The End of Tolerance

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Arun Kundnani, Pluto Press, £15.99

Multicultural Britain is under attack. This is what Arun Kundani argues in his brilliant new book - subtitled Racism in 21st Century Britain - where he analyses how and why racism is thriving, and what can be done about it.

It is under attack by the traditional alliance of power and media. Government policies and consistent press campaigns vilify "outsiders" - asylum seekers, migrant workers and potential terrorists. But over the past 15 years, peaking in the aftermath of 9/11 and the July 2007 bombings in London, racism has been further consolidated and has become ever more confident in its new form. This is a racism that speaks in the name of "national interests", in which national values are celebrated and multiculturalism is seen as a threat of separatism.

The media plays an indispensable part in this process. It systematically misrepresents the causes of forced migration, global terrorism and social segregation. This was well illustrated in the media representation of the riots in Oldham, Burnley and Bradford in 2001.

The argument over "how multiculturalism went wrong" was forged by the liberal press, and further perpetuated by the tabloids. In this climate a bogus "integrationism" was nurtured as the new consensus, equating cultural diversity with conflicts between different cultural groups. It was a case of inventing Britishness and forcing everyone to accept it.

Islamophobia is a result of this "integrationism from above". Below the New Labour surface of ethnic "coexistence" is an attempt to "manage" cultural diversity. Islam is represented as an anti-democratic way of life incompatible with all that modern Britain stands for.

A history of Western injustices and the political experience of the oppressed have been left out of the discussion on religion. British Muslims have been given a choice: to subsume themselves into British national values or be permanently excluded and victimised.

As part of the working of "integrationism", New Labour's managed migration policies have given extra powers to the state in filtering and selecting the few considered useful for the economy, while keeping out the unwanted.

The system weighs rights and entitlements and allocates them to migrant workers according to their economic use in a particular sector. It imposes a hierarchy of racism where the state practises different levels of discrimination on the basis of the workers' commercial contribution, a development culminating in the point-based immigration system.

This "integrationism", as part of a new model of race relations, is fundamentally "Britain First". It is no longer about the one-off intake of permanent settlers, such as in the 1950s and 1960s. Under New Labour immigration policies have become one with market principles. It says Britain needs only controlled flows of temporary migrants to fill in gaps here and there in hospitality and on building sites, and to meet the fluctuating needs of factories and farms.

It is your bad luck if you get exploited (we all know that you won't have time to do anything about it, because once your time is up you have to go home). Britain's "integrationism" doesn't integrate.