Multiculturalism and ‘muscular liberalism’

Street_signs, occupied a relatively marginal place in the early debates about multiculturalism in the 1970s, with the focus falling instead on issues such as racial equality and the recognition afforded to different linguistic groups. Today, however, religious difference is at the centre of debates about the subject in Britain and elsewhere. Indeed, there has been a shift in focus over the last two decades from ‘race’ through ‘culture’ and ‘ethnicity’ to ‘faith’, which has coincided with a hardening of attitudes toward multiculturalism. The supposed threat posed to national cohesion by religious difference was emphasised in the most recent major speech on the topic by David Cameron in 2011, during which the Prime Minister rejected ‘state multiculturalism’ in favour of what he called ‘muscular liberalism’.

From September 2013 Public Spirit will host a series of articles looking at the implications of the present government’s approach to multiculturalism for the integration of faith groups in the UK. Tracing the origins of multicultural policy from the 1960s to the present day, the series will offer reflections on and criticisms of the coalition’s stance on the issue.

This series will include contributions from Tariq Modood (University of Bristol), Jonathan Chaplin (Kirby Laing Institute for Christian Ethics), Claire Dwyer (University College London), Jan Dobbernack (University of Lincoln) and Derek McGhee (University of Southampton) and Max Farrar (formerly Leeds Metropolitan University).

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