The Monument to Multiculturalism by Francesco Perilli in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Four identical sculptures are located in Buffalo City, South Africa; Changchun, China; Sarajevo, Bosnia and Sydney, Australia.

Multiculturalism describes the existence, acceptance, and/or promotion of multiple cultural traditions within a single jurisdiction, usually considered in terms of the culture associated with an aboriginal ethnic group and foreigner ethnic groups. This can happen when a jurisdiction is created or expanded by amalgamating areas with two or more different cultures (e.g. French Canada and English Canada) or through immigration from different jurisdictions around the world (e.g. United States, Australia, Canada, Brazil, United Kingdom, New Zealand, and many other countries).

Multicultural ideologies and policies vary widely,[1] ranging from the advocacy of equal respect to the various cultures in a society, to a policy of promoting the maintenance of cultural diversity, to policies in which people of various ethnic and religious groups are addressed by the authorities as defined by the group to which they belong.[2][3]

Multiculturalism that promotes maintaining the distinctiveness of multiple cultures is often contrasted to other settlement policies such as social integration, cultural assimilation and racial segregation. Multiculturalism has been described as a "salad bowl" and "cultural mosaic".[4]

Two different and seemingly inconsistent strategies have developed through different government policies and strategies. The first focuses on interaction and communication between different cultures; this approach is also often known as interculturalism. The second centers on diversity and cultural uniqueness which can sometimes result in intercultural competition over jobs among other things and may lead to ethnic conflict.[5][6] Cultural isolation can protect the uniqueness of the local culture of a nation or area and also contribute to global cultural diversity.[7][8] A common aspect of many policies following the second approach is that they avoid presenting any specific ethnic, religious, or cultural community values as central.[9]


Multiculturalism centers on the thought in political philosophy about the way to respond to cultural and religious differences. It is closely associated with "identity politics," "the politics of difference," and "the politics of recognition." It is also a matter of economic interests and political power. (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy). Despite the fact that multiculturalism has mainly been used as a term to define disadvantaged groups, including African Americans, members of the LGBT community, and the disabled, many theorists tend to focus their arguments on immigrants who are ethnic and religious minorities, minority nations, and indigenous peoples.

Multiculturalism can refer to a demographic fact, a particular set of philosophical ideas, or a specific orientation by government or institutions toward a diverse population. Most of the debate over multiculturalism centers around whether or not public multiculturalism is the appropriate way to deal with diversity and immigrant integration. Recognition in the context of multicultural education is a demand not just for recognition of aspects of a group's actual culture but also for the history of group subordination and its entire experience.

The term multiculturalism is most often used in reference to Western nation-states, which had seemingly achieved a de facto single national identity during the 18th and/or 19th centuries.[10] Multiculturalism has been official policy in several Western nations since the 1970s, for reasons that varied from country to country,[11][12][13] including the fact that many of the great cities of the Western world are increasingly made of a mosaic of cultures.[14]

The Canadian government has often been described as the instigator of multicultural ideology because of its public emphasis on the social importance of immigration.[15] The Canadian Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism is often referred to as the origins of modern political awareness of multiculturalism.[16] In the Western English-speaking countries, multiculturalism as an official national policy started in Canada in 1971, followed by Australia in 1973 where it is maintained today.[17][18][19][20] It was quickly adopted as official policy by most member-states of the European Union. Recently, right-of-center governments in several European states—notably the Netherlands and Denmark— have reversed the national policy and returned to an official monoculturalism.[21] A similar reversal is the subject of debate in the United Kingdom, among others, due to evidence of incipient segregation and anxieties over "home-grown" terrorism.[22] Several heads-of-state have expressed doubts about the success of multicultural policies: The United Kingdom's ex-Prime Minister David Cameron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Australia's ex-prime minister John Howard, Spanish ex-prime minister Jose Maria Aznar and French ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy have voiced concerns about the effectiveness of their multicultural policies for integrating immigrants.[23][24]

Many nation-states in Africa, Asia, and the Americas are culturally diverse, and are 'multicultural' in a descriptive sense. In some, communalism is a major political issue. The policies adopted by these states often have parallels with multicultural-ist policies in the Western world, but the historical background is different, and the goal may be a mono-cultural or mono-ethnic nation-building—for instance in the Malaysian government's attempt to create a 'Malaysian race' by 2020.[25]


The next country to adopt an official policy of multiculturalism after Canada was Australia, a country with similar immigration situations and similar policies, for example the formation of the Special Broadcasting Service.[26] The Australian government retains multiculturalism in policy, and as a defining aspect of Australia today.[17][18][20][27]

Sydney's Chinatown

The White Australia Policy was quietly dismantled after World War II by various changes to immigration policy, although the official policy of multiculturalism was not formally introduced until 1972.[28] The election of John Howard's Liberal-National Coalition government in 1996 was a major watershed for Australian multiculturalism. Howard had long been a critic of multiculturalism, releasing his One Australia policy in the late 1980s.[29] A Practical Reference to Religious Diversity for Operational Police and Emergency Services was a publication of the Australasian Police Multicultural Advisory Bureau designed to offer guidance to police and emergency services personnel on how religious affiliation can affect their contact with the public. The first edition was published in 1999.[30][31][32] The first edition covered Buddhist, Hindu, Islamic, Jewish and Sikh faiths with participation of representatives of the various religions.[33] The second edition added Christian, Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander religions and the Bahá'í Faith to the list of religions was published in 2002.[34]

Contact between people of different cultures in Australia has been characterised by tolerance and engagement, but have also occasionally resulted in conflict and rifts.[35][36]

Australia's diverse migrant communities have brought with them food, lifestyle and cultural practices, which have been absorbed into mainstream Australian culture.[17][18]


Though not called Multiculturalism as such, the preamble of Argentina's constitution explicitly promotes immigration, and recognizes the individual's multiple citizenship from other countries. Though 97% of Argentina's population self-identify as of European descent[37][38] to this day a high level of multiculturalism remains a feature of Argentina's culture,[39][40] allowing foreign festivals and holidays (e.g. Saint Patrick's Day), supporting all kinds of art or cultural expression from ethnic groups, as well as their diffusion through an important multicultural presence in the media; for instance it is not uncommon to find newspapers[41] or radio programs in English, German, Italian or French in Argentina.


Sikhs celebrating the Sikh new year in Toronto, Canada

Canadian society is often depicted as being "very progressive, diverse, and multicultural".[42] Multiculturalism (a Just Society[43]) was adopted as the official policy of the Canadian government during the premiership of Pierre Elliott Trudeau in the 1970s and 1980s.[44] Multiculturalism is reflected in the law through the Canadian Multiculturalism Act[45] and section 27 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.[46] The Broadcasting Act of 1991 asserts the Canadian broadcasting system should reflect the diversity of cultures in the country.[47][48] Canadian multiculturalism is looked upon with admiration outside the country, resulting in the Canadian public dismissing most critics of the concept.[49][50] Multiculturalism in Canada is often cited as one of Canada's significant accomplishments,[51] and a key distinguishing element of Canadian identity.[52][53] One potential reason that Canadians have more successfully adopted multiculturalism is because it is taught in their public schools. Canadian students are taught about privilege in regards to race, gender, class, sexual orientation, disability and religion.[54]

In a 2002 interview with the Globe and Mail, Karīm al-Hussainī the 49th Aga Khan of the Ismaili Muslims described Canada as "the most successful pluralist society on the face of our globe", citing it as "a model for the world".[55] He explained that the experience of Canadian governance—its commitment to pluralism and its support for the rich multicultural diversity of its peoples—is something that must be shared and would be of benefit to all societies in other parts of the world.[55] The Economist ran a cover story in 2016 praising Canada as the most successful multicultural society in the West.[56] The Economist argued that Canada's multiculturalism was a source of strength that united the diverse population and by attracting immigrants from around the world was also an engine of economic growth as well.[56]


Ethno-linguistic map of Austria–Hungary, 1910.
Ethno-linguistic map of the Second Polish Republic, 1937.

The European Union is facing unprecedented demographic changes (an ageing population, low birth rates, changing family structures and migration). According to the European Commission, it is important, both at EU and national level, to review and adapt existing policies. Following a public debate, a 2006 EU policy paper identified five key policy responses to manage demographic change, among them receiving and integrating migrants into Europe.[57]

Historically, Europe has always been a mixture of Latin, Slavic, Germanic, Uralic, Celtic, Hellenic, Illyrian, Thracian and other cultures influenced by the importation of Jewish, Christian, Muslim and other belief systems; although the continent was supposedly unified by the super-position of Imperial Roman Christianity, it is accepted that geographic and cultural differences continued from antiquity into the modern age.[58]

In the 19th century, the ideology of nationalism transformed the way Europeans thought about the state.[58] Existing states were broken up and new ones created; the new nation-states were founded on the principle that each nation is entitled to its own sovereignty and to engender, protect, and preserve its own unique culture and history. Unity, under this ideology, is seen as an essential feature of the nation and the nation-state—unity of descent, unity of culture, unity of language, and often unity of religion. The nation-state constitutes a culturally homogeneous society, although some national movements recognized regional differences.

Where cultural unity was insufficient, it was encouraged and enforced by the state.[59] The 19th-century nation-states developed an array of policies—the most important was compulsory primary education in the national language.[59] The language itself was often standardized by a linguistic academy, and regional languages were ignored or suppressed. Some nation-states pursued violent policies of cultural assimilation and even ethnic cleansing.[59]

Some European Union countries have introduced policies for "social cohesion", "integration", and (sometimes) "assimilation". The policies include:

Other countries have instituted policies which encourage cultural separation.[62] The concept of "Cultural exception" proposed by France in the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) negotiations in 1993 was an example of a measure aimed at protecting local cultures.[63]


Since its establishment in 7th century Bulgaria has hosted many religions, ethnic groups and nations. The capital Sofia is the only European city that has peacefully functioning, within walking distance of 300 meters,[64][65][66] four Places of worship of the major religions: Eastern Orthodox (St Nedelya Church), Islam (Banya Bashi Mosque), Roman Catholicism (St Joseph Cathedral), and Orthodox Judaism (Sofia Synagogue, the third largest synagogue in Europe).

This unique arrangement has been called by historians a "multicultural cliche".[67] It has also become known as "The Square of Religious Tolerance"[68][69] and has initiated the construction of a 100-square-meter scale model of the site that is to become a symbol of the capital.[70][71][72]

Furthermore, unlike some other Nazi Germany allies or German-occupied countries excluding Denmark, Bulgaria managed to save its entire 48,000-strong Jewish population during World War II from deportation to Nazi concentration camps.[73][74] According to Dr Marinova-Christidi the main reason for the efforts of Bulgarian people to save the Bulgarian Jews during WWII is that within the region they "co-existed for centuries with other religions"—giving it a unique multicultural and multiethnic history.[75]

Consequently, within the Balkan region Bulgaria has become an example for multiculturalism in terms of variety of religions, artistic creativity[76] and ethnicity.[77][78] Its largest ethnic minorities, Turks and Roma, enjoy wide political representation. In 1984, following a campaign by the communist regime for a forcible change of the Islamic names of the Turkish minority,[79][80][81][82] an underground organization called «National Liberation Movement of the Turks in Bulgaria» was formed which headed the Turkish community's opposition movement. On January 4, 1990 the activists of the movement registered an organization with the legal name «Movement for Rights and Freedom» (MRF) (in Bulgarian: Движение за права и свободи: in Turkish: Hak ve Özgürlükler Hareketi) in the Bulgarian city of Varna. At the moment of registration it had 33 members, at present, according to the organization's website, 68,000 members plus 24,000 in the organization's youth wing . In 2012 Bulgarian Turks were represented at every level of government: local, with MRF having mayors in 35 municipalities, at parliamentary level with MRF having 38 deputies (14% of the votes in Parliamentary elections for 2009-13)[83] and at executive level, where there is one Turkish minister, Vezhdi Rashidov. Twenty-one Roma political organizations were founded between 1997 and 2003 in Bulgaria.[84]


In October 2010, Angela Merkel told a meeting of younger members of her conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party at Potsdam, near Berlin, that attempts to build a multicultural society in Germany had "utterly failed",[85] stating: "The concept that we are now living side by side and are happy about it does not work".[85][86] She continued to say that immigrants should integrate and adopt Germany's culture and values. This has added to a growing debate within Germany[87] on the levels of immigration, its effect on Germany and the degree to which Muslim immigrants have integrated into German society.[88] The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community of Germany is the first Muslim group to have been granted "corporation under public law status", putting the Community on par with the major Christian churches and Jewish communities of Germany.[89]


Süleymanìye Mosque in Tilburg built in 2001

Multiculturalism in the Netherlands began with major increases in immigration during the mid-1950s and 1960s.[90] As a consequence, an official national policy of multiculturalism was adopted in the early 1980s.[90] This policy subsequently gave way to more assimilationist policies in the 1990s.[90] Following the murders of Pim Fortuyn (in 2002) and Theo van Gogh (in 2004) there was increased political debate on the role of multiculturalism in the Netherlands.[91]

Lord Sacks, Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth, made a distinction between tolerance and multiculturalism, citing the Netherlands as a tolerant, rather than multicultural, society.[92] In June 2011 the First Rutte cabinet said the Netherlands would turn away from multiculturalism: "Dutch culture, norms and values must be dominant" Minister Donner said.[93]


Csárdás traditional Hungarian folk dance in Doroslovo

In Serbia there are 19 officially recognised ethnical groups with a status of national minorities.[94] Vojvodina is an autonomous province of Serbia, located in the northern part of the country. It has a multi-ethnic and multi-cultural identity;[95] there are more than 26 ethnic groups in the province,[96][97] which has six official languages.[98] Largest ethnic groups in Vojvodina are Serbs (67%), Hungarians (13%), Slovaks, Croats, Romani, Romanians, Montenegrins, Bunjevci, Rusyns.

Radio Television of Vojvodina broadcasts program in 10 local languages. The project by the Government of AP Vojvodina titled "Promotion of Multiculturalism and Tolerance in Vojvodina", whose primary goal is to foster the cultural diversity and develop the atmosphere of interethnic tolerance among the citizens of Vojvodina, has been successfully implemented since 2005.[99] Serbia is continually working on improving its relationship and inclusion of minorities in its effort to gain full accession to the European Union. Serbia has initiated talks through Stabilisation and Association Agreement on 7 November 2007.


Sweden was the first country to adopt an official policy of multiculturalism in Europe. In May 1975, a unanimous Swedish parliament passed an act on a new multiculturalist immigrant and minority policy put forward by the social democratic government, that explicitly rejected the ideal ethnic homogeneity and the policy of assimilation. The three main principles of the new policy were equality, partnership and freedom of choice. The explicit policy aim of the freedom of choice principle was to create the opportunity for minority groups in Sweden to retain their own languages and cultures. From the mid-1970s, the goal of enabling the preservation of minorities and creating a positive attitude towards the new officially endorsed multicultural society among the majority population became incorporated into the Swedish constitution as well as cultural, educational and media policies. Despite the anti-multiculturalist protestations of the, as of yet, politically isolated right-wing populist party, the Sweden Democrats, multiculturalism remains official policy in Sweden.[100]

United Kingdom

Multicultural policies[101] were adopted by local administrations from the 1970s and 1980s onwards. In 1997 the New Labour government committed to a multiculturalist approach at a national level,[102] but after 2001 there was something of a backlash, led by centre-left commentators such as David Goodhart and Trevor Phillips. The government then embraced a policy of community cohesion instead. In 2011 Prime Minister and Conservative Party leader David Cameron said in a speech that "state multiculturalism has failed".[103]


According to the 1961 Census of India, there are 1652 indigenous languages in the country.[104] The culture of India has been shaped by its long history, unique geography and diverse demography. India's languages, religions, dance, music, architecture and customs differ from place to place within the country, but nevertheless possess a commonality. The culture of India is an amalgamation of these diverse sub-cultures spread all over the Indian subcontinent and traditions that are several millennia old.[105] The Indian caste system describes the social stratification and social restrictions in the Indian subcontinent, in which social classes are defined by thousands of endogamous hereditary groups, often termed jātis or castes.[106]

Religiously, Hindus form the majority, followed by Muslims. The statistics are: Hindu (80.5%), Muslim (13.4%), Christian (2.3%), Sikh (2.1%), Buddhist, Bahá'í, Jain, Jew and Parsi populations.[107] Linguistically, the two main language families in India are Indo-Aryan (a branch of Indo-European) and Dravidian. In India's northeast, people speaking Sino-Tibetan group of languages such as Meitei (Meitei-lon) recognized by the Indian constitution and Austroasiatic languages are commonly found. India (officially) follows a three-language policy. Hindi (spoken in the form of Hindustani) is the official federal language, English has the federal status of associate/subsidiary official language and each state has its own state official language (in the Hindi sprachraum, this reduces to bilingualism). Further, India does not have any national language.[108][109] The Republic of India's state boundaries are largely drawn based on linguistic groups; this decision led to the preservation and continuation of local ethno-linguistic sub-cultures, except for the Hindi sprachraum which is itself divided into many states. Thus, most states differ from one another in language, culture, cuisine, clothing, literary style, architecture, music and festivities.

India has encountered religiously motivated violence,[110] such as the Moplah Riots, the Bombay riots, the 1984 anti-Sikh riots, the 2002 Gujarat riots, the 2012 Assam violence, and most recently, the 2013 Muzafarnagar violence in the state of Uttar Pradesh. This has resulted from traditionally disadvantaged communities in public employment such as the policing of the same locality, apprehension of owners in giving properties for sell or rent[111] and of society in accepting inter-marriages.[112]

India has the world's largest population of some non-Indian origin religions, such as Bahá'í Faith and Zoroastrianism.


Pluralism, diversity and multiculturalism is a daily fact of life in Indonesia. There are over 300 ethnic groups in Indonesia.[113] 95% of those are of Native Indonesian ancestry.[114] The Javanese are the largest ethnic group in Indonesia who make up nearly 42% of the total population.[115] The Sundanese, Malay, and Madurese are the next largest groups in the country.[115] There are also more than 700 living languages spoken in Indonesia[116] and although predominantly Muslim the country also has large Christian and Hindu populations.

Indonesia's national motto, Bhinneka Tunggal Ika ("Unity in Diversity" lit. "many, yet one") enshrined in Pancasila national ideology, articulates the diversity that shapes the country.[117] The government nurture and promote the diversity of Indonesian local culture and adopting a pluralist approach.

Due to migration within Indonesia (as part of government transmigration programs or otherwise), there are significant populations of ethnic groups who reside outside of their traditional regions. The Javanese for example, moved from their traditional homeland in Java to the other parts of the archipelago. The expansion of Javanese and their influence throughout Indonesia has raised the issue of Javanization, although Minangkabau, Malay, Madurese, Bugis and Makassar people, as a result of their merantau (migrating) culture are also quite widely distributed throughout Indonesian archipelago, while Chinese Indonesians can be found in most of urban areas. Because of urbanization, major Indonesian cities such as Greater Jakarta, Surabaya, Bandung, Palembang, Medan and Makassar has attracted large numbers of Indonesians from various ethnics, cultural and religious background. Jakarta in particular, has almost all of Indonesian ethnic groups represented.

However, this transmigration program and close interactions between people of different cultural backgrounds might caused socio-cultural problems, as the inter-ethnics interactions might not always conducted harmoniously. After the fall of Suharto in 1998 into the 2000s, there were numbers of inter-ethnic and inter-religious clashes erupted in Indonesia. Such as clashes between native Dayak tribes against Madurese transmigrants in Kalimantan during Sambas riots in 1999[118] and the Sampit conflict in 2001.[119] There were also clashes between Muslims and Christians, such as violence erupted in Poso between 1998 and into 2000,[120] and violences in Maluku between 1999 and into 2002.[121] Nevertheless, Indonesia today still struggle and has managed to maintain unity and inter-cultural harmony, through national adherence of pro-pluralism policy of Pancasila promoted and enforced by the government and its people.

Chinese Indonesians are the largest foreign-origin minority that has been residing in Indonesia for generations. Despite centuries of acculturation with native Indonesians, because of their disproportionately influence on Indonesian economy, and alleged question of national loyalty, Chinese Indonesian have suffered discrimination. The Suharto Orde Baru or New Order adopted a forced assimilation policy; which indicated that Chinese cultural elements were unacceptable.[122] Chinese Indonesians were forced to adopt Indonesian-sounding names, and the use of Chinese culture and language was banned. The violence targeting Chinese Indonesians erupted during riots in 1998 as the looting and destructions took place, numbers of Chinese Indonesians as well as looters were died. The Chinese Indonesians were treated as the scapegoat of 1997 Asian Financial Crisis, and it was the result of ongoing discrimination and segregation policy enforced during Suharto's New Order regime. Soon after the fourth Indonesian President, Abdurrahman Wahid came into power in 1999, he quickly abolished some of the discriminatory laws in efforts to promote acceptance and to improve inter-racial relationships, such as abolishing the ban on Chinese culture and allowed Chinese traditions to be practised freely. Two years later President Megawati Sukarnoputri declared that the Chinese New Year (Imlek) would be marked as a national holiday from 2003.[123] Today, Chinese Indonesians enjoy the same rights as other Indonesians.


An Ainu man, circa 1930

Japanese society, with its ideology of homogeneity, has traditionally rejected any need to recognize ethnic differences in Japan, even as such claims have been rejected by such ethnic minorities as the Ainu and Ryukyuan people.[124] In 2005, former Japanese Prime Minister and current Japanese Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso described Japan as a "one civilization, one language, one culture and one race" nation.[125] However, there are "International Society" NPOs funded by local governments throughout Japan.[126]

According to Harvard University professor Theodore Bestor, Japan does look very homogeneous from a distant perspective, but in fact there are a number of very significant minority groups—ethnically different minority groups—in Japan today. Such as the already mentioned Ainu and Ryukyuan people.[127]


Kazakhstan is among the most multicultural countries in Eurasia, with sizeable populations of ethnic Kazakhs, Russians, Uzbeks, Ukrainians, Uighurs, Tatars, Germans and more.[128] Kazakhstan is one of a few countries in post-Soviet territories that managed to avoid interethnic clashes and conflicts in the period of USSR’s final crisis and its eventual breakup.[129] In 1995, Kazakhstan created the Assembly of People of Kazakhstan, an advisory body designed to represent the country's ethnic minorities.[130]


Malaysia is a multiethnic country, with Malays making up the majority, close to 58% of the population. About 25% of the population are Malaysians of Chinese descent. Malaysians of Indian descent comprise about 7% of the population. The remaining 10% comprises:

The Malaysian New Economic Policy or NEP serves as a form of racial equalization.[131] It promotes structural changes in various aspects of life from education to economic to social integration. Established after the 13 May racial riots of 1969, it sought to address the significant imbalance in the economic sphere where the minority Chinese population had substantial control over commercial activity in the country.

The Malay Peninsula has a long history of international trade contacts, influencing its ethnic and religious composition. Predominantly Malays before the 18th century, the ethnic composition changed dramatically when the British introduced new industries, and imported Chinese and Indian labor. Several regions in the then British Malaya such as Penang, Malacca and Singapore became Chinese dominated. Until the riots 1969, co-existence between the three ethnicities (and other minor groups) was largely peaceful, although the three main racial groups for the most part lived in separate communities—the Malays in the villages, the Chinese in the urban areas, and the Indians in the towns and plantation. More Malays however have moved into the cities since the 1970s, and the proportion of the non-Malays have been decreasing continually, especially the Chinese, due in large part to lower birth-rate and emigration as a result of institutionalized discrimination.[132]

Preceding independence of the Federation of Malaya, a social contract was negotiated as the basis of a new society. The contract as reflected in the 1957 Malayan Constitution and the 1963 Malaysian Constitution states that the immigrant groups are granted citizenship, and Malays' special rights are guaranteed. This is often referred to the Bumiputra policy.

These pluralist policies have come under pressure from racialist Malay parties, who oppose perceived subversion of Malay rights. The issue is sometimes related to the controversial status of religious freedom in Malaysia.


Multiculturalism has been a characteristic feature of the island of Mauritius.[133] Mauritian society includes people from many different ethnic and religious groups: Hindu, Muslim and Indo-Mauritians, Mauritian Creoles (of African and Malagasy descent), Buddhist and Roman Catholic Sino-Mauritians and Franco-Mauritians (descendants of the original French colonists).[134]


Mexico has historically always been a multicultural country, with people of ethnic groups including those of indigenous background, various European backgrounds, Africans, and a small Asian community.[135] Mexico City has recently been integrating rapidly, doing much better than many cities in a sample conducted by the Intercultural Cities Index (being the only non-European city, alongside Montreal, on the index).[136]


The Philippines ranks 8th among 240 countries in terms of ethnic diversity.[137] Among its several ethnic groups, the Philippines has 10 major distinct groups mainly the Bicolano, Ibanag, Ilocano, Kapampangan, Moro, Pangasinan, Sambal, Tagalog and Visayan. The Philippines also has several aboriginal stocks such as the Badjao, Igorot, Lumad, Mangyan and Negrito. The country also has a huge Hispanic community; and a number of American, Chinese, and Indian communities.[138] The Philippine government has various programs supporting and preserving the nation's ethnic diversity.

Although there had been no ethnic-based incidents of aggression between many Christian and animist groups, the same cannot be said about relations between them on the one hand and their Muslim compatriots on the other. The enduring war in Mindanao is one of the most prominent examples of religious conflicts pestering the economically frail southern Philippines. Since the 1899 Moro Rebellion, Muslim groups across Mindanao have bolstered armed offensives against foreign colonizers due to aspirations of self-determination. However, these efforts have failed resulting to the annexation of Islamic regions particularly the Sultanate of Sulu to the Philippines.


Because of immigration, Singapore has a Chinese majority population with significant minority populations of Malays and Indians (predominantly Tamils). Other prominent smaller groups include Peranakans and Eurasians. Besides English, Singapore recognizes three other languages – Malay, Mandarin Chinese and Tamil. English was established as the medium of instruction in schools during the 1960s and 1970s and is the language of trade and government while the other three languages are taught as second languages ("mother tongues"). Besides being a multilingual country, Singapore also acknowledges festivals celebrated by the three main ethnic communities.

During British colonial rule, ethnic enclaves such as Geylang, Chinatown, and Little India were enforced. Presently (2010), remnants of colonial ethnic concentration still exist but housing in Singapore is governed by the Ethnic Integration Policy, which ensures an even ethnic distribution throughout Singapore.[139] A similar policy exists in politics as all Group Representation Constituencies are required to field at least one candidate from an ethnic minority.

South Korea

South Korea remains a relatively homogenous country ethnically, linguistically, and culturally.[140] Foreigners, expatriates, and immigrants are often rejected by the mainstream South Korean society and face discrimination.[141]

However, the word "multiculturalism" is increasingly heard in South Korea. In 2007, Han Geon-Soo, Professor of Cultural Anthropology at Kangwon National University, published an article entitled "Multicultural Korea: Celebration or Challenge of Multiethnic Shift in Contemporary Korea?", noting: "As the increase of foreign migrants in [South] Korea transforms a single-ethnic homogeneous [South] Korean society into multiethnic and multicultural one, [the South] Korean government and the civil society pay close attention to multiculturalism as an alternative value to their policy and social movement." He argued, however, that "the current discourses and concerns on multiculturalism in [South] Korea" lacked "the constructive and analytical concepts for transforming a society".[142]

The same year, Stephen Castles of the International Migration Institute argued:

"Korea no longer has to decide whether it wants to become a multicultural society. It made that decision years ago—perhaps unconsciously—when it decided to be a full participant in the emerging global economy. It confirmed that decision when it decided to actively recruit foreign migrants to meet the economic and demographic needs of a fast-growing society. Korea is faced by a different decision today: what type of multicultural society does it want to be?"[143]

The Korea Times suggested in 2009 that South Korea was likely to become a multicultural society.[144] In 2010, an opinion editorial written by Peter Underwood for the JoongAng Ilbo stated: "Media in [South] Korea is abuzz with the new era of multiculturalism. With more than one million foreigners in [South] Korea, 2 percent of the population comes from other cultures." He further opined:

"If you stay too long, Koreans become uncomfortable with you. [...] Having a 2 percent foreign population unquestionably causes ripples, but having one million temporary foreign residents does not make Korea a multicultural society. [...] In many ways, this homogeneity is one of Korea’s greatest strengths. Shared values create harmony. Sacrifice for the nation is a given. Difficult and painful political and economic initiatives are endured without discussion or debate. It is easy to anticipate the needs and behavior of others. It is the cornerstone that has helped Korea survive adversity. But there is a downside, too. [...] Koreans are immersed in their culture and are thus blind to its characteristics and quirks. Examples of group think are everywhere. Because Koreans share values and views, they support decisions even when they are obviously bad. Multiculturalism will introduce contrasting views and challenge existing assumptions. While it will undermine the homogeneity, it will enrich Koreans with a better understanding of themselves."[145]

Although many debates still take place as to whether South Korea really is a multicultural society or not, it is generally agreed that South Korea has probably entered a stage of multiculturalism and has moved away from its homogeneous identity. Around 35~40% of South Korean men in the rural area outside Seoul are engaged with wives from different countries. According to the Dongponews, an online media that connects migrants and immigrants of South Korea, the number of foreigners residing in South Korea reached 1.43 million by 2012, and is likely to increase more and more, reaching to the scale that cannot be undermined. More than that, South Korea is going through a serious stage of low birthrate, leading to an aging society in shortage of labor forces. Another big changing factor is that Korea already has multi-ethnic, multi-cultural families appearing in great numbers, as one in every ten marriage is between a South Korean and a foreigner, and in the rural side this portion is greater.[146] As such change takes place in such short period of time, it can be understood that many conflicts arise among different groups of people; the immigrants, government, and the rest of Korean society. Recently a lot of media attention is given to these people; documentaries on the lives of wives and their children are often shown, as well as talk shows that portray struggles and conflicts these people go through such as Love in Asia; a talk show hosting foreign wives, sharing their experience of marriage and family life, broadcast by the national broadcasting channel, KBS. Many South Koreans recently have recognized that the change that South Korean society is going through due to this media attention. Government policies have also changed very recently; a lot of welfare programs and extracurricular activities are launched under the name of "multicultural policy." The policy is quite recent phenomenon.

United Arab Emirates

Although Arabic is the official language of the United Arab Emirates, English, Malayalam, Hindi, Urdu, Tagalog, Bengali, Indonesian, Persian and many other languages are widely spoken and understood, particularly in the main cities of Dubai and Abu Dhabi. The UAE hosts expatriate workers from 200 countries, with a majority coming from the Indian subcontinent. The UAE has widely accepted all other religions, granting permission for the construction of temples or churches. Foreigners make up about 85% of the population. However, the UAE does not have an open immigration policy and Emirati citizens form a largely homogeneous Arab society; all foreigners reside in the country as temporary workers and visitors.

United States

In the United States, multiculturalism is not clearly established in policy at the federal level, but ethnic diversity is common in both rural and urban areas.

Continuous mass immigration was a feature of the United States economy and society since the first half of the 19th century.[147] The absorption of the stream of immigrants became, in itself, a prominent feature of America's national myth. The idea of the melting pot is a metaphor that implies that all the immigrant cultures are mixed and amalgamated without state intervention.[148] The melting pot theory implied that each individual immigrant, and each group of immigrants, assimilated into American society at their own pace. This is different than multiculturalism as defined above, which does not include complete assimilation and integration.[149] An Americanized (and often stereotypical) version of the original nation's cuisine, and its holidays, survived. The melting pot tradition co-exists with a belief in national unity, dating from the American founding fathers:

Providence has been pleased to give this one connected country to one united people—a people descended from the same ancestors, speaking the same language, professing the same religion, attached to the same principles of government, very similar in their manners and customs... This country and this people seem to have been made for each other, and it appears as if it was the design of Providence, that an inheritance so proper and convenient for a band of brethren, united to each other by the strongest ties, should never be split into a number of unsocial, jealous, and alien sovereignties.[150]
Staff of President Clinton's One America Initiative. The President's Initiative on Race was a critical element in President Clinton's effort to prepare the country to embrace diversity.

As a philosophy, multiculturalism began as part of the pragmatism movement at the end of the nineteenth century in Europe and the United States, then as political and cultural pluralism at the turn of the twentieth.[151] It was partly in response to a new wave of European imperialism in sub-Saharan Africa and the massive immigration of Southern and Eastern Europeans to the United States and Latin America. Philosophers, psychologists and historians and early sociologists such as Charles Sanders Peirce, William James, George Santayana, Horace Kallen, John Dewey, W. E. B. Du Bois and Alain Locke developed concepts of cultural pluralism, from which emerged what we understand today as multiculturalism. In Pluralistic Universe (1909), William James espoused the idea of a "plural society." James saw pluralism as "crucial to the formation of philosophical and social humanism to help build a better, more egalitarian society.[152]

The educational approach to multiculturalism has since spread to the grade school system, as school systems try to rework their curricula to introduce students to diversity earlier—often on the grounds that it is important for minority students to see themselves represented in the classroom.[153][154] Studies estimated 46.3 million Americans ages 14 to 24 to be the most diverse generation in American society.[155] In 2009 and 2010, controversy erupted in Texas as the state's curriculum committee made several changes to the state's requirements, often at the expense of minorities. They chose to juxtapose Abraham Lincoln's inaugural address with that of Confederate president Jefferson Davis;[156] they debated removing Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall and labor-leader Cesar Chavez[157] and rejected calls to include more Hispanic figures, in spite of the high Hispanic population in the state.[158]


Multiculturalism is seen by its supporters as a fairer system that allows people to truly express who they are within a society, that is more tolerant and that adapts better to social issues.[159] They argue that culture is not one definable thing based on one race or religion, but rather the result of multiple factors that change as the world changes.

Historically, support for modern multiculturalism stems from the changes in Western societies after World War II, in what Susanne Wessendorf calls the "human rights revolution", in which the horrors of institutionalized racism and ethnic cleansing became almost impossible to ignore in the wake of the Holocaust; with the collapse of the European colonial system, as colonized nations in Africa and Asia successfully fought for their independence and pointed out the discriminatory underpinnings of the colonial system; and, in the United States in particular, with the rise of the Civil Rights Movement, which criticized ideals of assimilation that often led to prejudices against those who did not act according to Anglo-American standards and which led to the development of academic ethnic studies programs as a way to counteract the neglect of contributions by racial minorities in classrooms.[160][161] As this history shows, multiculturalism in Western countries was seen to combat racism, to protect minority communities of all types, and to undo policies that had prevented minorities from having full access to the opportunities for freedom and equality promised by the liberalism that has been the hallmark of Western societies since the Age of Enlightenment. The contact hypothesis in sociology is a well documented phenomenon in which cooperative interactions with those from a different group than one's own reduce prejudice and inter-group hostility.

C. James Trotman argues that multiculturalism is valuable because it "uses several disciplines to highlight neglected aspects of our social history, particularly the histories of women and minorities [...and] promotes respect for the dignity of the lives and voices of the forgotten.[162] By closing gaps, by raising consciousness about the past, multiculturalism tries to restore a sense of wholeness in a postmodern era that fragments human life and thought."[162]

Tariq Modood argues that in the early years of the 21st century, multiculturalism "is most timely and necessary, and [...] we need more not less", since it is "the form of integration" that (1) best fits the ideal of egalitarianism, (2) has "the best chance of succeeding" in the "post-9/11, post 7/7" world, and (3) has remained "moderate [and] pragmatic".[163]

Bhikhu Parekh counters what he sees as the tendencies to equate multiculturalism with racial minorities "demanding special rights" and to see it as promoting a "thinly veiled racis[m]". Instead, he argues that multiculturalism is in fact "not about minorities" but "is about the proper terms of relationship between different cultural communities", which means that the standards by which the communities resolve their differences, e.g., "the principles of justice" must not come from only one of the cultures but must come "through an open and equal dialogue between them."[164]

Balibar characterizes criticisms of multiculturalism as "differentialist racism", which he describes as a covert form of racism that does not purport ethnic superiority as much as it asserts stereotypes of perceived "incompatibility of life-styles and traditions".[165]

While there is research that suggests that ethnic diversity increases chances of war, lower public goods provision and decreases democratization, there is also research that shows that ethnic diversity in itself is not detrimental to peace,[166][167] public goods provision[168][169] or democracy.[170] Rather, it was found that promoting diversity actually help in advancing disadvantaged students.[171]

Wikimedia Foundation suggests that "diversity of perspectives is crucial to increasing the quality of the free knowledge resources that [their] movement provides.".[172] Wikidata also suggests that "the world is complicated and there is no single [consensus—especially in a knowledge base that is supposed to serve many cultures."


Critics of multiculturalism often debate whether the multicultural ideal of benignly co-existing cultures that interrelate and influence one another, and yet remain distinct, is sustainable, paradoxical, or even desirable.[173][174][175] It is argued that nation states, who would previously have been synonymous with a distinctive cultural identity of their own, lose out to enforced multiculturalism and that this ultimately erodes the host nations' distinct culture.[176]

Harvard professor of political science Robert D. Putnam conducted a nearly decade-long study on how multiculturalism affects social trust.[177] He surveyed 26,200 people in 40 American communities, finding that when the data were adjusted for class, income and other factors, the more racially diverse a community is, the greater the loss of trust. People in diverse communities "don’t trust the local mayor, they don’t trust the local paper, they don’t trust other people and they don’t trust institutions," writes Putnam.[178] In the presence of such ethnic diversity, Putnam maintains that

[W]e hunker down. We act like turtles. The effect of diversity is worse than had been imagined. And it’s not just that we don’t trust people who are not like us. In diverse communities, we don’t trust people who do look like us.[177]

Ethnologist Frank Salter writes:

Relatively homogeneous societies invest more in public goods, indicating a higher level of public altruism. For example, the degree of ethnic homogeneity correlates with the government's share of gross domestic product as well as the average wealth of citizens. Case studies of the United States, Africa and South-East Asia find that multi-ethnic societies are less charitable and less able to cooperate to develop public infrastructure. Moscow beggars receive more gifts from fellow ethnics than from other ethnies [sic]. A recent multi-city study of municipal spending on public goods in the United States found that ethnically or racially diverse cities spend a smaller portion of their budgets and less per capita on public services than do the more homogeneous cities.[179]

Dick Lamm, former three-term Democratic governor of the US state of Colorado, wrote in his essay "I have a plan to destroy America":

"Diverse peoples worldwide are mostly engaged in hating each other—that is, when they are not killing each other. A diverse, peaceful, or stable society is against most historical precedent."[180]

A number of conservative historians used the religion of the Mexica, better known as the Aztecs as an example of what they see as the flaws of multiculturalism. The Australian historian Keith Windschuttle cited the accounts of his fellow Australian historian Inga Clendinnen of the festival of Ochpaniztli where to honor the Maize Lord a young woman was sacrificed by ripping out heart her so the crops might grow:

"Then, still in darkness, silence, and urgent haste, her body was flayed, and a naked priest, a 'very strong man, very powerful, very tall', struggled into the wet skin, with its slack breasts and pouched genitalia: a double nakedness of layered, ambiguous sexuality. The skin of one thigh was reserved to be fashioned into a face-mask for the man impersonating Centeotl, Young Lord Maize Cob, the son of Toci".[181]

Windschuttle argued that the gruesome religion of the Aztecs that required that dozens of young people be sacrificed and eaten every day so that the sun might rise the next day and hundreds of people sacrificed for major holidays as proving that multiculturalism is a facile doctrine that requires Westerners to respect Aztec religion as equal to any other religion.[182] Along the same lines, the American classist Victor Davis Hanson denounced Aztec culture as fundamentally barbarous and irrational, which he compared unfavorably with the "rationalism" of the Spanish who conquered Mexico in 1519–21.[183] Hanson argued that Hernán Cortés conquered Mexico because he was a product of the rational culture of the West, unlike Moctezuma II who Hanson noted dismissively at first believed the Spanish were gods and who consulted "sorcerers and necromancers" instead using his reason.[183] Hanson used the differences between Moctezuma and Cortés to argue that Western culture was superior to every culture in the entire world, which thus led him to reject multiculturalism as a false doctrine that placed all cultures on an equal footing.[183]

In New Zealand (Aotearoa), which is officially bi-cultural, multiculturalism has been seen as a threat to the Maori, and possibly an attempt by the New Zealand Government to undermine Maori demands for self determination.[184]

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