Developing countries are less multicultural and diverse than the rich Western countries. Pakistan has not yet become multicultural. Well, it has a colonial history, and that resulted in English becoming the main language in the country, with cultural dimensions, and especially the upper classes have contacts abroad, and many have received higher education in other countries. Ordinary people often have family members working abroad; it is a government policy to encourage people to work abroad, and the remittances from overseas Pakistanis are not only important for the families, but also for the country’s overall economy. 

This does not mean that Pakistan is multicultural. For that to be the case, Pakistan would need to receive foreigners in its own country, not only refugees and others from neighbouring countries, indeed Afghanistan and elsewhere in the region, but also from countries further away. It is true that Pakistan has a number of local languages and ethnic groups within its borders, and that means important diversity, too. Yet, I believe it would enrich Pakistan to become more diverse, and more open and tolerant through foreign workers and immigrants from further away.  

In today’s article I shall discuss some important aspects related to multiculturalism, which can shed light on the positive aspects of it. I believe that diversity makes a country stronger and more dynamic. Multiculturalism means that different ethnic and cultural groups live in the same space, that they have dialogue and cooperate, without necessarily giving up their own identity, values, beliefs, and so on. The strength lies to a major extent in using the diversity in a positive way. Therefore, I don’t see assimilation into the host country’s majority culture or cultures as a goal. There must be some degree of integration, but there must also be encouragement and respect for keeping own identity. We must truly realize that diversity and pluralism make a country better.

Most Western countries are today multicultural. In the course of a few decades, they have opened up for more immigrants, and sending countries have seen the opportunities in the West. Cooperation has increased internationally in trade and other fields. Internet and other modern communication forms have made it possible to maintain contact with relatives, friends and colleagues living nearby or far away. We can quickly Google and receive information and learn about issues anywhere in the world; books and scientific knowledge are still relevant. The media has around the clock news updates, and most countries allow their citizens free access. Only a few decades ago, the media was quite tightly government controlled, especially the electronic media.

Most countries support globalization and multiculturalism. Well, there is also doubts about it among mainstream leaders, who would like immigrants in new lands to embrace deeper integration. In addition, there are people, especially on the political far right, who oppose the quite large migration that we experience in our time, some three hundred million people worldwide. An unprecedented seventy million people are refugees and forced migrants. European countries have had a major influx of foreigners; in 2015, one and a half million newcomers knocked on the doors of those rich countries and some termed it as a crisis. Only some of the people movements in Europe include people from developing countries; much is within the European Union countries, not from outside. 

It is a fact that all European countries have become more diverse in the course of a couple of generations. Europeans generally have become less active in religious, mostly Christian associations. Immigrants of other faiths, especially Muslims, are often more active and visible, and some Europeans find that challenging. Dialogue is required when new people move across the globe. In most fields, though, greater diversity enriches and energises the recipient countries. The European, Canadian and American ways of multiculturalism have generally been successful. Sometimes, we hear the opposite, but I believe it is important to realize the strength of multiculturalism.  

When I in the late 1960s attended a three-month language course in London, I remember that one of the teachers, an ethnic British woman, said that she would find it strange to live in a country and city that would be ethnically homogeneous and without diversity. She said that she appreciated that UK, and indeed London, was multicultural, that people from all over the world had come there, settled and made it their new home. She said that she found this to be modern and the future of her country and its capital. Of course, some places in the UK, still belong to ‘old England’, and such places may be good, too. But in the new time, the country has people from around the globe, yes, from Commonwealth countries and other distant lands, and from countries nearer, within or without the European Union. People live and let live, as the British saying goes.

In the late 1960s, my home country Norway was an ethnically without diversity. The first batch of immigrants from far away had barely begun coming; Pakistanis were among the first ones. Few Norwegian politicians and civil servants had thought about the possible popularity of Norway among immigrants, and there were no visa requirements and restrictions until the mid 1970s. Today, Norway has about 800,000 immigrants, and roughly half of them from outside Europe and North America, in a population of five million. The situation is similar in neighbouring Denmark, and Sweden has an even higher percentage of immigrants in its population. There are obviously some problems with integration, and sometimes it is difficult for immigrants to find jobs at least until they have learnt the local language. However, the newcomers have already contributed immensely to their new homelands, and several sectors of society rely on the immigrants’ labour.

 In most European countries, multiculturalism has for some decades been the general policy. In North and South America, multiculturalism has been common much longer. The Canadian multiculturalism is often seen as particularly successful, and it has been spelt out in the country’s progressive, diverse and just policies and laws since the 1970s when Pierre Trudeau, the father of the current Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, was in the same seat. Canadians are generally proud of these policies. Recently, I heard the former Canadian high commissioner to Pakistan boast of the policies at his country’s national day.

In USA, a country made up of immigrants, people seem to be positive to the ‘melting pot’ the country is said to be. In other words, people come from everywhere and adopt important aspects of the ‘American way’, yet without giving up all of their original identity either. That is indeed an essential definition of multiculturalism; one lives in a country, city and community with people of different backgrounds ethnically, culturally, religiously, and more, at the same time as one keeps traditions and ways from home, yes, as one also feels belonging to the new land one now calls home.

My language teacher in London in the late 1960s was right, that multiculturalism is good. Fifty years hence, also Norwegians know that. Pakistanis are yet to experience it. At the same time, we must all be proud of own cultures, yet, simultaneously embrace new cultures and welcome newcomers.