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Multiculturalism ‘failure’ comes as right-wing gains ground

France’s President Nicolas Sarkozy on Thursday, 10 February, became the latest top politician to join the attack on a policy generally understood as meaning that no single culture or set of values should be promoted above any other.

“If you come to France, you accept to melt into a single community, which is the national community, and if you do not want to accept that, you cannot be welcome in France,” he said.

“We have been too concerned about the identity of the person who was arriving and not enough about the identity of the country that was receiving him,” Sarkozy said in a televised interview.

A week earlier, Britain’s Prime Minister Cameron said that “under the doctrine of state multiculturalism, we have encouraged different cultures to live separate lives, apart from each other and the mainstream”.

This had resulted in a lack of national identity in Britain which had made some young Muslims turn to extremist ideology, he said.

Germany’s Merkel, who like her French and British counterparts, is on the centre-right, said in October that efforts towards multiculturalism in her country had “failed, totally.”

The comment followed weeks of anguished debate sparked by the huge popularity of a book by a central banker saying that immigrants, in particular Muslims, were making Germany “more stupid.”

Jean-Yves Camus, a French academic who studies the far right, said it was ironic that these statements were being made as people in Muslim countries like Tunisia and Egypt were rising up to demand Western-style freedoms.

“At the very moment when the people of the Arab world are aspiring to more democracy… we in Europe are telling people who have chosen to live in our countries that their integration is a problem,” he said.

Camus noted that while integration models may vary between EU states, “the common denominator is immigration that comes from outside of Europe and which is Muslim.”

Declarations like Sarkozy’s are part of a “general trend in Europe towards an increase in very tense discourse on immigration caused by the economic crisis,” said sociologist Agathe Voisin, who researches immigration in France and Britain.

Analysts say that the crisis is boosting the fortunes of a new generation of far-right political leaders taking root across the continent.

France’s Marine Le Pen has just taken the helm of her notorious father’s National Front, while in the Netherlands populists last year became the country’s third biggest party.
Far-right parties currently are in government in Italy and backing minority cabinets in Denmark and the Netherlands. They also sit in the parliaments of Austria, Bulgaria, Hungary, Latvia, Slovakia and Sweden.

Fear of Muslim immigration is also a major factor in the rise of the far-right, say analysts.

Four in 10 French and German people regard Muslims living in their country as a “threat,” according to an IFOP opinion poll published last month France has the largest Muslim population in Europe, estimated at about six million out of a total population of 65 million, originating largely from its former colonies in North and West Africa.

Germany received vast numbers of migrant workers, most of them from Muslim Turkey, from the 1960s. German federal authorities estimate its current Muslim population at up to 4.3 million, out of a total population of 82 million.

Britain has 2.9 million Muslims, mostly of Pakistani or Indian background, among its total population of 62 million, according to figures from US think-tank the Pew Research Centre.

AFP/ Anne-Laure Mondesert/ Expatica