Cardinal: 'I don’t believe in a multicultural society.'
It is good to hear a clarity of religio-political thought after the rather opaque pronouncement emanating from Lambeth Palace. The Archbishop of Canterbury is manifestly in favour of multiculturalism since he asserts that Britain should accommodate religious legal codes, such as Shari'a law, in order to achieve community cohesion. While Dr Williams believes that the adoption of some aspects of the Shari'a in Britain 'seems unavoidable', the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster begs to differ. With the amended introduction, the article is reproduced below:
The Cardinal intervened in the debate to say that migrants should embrace the idea of equality under the law rather than live by other legal codes. “I don’t believe in a multicultural society,” he told the Sunday Telegraph. “When people come into this country they have to obey the laws of the land. There are going to be certain things which might clash in the overall culture of the country. That’s where one has to make a judgment.
“There are aspects of Sharia that are practised that we certainly wouldn’t want in this country. The laws of this country don’t allow forced marriages or polygamy. It seems to me a government and a country has a right to make sure that those laws are kept.
“It is not enough for people to live within their own cultures and then say: ‘We’ll live within the freedoms that are given in this country within a totally separate culture.’
“Of course you can keep the variety of traditions, but when you enter this country there are common values which are part of its heritage, which should be embraced by everybody.”
The Cardinal, one of six children of Irish immigrants, said it would be better if Muslims contributed beyond their own families to the common good, saying they would then “become a normal part of this country and, indeed, cherish those values that should be common to everyone”.
His comments come just months after he expressed fears that Polish migrants could create “a separate church” in Britain. He said Poles should enter Catholic life in Britain and join English-speaking parishes as soon as they learned the language.
The Cardinal’s forthright views are likely to place him at odds with elements of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, which has traditionally been seen as sympathetic to multiculturalism.
The Catholic Association for Racial Justice, an agency of the bishops’ conference, issued a charter in 2003 for “a truly inclusive Church” where differences were valued and diversity was celebrated.
It said that seminary training should include “multicultural formation” to help priests cope with ethnically diverse parishes. The document was drawn up by delegates at a three-day congress which had been organised by the agency. The congress was attended by Baroness Patricia Scotland, then a minister in the Home Office, Diana Hayes, an American theologian, and about a dozen bishops. The Cardinal gave a short opening address and celebrated Mass.
Clifford Longley, a Catholic commentator, said he believed the Cardinal’s latest comments represented an “adjustment” in his thinking. The Cardinal’s approach to the subject, he said, had been shaped by “the experience of the Irish community in which he grew up”. He said: “He’s very much assimilated into English culture and he expects a similar thing to happen to later generations of immigrants. “He believes that on a generational scale the differences will diminish and we must not prolong them beyond their natural life,” said Mr Longley.
Robert Whelan, deputy director of Civitas, an independent think-tank, said the Cardinal had shown that it was no longer taboo to criticise multiculturalism. He said: “Privately people have had doubts for years but now there has been a change in the climate and public figures are prepared to admit that multiculturalism doesn’t work.
“For a long time people felt they had to be in favour of it – to be against it was like being a Holocaust denier.”