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According to the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, European policies of multiculturalism have “utterly failed”. Certainly, when intolerance and discrimination are allowed to thrive in the name of multiculturalism, something has gone seriously wrong. According to IHEU representative Roy Brown, speaking in reply to the presentation of a report to the Human Rights Council on contemporary forms of racism, turning a blind eye to the oppression of women in Europe’s minority communities is itself a form of racism.

International Humanist and Ethical Union

UN HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL: 18th Session (12 to 30 September 2011)

Agenda Item 9: Interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on Racism

Speaker: IHEU Representative, Roy W Brown: Tuesday 27 September 2011

Multiculturalism and Racism in Europe

Madam President:

The policy of multiculturalism was a brave attempt to peacefully accommodate different cultures within Europe. But what has happened is that the tolerant, liberal leadership of Europe seems to have forgotten that a tolerant society that fails to oppose intolerance is on a slippery slope to disaster.

We are concerned that while the report of the Special Rapporteur [1] quite rightly condemns neo-Nazism, it makes no mention of the xenophobic preachers of hate in Europe, nor the acceptance by some commentators, amounting to racism, of discrimination against women in minority communities.  

In Britain, many Muslim women are kept in ignorance of civil family courts and pressured into accepting the judgement of private sharia courts in matters of divorce, inheritance and child custody. Similar problems exist among the mainly Turkish immigrant community in Germany. The German chancellor, Angela Merkel put it quite simply when she said that attempts to build a multicultural society had “utterly failed.”[2]

Xenophobia and racism in Europe are not confined to the far right. Xenophobia is inherent in the deeply misogynistic culture of those who preach hatred, sadly condoned by many liberal academics and intellectuals – the very people who in the past were the first to attack racism, but who fail to see it in their own attitudes toward minority communities, nor see that their acceptance of cultural practices that discriminate against Asian women is itself a form of racism.

What is needed in Europe is recognition that pluralism implies the acceptance by all communities of our common values of tolerance and equality under the law. Governments must be prepared to confront the intolerance in our midst, from wherever it comes.

Thank you, Madam 


[1]  on contemporary forms of racism, xenophobia and related forms of intolerance, A/HRC/18/44

[2]  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-11559451

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