It has long been the contention of those on the right of British politics that cultural diversity is a threat to national cohesion and security. However, cultural diversity has been attacked equally vigorously by liberals and by those on the centre left, especially since 2001. The new conventional wisdom is that a national story of Britishness must be promoted in order to bind the nation together around a set of core values, to which minorities must assimilate. This integrationism draws on a wider anti-Muslim political culture associated with the ‘war on terror’, in which the focus is on ‘self-segregation’, alien values and forced assimilation, rather than on institutional racism. But, it is argued here, there cannot be one national story of Britain. Nor can one set of ‘British values’ be imposed as a condition of citizenship. Instead, an integrated society can only be built out of universal values of human rights, justice and democracy – the very values the ‘war on terror’ tends to undermine.
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