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Book Review: Multiculturalism by Tariq Modood

Multiculturalism by Tariq Modood is a book written in a formative time of debates on multiculturalism in Western Europe. It is a time when debates and discussions on Muslim integration are taking place in many public places. Multiculturalism, in a sense, is wide-reaching and encompasses more than just religious diversity but other issues such as social and economic standing, the role of women, health issues, education (including language), and political rights. It is also a time when many debates occur regarding how much progress has been made in integrating Muslims into Western Europe. It discusses the existence of multiculturalism since there have been debates on the topic since the beginning of the twentieth century, evolving into what it is at present. It discusses the effects multiculturalism has had on all western European countries and other nations in west Europe and also discusses what misconceptions still exist in public debate today. As Tariq Modood explains, “the new wave of Muslim political participation” has given rise to different debates on “the compatibility of religion and state” (Modood, 2013), a topic which is still being debated today. The book does a great job of outlining the history of multiculturalism and other public policy developments that have led to the current situation. Secularism and multiculturalism have been seen as “the twin pillars of state policy concerning religion” (Modood, 2013), and the book does a great job of discussing if, why, and how this can be true. Modood’s book also explains several debates on the nature of secularism from a liberal point of view, which is essential because it allows us to understand the development that has taken place on the term. The most common are; “cultural secularism,” which refers to the practices surrounding religious practices, such as not having headscarves at a university in France or women not being allowed to wear veils in public institutions.

The book establishes that the focus on religious aspects of multiculturalism has not worked and much more needs to be done. This can be seen as a somewhat strong argument as many Islamic scholars argue that Muslim integration is a moral rather than just a social duty. To integrate Muslims into society, policies related to religion must be removed for Muslims to feel free to express their faith; therefore, they should not be blamed anymore but encouraged in doing so. The book discusses the idea of “the challenges caused by globalization” (Modood, 2013) and how this affects different European countries concerning integration, which is still very important in today’s time. They discuss how British Muslims have become a minority in their own country and are then subjected to racial discrimination. The book showcases that this is not unique to Britain as many other European countries also suffer from this problem, but despite the lack of attention, it has not slowed down the integration process. The book discusses how Muslim fears of extreme violence after 9/11 are directed toward different individuals living in the society and not towards “the majority” (Modood, 2013), which can be seen by many other refugees who fled to Britain for their safety. This occurrence has led to a misconception that Muslims in Western Europe are a threat, which is the main focus of Tariq Modood’s discussion.

The author discusses how multicultural policies have not worked and should be reviewed. To achieve proper integration, policymakers should focus on religion as an essential aspect of the Muslim identity in society. This point is debatable as many believe that integration should focus more on socioeconomic factors rather than just religious ones as it can create further division between different societal groups. On the one hand, integration is at a standstill as many people still view Muslims negatively. There are many problems with integration that must be solved before moving on to other issues. Still, on the other side, policies such as multiculturalism do more harm than good by bringing certain aspects of culture into the public eye, leading to hostility rather than acceptance. Moodod argues that “the impact of the new wave of Muslim political participation” (p164) has brought about many changes in how Muslims are treated by the public and by politicians. He also argues that individuals involved in politics are not always fully aware of all aspects of Islam and neither do they understand the Muslim perspective; therefore should be educated on this topic so they can make informed decisions on what is best in terms of integration policy.

The book discusses the state of secularism in Western Europe, which has been seen as the primary source of tension between Muslims and non-Muslims. The relationship between Islam and secularism has been historically powerful, as the Western model of secularism is “conducted concerning, and sometimes in the name of, Christianity” (Modood, 2013). Although Christianity is no longer the major religion in Western Europe, many still live in a society where religion plays a significant role in their daily lives. Secularism has become “a problematic term” (Modood, 2013), something that is debated between Muslims and non-Muslims. This is important because if we look at this issue from a broader perspective, secularism is the critical problem for Muslim integration in Europe, and the author does an excellent job of explaining this. Suppose you look at secularism from one perspective. In that case, it means that Muslims don’t have to behave in a certain way –e.g., women are not allowed to wear a headscarf or veil – as long as they live in secular democratic societies where there are no constraints on them (e.g., do not have to follow Islamic law). This is the primary debate that has been going on for a long time, especially in France. Issues such as Halal slaughter and headscarves/veils have become issues of secularism. On the other hand, multiculturalism has been seen as “a politically necessary policy” (Modood, 2013) since many societies do not want to put restrictions on anyone, so they use multiculturalism to protect their rights. Therefore, the current policies can be seen as effective in protecting people’s rights but ineffective in not solving or preventing any existing or potential problems.

The book fits into the output of Tariq Modood as he has written on different aspects of multiculturalism and Muslim integration. Modood is a sociology academic whose interest is studying Muslim identity and integration. He has published papers on issues such as the role of women in Islamic societies, religious pluralism, ethnic identity, what it means to be a Muslim living in western society, etc. In addition, he has also written books on religion and modernity as well as culture and modernity. The book is mainly about multiculturalism and its effects on the Muslim identity in western Europe and on public policy. The way it was presented had a very academic approach to multiculturalism in European societies as it had specific examples and primary sources. Modood’s book is primarily about the role of Muslims in European culture and how Muslims and non-Muslims view them in Western Europe. The author uses primary sources to explain this. The book mainly focuses on the problems that the Muslim community face, especially what happens when they come into contact with the public, which he says is essential to highlight as it leaves out any preconceived notions that people may have

The book relates to other publications in the subject area in that it is unique as it provides an informative historical background on multiculturalism, which includes events that have significantly impacted both policy and public debate. It offers a unique opportunity for readers to learn about important events such as terrorist attacks or conflicts that have affected public policy and opinion. The book provides insights into how different developments in public policy have evolved, as well as how the public debate on multiculturalism has developed. The book is handy and understandable to an audience interested in multiculturalism, Muslim integration, and social cohesion. It explains various aspects of multiculturalism and how it maps onto western European countries such as the UK. It gives a detailed account of the development of diversity policies toward Muslims in European nations and explains why certain developments have taken place, which then leads to a fascinating discussion on whether or not policies should be adjusted to accommodate cultural differences between Muslims and other groups. The book also discusses religious pluralism, minority problems, etc., the issues that affect these groups, and the role of Muslim women in Muslim integration. The book also discusses different counter-cultures that can occur when there is no public policy on multiculturalism. The book also provides historical background on immigration and the history of immigration in Britain, which is also interesting as it gives a broader perspective on immigration in Europe(Modood, 2013). This book is very useful for policymakers because it allows them to understand how multiculturalism currently operates in the UK and if there are any problems associated with this type of policy, then they can modify the current policy so that it functions better. The book is also useful for academics because if they are working on projects regarding multiculturalism, integration, or social cohesion, they can use it to gain more information from a British perspective.

Overall, the book is a valuable source of information on multiculturalism and Muslim integration. It provides a critical analysis of how multiculturalism affects Muslim integration in the UK and whether or not it is necessary for Muslims to have their policy on multiculturalism due to their unique cultural needs. The book also provides a historical account of immigration in Britain and what has happened over time, which has impacted public policy toward Muslim integration. The way the book is written can be viewed as both a limitation and a contribution. Due to its academic focus, few opinions are presented throughout the text; therefore, it can be viewed as lacking in critical evaluation of specific issues addressed in the text. However, the book effectively highlights the development of different policies implemented over time, leading to an interesting discussion on whether or not a policy should be changed. It is also interesting to note that even though the author has a background in sociology, he does not go into any detail about how public policy should be set up about multiculturalism throughout the text. The book provides insights into various aspects of multiculturalism and ethnic groups and how other groups and individuals view them. It also provides insights into how Muslim integration differs from other groups, such as Jewish integration. The book offers a historical account of immigration and what has happened in Britain, which helps understand how public policy has evolved over time. This book is helpful for academics interested in multiculturalism because it provides historical information on the topic.


Modood, T. 2013. Multiculturalism. (2nd ed.) Cambridge: Polity. (Workshop Leader – Jon Mulholland)


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