Blair Says Immigrants to U.K. Have Duty to Integrate 


 Dec. 8 (Bloomberg) 

Prime Minister Tony Blair said immigrants have a duty to integrate into society, his latest attempt to limit divisions between Muslims and other cultures in the U.K.  

``The right to be in a multicultural society was always implicitly balanced by a duty to integrate, to be part of Britain,'' Blair said in a speech in London today.

``Integration isn't about culture or lifestyle'' it is about shared values: tolerance, equal treatment and the rule of law, he said.  

Blair has been stressing assimilation since British-born Muslim youths killed 52 in suicide bomb attacks in London last year. His push is part of a wider debate across Europe about the place of non-Christian immigrants in societies that increasingly separate religion from public life.  

In October, Blair backed other government ministers in saying that Muslim women who wear a face-covering veil separate themselves from society. Britain's communities minister Ruth Kelly told Muslims on Oct. 11 that the nation holds a set of ``non-negotiable values.''  British leaders, Blair said, must ``reassert the duty to integrate, to stress what we hold in common and say: these are the shared boundaries within which we all are obliged to live,'' Blair said today.

This is ``precisely in order to preserve our right to our own different faiths, races and creeds.''  Rivers of Blood, Chicken Tikka  Until last year, British ministers avoided criticism of other cultures, reflecting disgust with a 1968 speech by Enoch Powell, a Conservative Party lawmaker who warned that continued immigration would lead to racial tension and ``rivers of blood.''  Labour politicians embraced looser immigration limits and a ``multicultural'' society through the 1970s and 1980s. By the time Blair was campaigning for his second term in May 2001, his then foreign minister Robin Cook boasted that the Indian chicken tikka massala was a ``British national dish.

''  ``The British are not a race but a gathering of countless different races and communities, the vast majority of which were not indigenous to these islands,'' Cook said in a speech in London on April 19 of that year.  Similarly both Blair and his Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell played up the U.K.'s diversity when they were campaigning in 2004 and 2005 to host the 2012 Olympics.  

Shift in Policy  It was the London bombings in July 2005 that triggered a shift in the U.K. government toward tighter immigration rules and voicing concerns about Muslim culture.  In the past year, Blair's government restricted the ability of families to sponsor visas and sought legislation banning the ``glorification'' of terrorism. The Home Office refused a visa for a Muslim it accused of preaching hate.  

Today, Blair said he wasn't attempting to dilute the identity or religion of Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs and other faiths, and outlined six steps that should be taken to achieve the right balance between integration and diversity.  Grants must be awarded to help communities promote integration rather than given to groups tightly bonded around religious, racial or ethnic identities, he said.  

Britain needs ``clear rules'' on practices such as forced marriage and must also demand allegiance to the rule of law. He ruled out introducing religious law in the U.K.  Preachers should ideally come out of the community instead of from abroad, Blair said, and where preachers are recruited internationally, they will be required to speak English and meet British legal requirements.  

Finally, the rights that constitute British citizenship should be taught and the national curriculum must stress integration not separation, the prime minister said.  ``We need not dispense with multi cultural Britain, on the contrary we should be celebrating it,'' he said.

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