiterating the BNP’s arguments: ‘In acknowledging that the multi-cult theory has encouraged racial and cultural divisions that have in turn fuelled the flames of Islamic extremism and contributed to the growth of home-grown Muslim terrorism, Mr. Cameron is stating an obvious truth – and one that my colleagues and I have been viciously attacked for daring to speak out about these problems before it became ‘respectable’ to do so.’
There may indeed not be a huge difference between the BNP and European governments, but the BNP has a record of inciting racial hatred, bluntly insisting that ‘To make vague pledges to tackle multiculturalism without making a firm commitment to stop immigration is as absurd as complaining about Islamic extremism without recognising that it has its roots in the fundamental extremism of Islam itself.’
Despite what the proponents of ‘free speech’ would say (and remember free speech is rarely accorded to immigrants, worried about their immigration status, family reunification, finding employment and accommodation and many other issues), I am definitely against allowing Griffin to debate multiculturalism in Trinity. For starters, he is hardly an expert on the topic and ultimately attacks only Islam and Muslims. Secondly, in the current recession racism is on the increase and Griffin’s anti-Islam and anti-immigrant rants can only support those who believe that job losses and the recession are the fault of new immigrants. Thirdly, we are in real danger that many a young Irish person would be swayed by Griffin’s demagogic powers. Finally, and more specific to Trinity – in a university which casts itself as a multicultural, welcoming environment for international students, having Griffin speak freely at a debate staged by a student society intent mostly on attracting attention and notoriety, damages the image Trinity is aiming to project.