UK

Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks: Multiculturalism 'Has Had Its Day'

19/08/2013 09:02 BST

Multiculturalism creates a society where "everyone is a guest", Britain's chief rabbi has warned in an interview calling for a "multi-ethnic" society not multi-cultured.

The outgoing chief rabbi Lord Sacks said that he believed multiculturalism in Britain had "had its day" having led to "segregation and inward looking communities".

In an interview with the Times, he likened it to a hotel where "nobody is at home", adding: "It doesn't belong to anyone, we've each got our own room and so long as we don't disturb the neighbours we can do whatever we like."

uk chief rabbi

Jonathan Sacks, the Chief Rabbi of Great Britain and the Commonwealth, at home

“The real danger in a multicultural society is that every ethnic group and religious group becomes a pressure group, putting our people’s interest instead of the national interest.”

He however acknowledged the difficulties faced by British Muslim communities when they tried to assimilate.

"We've had 26 centuries of experience which most Muslims haven't," he said. "The norm was for Muslims to live under a Muslim jurisdiction and the norm since the destruction of the first temple was for Jews to live under a non-Jewish jurisdiction."

His advice? “The lessons are — number one, you don’t try to impose your views on the majority population.

“Number two, you have to be what I call bilingual, you know you are Jewish and you’re English and you have to negotiate that, which I think is actually good for the soul, because it forces you to realise that actually society and life is complicated. It mustn’t and can’t be simplified.

“Number three, there are times when it’s uncomfortable, when you realise there is such a thing as anti-Semitism. A minority isn’t always fun.”

Lord Sacks, who has been 22 years in the post as the most senior Orthodox rabbi in the UK, also accused David Cameron of failing to do enough to encourage marriage.

"Although I don't take a political stance ... I don't think the Government has done enough at all," he said.

"(The Government) should certainly recognise marriage in the tax system, it should certainly give more support to mothers who stay at home or for childcare provision," he said.

"I don't believe in getting involved in the details but the principle is pretty clear."

His comments are likely to irritate ministers as Chancellor George Osborne has already promised a tax break for married couples in his Autumn Statement, despite the opposition of the Conservatives' coalition partners in the Liberal Democrats.

Lord Sacks will be replaced by Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis next month.