Melanie Phillips

11 August 2011

Dogma and decency

Published in: Melanie's blog

Share |

Tensions were said this morning to be running high in Birmingham, where three public-spirited Muslim men in Winson Green who had been guarding their area against thugs during the riots were appallingly run down and killed by a rioters’ car containing a number of black men. The police are conducting a murder investigation, and one suspect has been arrested.

Coming after rising tensions between black people and Muslims in this area, in which some 35 per cent of the inhabitants are Asian and 24 per cent Afro-Caribbean, the incident provoked alarming talk of a race war.  The Times (£) reported a commotion at a Birmingham bus stop in which an Asian man later explained that he had warned a black woman and her son that they should leave the area quickly if they valued their health because ‘it’s not safe for blacks around here any more’. Given all this, the exemplary response of the father of one of the three who were killed, in which he asked his community to stay calm and to engage in no violent reprisals, has rightly drawn widespread admiration in bringing down the dangerously elevated temperature through his selfless and far-sighted gesture at a moment of shock and grief.

Despite the violent mayhem across Britain over the past few days, it is important to point out that there have also been heartening examples of cross-community co-operation and solidarity. Sikhs have been volunteering to stand guard over mosques; Muslims have been guarding gurdwaras; ultra-orthodox Jewish men in Stamford Hill handed out challah loaves to people forced out of their homes in the conflagration; and people of all colours and creeds have been coming together to clean up their communities after the mayhem.

This is how a healthy society should behave: people from different communities and creeds co-operating in a neighbourly, helpful and respectful way. That is very different from multiculturalism, which is often wrongly assumed to mean precisely this. It does not.  

Multiculturalism is a baleful creed which, far from bringing people together drives them apart. That is because multiculturalism is not a synonym for people from different cultures all getting along together. If this were so, it would be no more than a re-statement of how all decent and civilised societies should behave.

No, multiculturalism is the doctrine which says that no culture can ever claim precedence over any other. So there can be no hierarchy of values, and no society can uphold its historic traditions and values against any challenge. It is therefore by definition impossible for a multicultural society to uphold liberal values over their opposite – or, indeed, to uphold the fundamental democratic axiom of ‘one law for all’.  It is also an oxymoron; for without an overarching set of cultural values to which everyone equally subscribes, there is no cultural glue to keep together a society -- which then disintegrates into a war of group against group, value against value and the strong versus the weak.

It is multiculturalism which has done so much to wreck Britain; it is multiculturalism which has resulted in police neglect of black-on-black murder and gang warfare; it is multiculturalism which has helped create the anomie, amorality and utter absence of attachment to any notion of the common good which manifested itself in the anarchy on the streets of British cities.

By contrast, how very heartening have been the many scenes of kindness between strangers, and the poignant attempts to forge common bonds in the face of such terrible loss and provocation. In this must lie our hope for the future.

About Melanie

Melanie Phillips is a British journalist and author. She is best known for her controversial column about political and social issues which currently appears in the Daily Mail. Awarded the Orwell Prize for journalism in 1996, she is the author of All Must Have Prizes, an acclaimed study of Britain's educational and moral crisis, which provoked the fury of educationists and the delight and relief of parents.

Read full biography


  • The World Turned Upside Down
  • Londonistan
  • The Ascent of Woman
  • America's Social Revolution

Contact Melanie

Melanie Phillips
Daily Mail
Northcliffe House
2 Derry Street
London W8 5TT

Contact Melanie