The Paradox of Multiculturalism

By: Nicolas Bicchi

I have always considered myself a progressive. I am staunchly pro-choice, pro same-sex marriage, a supporter of equality between races and cultures, sexes and whatever else. I am certainly in favor of doing anything in our power to help war refugees and immigrants from the poorer parts of our Planet.

And yet, the recent waves of African and Middle Eastern migration into Europe have terrified me. I’m sorry, I have to let it out. It’s scary as hell. And extremely confusing. I’m not here to bandy Donald Trump-style lies about them (always they, them, their) all (always all) being rapists, drug dealers or terrorists. Or to ludicrously and hilariously complain about them taking our jobs or being too expensive for the European welfare States. Seriously, I’m half convinced nobody actually believes those narratives anymore and they’re just used to disguise racism.

Screen Shot 2018-05-28 at 13.31.50But guys, we need to have a conversation about values. And we need to be able to do it honestly, and without paying lip service to the outrage culture which has pervaded our society. According to the Pew Research Center, for example, when asked the question ‘Should homosexuality be accepted by society?’ 95% of Egyptians, 87% of Pakistanis, 96% of Senegalese and 98% of Nigerians responded no[1][2]. Read the question again, it doesn’t ask whether gay marriage should be legal, it doesn’t soften the blow, it might as well be asking ‘are you homophobic?’ I’m sorry but those numbers are abhorrent. And backward. There are no other words for it.

And just like that, with one paragraph and a bunch of stats, I’m aligning myself with a Geert Wilders or a Marine Le Pen, I’m making it about them and us. It’s just so easy. I generally despise and/or heartily mock anybody who ever asks the question ‘What has the world come to?’ but…


By stating my opposition to one group’s anti-liberal views, I’m actually echoing another group’s anti-liberal views. The far right would tell you that this is political correctness gone mad as they love to say, and that I’m not allowed to speak my mind because the Lefties would summarily execute me via Twitter. And sadly they might have a point on some level. But the right’s own work has been much more damaging in this sense. Were they not so vitriolic, so insensitive and if their message had an ounce of humanity and compassion within it, perhaps we wouldn’t be in this position. They have robbed us of the option of disagreeing with certain aspects of other cultures without completely hating them, because they (the far right) are unable to do so.

And so it leaves us (or at least, me) confused. Is it ok to be concerned about certain values held by those whom I’d like to welcome in our society? Honestly, I couldn’t really tell you, but I just know one thing– the middle ground, the centrist way, is becoming more and more difficult to find. This is possibly the hardest article I’ve ever written, because every time I start a sentence I immediately realize I’m just broadcasting some right or left-wing cliché.

So, I hear you ask, what can we do? Again, bear in mind I’m confused as hell, but just to leave you with something other than my pure doubt and self-loathing, let me try and suggest a way forward. As I see it, true multiculturalism is not (or should not be) the idea that different cultures can co-exist in the same place without clashing, but rather the concept that the dominant culture can take the positive aspects from minorities and incorporate them, all the while integrating said minority.

Photo credit: Adolfo Lujan on Visual huntCC BY-NC-ND

I strongly believe there is a way for us to stand by our values and be tolerant of other cultures without giving minority groups a pass when they hold unacceptable views. We can be welcoming, fair and open-minded but stand by our values when they are threatened. But for that we must engage with them. One problem is that far too many of us say we support migrants without ever having talked to one, but I’m not just talking about the individual level. Liberal governments must also ensure, even assertively if need be, that the process of integration is carried out. Whether it be with mandatory language courses or by encouraging the spread of immigrants over the territory to avoid ghettoization, we must not be afraid to promote the positive sides of our culture. If we can do this with a welcoming attitude and avoiding stupid, divisive rhetoric, we will succeed in creating and inclusive yet united society.



Pew Research Center, 2013. Pew Research Center. [Online]
[1] I selected those Countries as they have the highest rates of emigration to the West out of the selected sample

[2] Pew Research Center, 2013

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