Singapore more often makes the headlines for its economic performance than for its model of multiculturalism. Nevertheless, Singapore was a true example of a cosmopolitan city before many other regions started to experience diversity. Can the lessons learned in this part of the world be of use to Europe today?
In February, British Prime Minister David Cameron presented a robust critique of state multiculturalism as it is practised in the West, and particularly in the United Kingdom. Multiculturalism, he says, has “encouraged different cultures to live separate lives… apart from the mainstream.” “We’ve even tolerated these segregated communities behaving in ways that are completely counter to our values,” he adds. Most significantly, state multiculturalism, according to Cameron has “failed to provide a vision of society.”
David Cameron is far from alone in his criticism of state multiculturalism. There is a growing chorus of critics who argue that certain kinds of multiculturalism – especially those that perpetuate separate and isolated group identities – have led not to integration, but segregation and even radicalisation. In a 2006 speech, then British Prime Minister Tony Blair plainly insisted that the celebration of diversity must always be ‘balanced by a duty to integrate, to be part of Britain’.