Something has gone badly wrong with British multiculturalism. Instead of people with different cultures and beliefs living side-by-side in peace and harmony as was promised, we have huge divisions, neighbourhoods that have effectively become ghettoes and an increasing number of arrests for alleged terror plots against the country.
It wasn’t supposed to be like this. Since the 1960s Britain has dealt with the increasing number of different cultures coming to these shores through a doctrine which holds that all beliefs and practices are equally valid and should all be practiced side-by-side, in peace with no one challenging or “offending” anyone else.
Trouble is, this view is not only deeply patronising – “You go off and practice your quaint little beliefs, and we won’t trouble your tiny minds” – it also doesn’t work in real life.
British society has become increasingly fragmented, to the extent where whole neighbourhoods are transformed into mono-cultural communities with little regard for the outside world.
Within these communities – especially, it has to be said, the Muslim ones – radical beliefs flourish unchallenged as youths lack any contact with outside ideas – the exact thing diversity campaigners wanted to avoid.
Meanwhile, in a desperate attempt to hold everything together, Britain’s governing elite has tried to force a suffocating political correctness onto the rest of the population – telling them to “celebrate diversity” and take extra care not to offend anyone, while stamping out the horrors of “prejudice”, “bigotry” and “Islamophobia”.
Freedom of speech and civil liberty suffers while society drifts further apart.
So what is to be done? Perhaps it’s time for a radical new solution, one that may lead certain people of a hypersensitive liberal-left disposition to spit out their fair trade organic lattes in shock – let’s have a proper debate between all the different faiths about which one is right.
Let’s stop pussyfooting around and have Christians, atheists, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Sikhs and all the rest setting out their stall and telling the country why they are the one true faith.
Let’s have televised debates between priests and imams over whether Christ really rose from the dead or Mohammed was divinely inspired. Let’s have Jewish leaders defend the Tanach and Hindus try to persuade a sceptical audience about the truth of the Vedas.
Some may think this may only lead to trouble, but there is no reason why people with deep religious conviction should be put off – as the Archbishop of Canterbury says, if you are so sure that what you believe is the absolute universal truth then you will surely be proved right in a free and open debate.
After all, religion is nothing if it does not claim to be absolutely true – to explain why we are here, what we should do and what the whole meaning of life is.
Of course, this also means that if one explanation right, it naturally follows that all the rest must be wrong. Faiths have traditionally used violence and legal suppression as a means to assert their superiority – their truth – so maybe it’s time to find a new, more civilised way for them to confront one another.
After all, debate is a great civilising force. When conducted in a robust but courteous manner, it can lead to people with radically different views to understand and engage with one another, as well as challenge their own assumptions.
Multiculturalism has failed so badly because it tries to run from this – at its most idealistic it believes that there are different truths and all of them are just as valid. The trouble is this is nonsense even on its own terms – if there’s no absolute truth, then the idea that there’s no absolute truth cannot be absolutely true.
So let’s have a grand interfaith debate. It will be far more interesting, energising and genuinely productive than the current dripping wet attempts at “ecumenicalism” which often result in nothing but inane niceties. Let’s have Christians vs Muslims vs Jews vs atheists vs everyone else.
It’s not like it hasn’t already been happening since the dawn of man.