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Evaluate the argument that establishment of tolerant multi-cultural societies in Europe have become more difficult in recent years?

Within this paper I will be studying how society reflects the difficulties with establishing a tolerant multi-cultural society. I will do this within the time framework of the 21st Century and I will study some of the issues which have led to a worsening of ethnic relations and multi-cultural ties. I will also look at how recent events stand within our own history of multi-culturalism and I will look at some of the wider issues which pre-dated the 21st Century and concerned the establishment of tolerant multi-cultural societies.

Understandably, when looking at events of recent years there is clearly one event which has stood up above others in worsening multi-cultural tolerance. The terrorist attacks on 11th September 2001 have certainly changed how the world views its relations across both civilisations and religions. Since that day there has been a re-assessment of our relations with the ethnic minorities who reside in European countries, especially Muslim communities, regardless or our own lack, or even their lack of relation to the actual events. The September 11th terrorist attacks, along with the July 7th 2005 bombings and the Dubai bombings in 2003 has seen an unfortunate strengthening of the 'us' and 'them' or sometimes called 'Other' culture that has existed in Europe since labour migration saw a number of Muslims enter Europe in the late 20th Century. The terrorist attacks within the 21st Century have been quickly associated with Islam and Middle-Eastern civilisations as a result of the terrorists claiming to act on behalf of the Islam faith and the 'entrapped' Muslim nations of the Middle-East. This, of course, has only served to propagate a feeling of animosity towards Muslim communities from the largely Christian, ethnocentric civilisations of Western Europe. Subsequently the 21st Century has seen a rise in a general Islamaphobia that broadens across European society and culminates in an exclusion of Muslims from the main national cultural civilisation. Muslims are now becoming marginalized and are subject to exclusionary practices. Further to this Muslims are seen now as representatives of another civilisation who are apathetic towards Western traditions and hostile towards Western religions, regardless of their own personal background.

The 1990's, or post-cold war era was to highlight the problems of creating multi-cultural societies. In this so-called more liberal age where National security and anti-communist policies were dropping out of political rhetoric, multi-ethnic societies were beginning to be developed with the influx of labour migrants and increased freedom of movement across the EU. Figures taken from 1997 have shown that immigration to prosperous European countries was vast with noticeably Italy having over 100,000 net migrants, Germany having 93,000 net migrants and the UK having 60,000 net migrants. This should have facilitated for more tolerant multi-cultural societies with greater cultural diversity and contact between different ethnicities. However, the post-cold war era has seen an intensification of Nationalism, especially in Eastern and Central Europe. The Yugoslavian conflict of the early 1990's is clearly the best indicator of this new Nationalism with the ethnic cleansing of thousands of Bosnian Muslims. There was also violence in Germany in the early 1990's and the UK itself has seen steady cases of violence throughout the 90's. This new Nationalism has aligned itself with a new symbolic racism which supports conservative policies, ideologies and parties. Unfortunately national powers and trans-national powers have aligned themselves with this new Nationalism because it is embedded in the majority and not the minority. Under existing EU conventions, non-EU migrants are deemed to be inferiors compared to EU nationals since they do not appear to have the right of free movement throughout the EU. The UK has also been guilty of this new nationalistic approach to immigrants. In 1999 the Labour party introduced a new Immigration and Asylum Act repressing the number of asylum seeking claims to this country. The Labour party itself has begun to introduce a new rhetoric which is hard on asylum seekers and immigration and this has unfortunately led to over 23,000 race hate crimes being reported in London in the 12 months leading up to April 2000.

From this evidence we can see that although the 21st Century has seen a significant change in tolerance within multi-cultural societies, I would suggest that this is a simple acceleration of a trend that existed throughout the 1990's and realistically reflects a deeply embedded Nationalism within the ethnocentric European societies. Although 21st Century terrorism was to alter how we view our relations with other ethnicities, I would suggest that our reflections are nothing dissimilar to the deductions we had towards ethnic minorities before the 21st Century.   

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