Earlier this week the Institute of Race Relations (IRR) published Understanding the European-wide assault on multiculturalism - a detailed analysis by Executive Director, Liz Fekete, of key speeches made over the past six months by leading centre-right politicians from Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway and the United Kingdom.
These speeches attack multiculturalism and immigration and link them to the economic crisis. The IRR finds that:
* In singling out multiculturalism as a threat to national identity, the leaders of Europe's centre-right parties are using the same kind of rhetoric and specious arguments as Enoch Powell did forty years ago. Only this time, it is not one rogue European politician carrying the flag, but the leaders of centre-right parties now replacing race and immigration with culture and religion as the watch words.
* As multiculturalism becomes code for discussing the 'Muslim problem', the language, terms and metaphors used by centre-right politicians subtly (and in some cases crudely) convey a sense of national victimhood, of a majority culture under threat from Muslim minorities and new migrants who demand special privileges and group rights and refuse to learn the language.
In Understanding the European-wide assault on multiculturalism the IRR warns that:
* The attacks on multiculturalism are taking place at a time of economic crisis and swingeing cuts, when politicians are desperate to deflect public anger and explain societal break down. The centre Right is establishing a narrative, with some centre-left parties following suit, to justify the biggest round of spending cuts since the 1920s, blaming the current economic crisis not on the bankers and global financial crisis, but on immigration, and on Muslims.
* As the extreme Right increasingly enters national parliaments, sometimes holding the balance of power, there are dangerous signs that the centre Right is preparing for future power-sharing with the extreme Right, as well as nativist anti-immigration parties. The fact that mainstream politicians are now speaking to the fear and hatred promoted by the extremists' anti-multicultural platform, is giving legitimacy to conspiracy theories about Muslims and to anti-Muslim hatred.
Read the IRR's research Understanding the European-wide assault on multiculturalism here.
Liz Fekete, author of the IRR's research commented:
* 'Multiculturalism is being used as the whipping boy, to explain away the impact of the economic and social crisis.'
* 'A recurring theme in the debates about multiculturalism and national identity and immigrants and Muslims causing the economic crisis, is the issue of language or, more accurately 'language deficit'. Government hypocrisy is at its most blatant when immigrants are blamed for not learning the language when the self-same government slashes funding for language provision.'