By Peggy Hollinger in Paris
Published: February 16 2011 13:10 | Last updated: February 16 2011 13:10
The Council of Europe, guardian of the European convention on human rights, has backed the growing number of heads of government denouncing multiculturalism as a failure, warning that it poses a threat to security.
“As we understand it now, multiculturalism allows parallel societies to develop within states,” said Thorbjørn Jagland, secretary-general of the council, in an interview with the Financial Times.
“This must be stopped. It is also clear that some parallel societies have developed radical ideas that are dangerous. Terrorism cannot be accepted.”
Mr Jagland came to the defence of Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, David Cameron, UK prime minister, and Nicolas Sarkozy, French president, who have all warned recently that the tradition of encouraging diverse cultures to live side-by-side has damaged national identity and helped to promote the radicalisation of immigrant youth.
Mr Cameron went so far as to say that a new, more “muscular liberalism” was needed that barred government aid to groups that did not share Britain’s liberal values.
The comments by European leaders have been welcomed by groups on the far right, who see their hardline positions on immigration, race and security justified by the apparent shift in mainstream politics to the right. However, they have sparked an outcry from the left and from Muslim groups, who see themselves targeted by the references.
Mr Jagland said the European leaders had opened an “important debate” that needed to be pursued. “We must be careful that we do not misunderstand multiculturalism, because diversity of cultures is desirable,” he said. “But we need to focus on what will hold our society together.”
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