The Extraordinary Case Of The Pagan And The Multicultural Prayer Room
An extraordinary — one might almost say unbelievable — industrial tribunal case in Manchester in March gave a rare insight into how attempts to accommodate “multicultural” religious needs at work actually appear only to apply to Muslims. It developed around a spat between Muslim employees at the Royal Mail and a member of the Odinist Fellowship (a group that apparently worships the old Nordic gods).
“Multiculturalism” actually means “multifaithism”, an unworkable concept developed during Tony Blair’s premiership. At the international Humanist Colloquium in Turin last June, the BHA’s Executive Director, Hanne Stinson, said,
What is multiculturalism? The first difficulty we have is that people define ‘multiculturalism’ in different ways.
If you define it as policies that allow people to live their lives according to their own beliefs and culture, so long as that does not disadvantage others, few people would have any difficulties with that. An approach like that is firmly based on human rights and equality (the European Convention on Human Rights and the UK Human Rights Act) and few humanists would object to such policies.
On the other hand, multiculturalism can also be defined as policies that choose to define people by just one or two characteristics: by their race or, more typically, their religion, and then lump everyone who shares that characteristic together as a ‘community’. If you then treat those ‘communities’ as if they were completely homogenous, and allow certain people who have been appointed, or have appointed themselves, as ‘community leaders’ or ‘faith leaders’ to speak for the group, you have created a situation that encourages separateness, and can lead to the oppression of people within those groups. Such an approach also favours so called ‘group rights’ over individual human rights.
This second definition is currently government policy in the UK.