The End of Multiculturalism?: Terrorism, Integration and Human Rights
Open University Press, Buckingham
In examining the treatment of minorities in post-9/11 Britain, Derek McGhee convincingly argues that the simplistic binary logic and fantastical sensationalisation of the 'War on Terror' has undermined human rights. In particular, McGhee highlights the targeting of Muslims, ultimately describing an Islamophobic climate where Muslims are often viewed as suspects or potential extremists. These developments, according to McGhee, go hand in hand with the demise of a multicultural attitude towards minorities (especially Muslims) and the growth of an integrationist or assimilationist rhetoric. McGhee calls for a centring of human rights discourse to counter the prevailing trend of dehumanising Muslims, or 'evilization' as he puts it, with greater attempts to listen to their concerns, understand their frustration, and treat them with dignity. Some readers might find this liberal argument distasteful and conclude that McGhee is nothing more than an apologist or romantic utopianist, but I find his analysis well informed and compelling.
The title of the book reflects the ambitious project of bringing together such multifaceted debates about multiculturalism, terrorism, integration and human rights. Whilst he does insightfully touch upon all of these issues throughout the book, McGhee's attempts to engage in so many complex debates may have been better suited to two separate books, one about the move away from multiculturalism and another about how the 'War on Terorr' has jeopardised human rights. Yet, since the two themes are quite importantly related, his attempts to simultaneously discuss both topics is understandable, but require a larger and more detailed investigation than McGhee offers. The inclusion of all these topics might have worked better if McGhee framed the book slightly differently, perhaps under the encompassing idea of Islamophobia. In fact, it is rather remarkable that since so much of the book discusses the way in which Muslims are increasingly marginalised that McGhee does not use the concept of 'Islamophobia' more often throughout the book, including in the title of the book. Indeed, the book title is problematic as it implies a predominant focus on multiculturalism when in fact the book is equally, if not more concerned, with Islamophobia. This might result in scholars concerned with Islamophobia being unable to easily identify the book, which is a shame as it is very helpful for understanding Islamophobia in contemporary Britain. As well as the over-arching theme of the book being unclear, at times, I found the chapters lacking a clear purpose with frequent overlap between them meaning some points were unnecessarily repeated, hence the frequent cross-referencing between chapters, and why readers may find enthusiasm towards the book reduces as they progress through it.
Whilst clearly academic, McGhee seems to be aware that he is writing about serious, 'real world' issues that affect people's lives which is why the book also has an activist tone. McGhee could have come across more authoritative if he had taken a more normative tone and relied less on the voices of others to make his points though. Nonetheless, the book is well informed due to drawing upon much relevant literature. In terms of the writing style, McGhee mostly strikes the right balance of writing in an accessible manner whilst still maintaining an authoritative depiction of the issues which means the book, which is not of great length, can be read relatively quickly, with some provoking ideas picked up along the way. The book also includes useful sub-headings which break up the chapters into digestible chunks. The footnotes contain interesting elaborations, although there are perhaps one too many, and they can be quite lengthy. Due to the comprehensive nature of this work, chapters from it are well suited for undergraduate courses but I would also recommended it – as I already have done – to those seeking an introduction to new forms of racism and a critique of the 'War on Terror'. This is not a book that advanced readers in these topics would gain much from, but is still worth reading as a succinct account of current debates. Overall, the book is to be celebrated for highlighting the controversial decisions of political actors and seeking to hold them to account.