John Bingham, Telegraph (London), September 15, 2012
Prof Ted Cantle said that the idea of multiculturalism in Britain is now “well past its sell-by date” and is often doing more harm than good.
He accused the Government of fuelling separation in communities rather than bringing people together by allowing small groups to claim “special status” — and with it funding — amounting to a form of state-sponsored segregation.
Councils and police are also giving undue legitimacy to “self-appointed leaders” in some areas by inviting them to endless meetings and consulting them on their views and allowing them to become “gatekeepers to their communities”, he warned.
Meanwhile grants from government funding pots, councils and charities have allowed thousands of separate community groups to grow up representing their own interests and reinforcing separation, he said.
He accused David Cameron of failing to live up to a pledge to tackle “state multiculturalism”.
Prof Cantle, the founder of the Institute of Community Cohesion at Coventry University, wrote a high profile review into he causes of the 2001 Oldham riots warning that some ethnic groups were leading “parallel lives”.
But in a highly critical paper to be presented to a conference organised by the National Secular Society next week, he calls for a halt to all state funding for projects and services aimed at or run by religious groups or individual ethnic communities.
He said that should apply equally to a Bangladeshi women’s group in one city or a church-run soup kitchen in another.
In his address to the “Secularism 2012” conference, he will argue that the idea of multiculturalism — in which different communities are encouraged to retain their separate identities — grew up out of well-intentioned policies in the 1950s and 60s but is no longer sustainable as Britain has become increasingly diverse.
“Part of the problem with this approach was that we began to see each cultural identity with very clear boundaries,” he writes.
“Each was given a special status, often called to meetings to discuss their points of view, generally through a series of self-appointed and government supported leaders who became the gatekeepers of their communities.”
“Communities also received the benefit of targeted funding and action programmes to assist their (often separate) development.
“We have — as a result of this state intervention -hardened and homogenised group identities and created the notion that they are fixed and ascribed, rather than chosen and developmental.
“Ironically, many of these identities now appear more immutable, than the now discredited racial boundaries that they have come to replace.”
Figures produced to Parliament show that grants to faith-based groups from two Government funding pots alone in 2010 amounted to £13 million.
But the figure does not include support from councils and other overnment bosies or funding for education.