Trevor Phillips: 'A new highway code for multi-ethnic Britain'

From a speech by the chair of the Commission for Racial Equality to the Conservative Party Muslim Forum in Blackpool
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The Independent Online

But we also have many unspoken rules, which are the equivalent of the Highway Code for our multi-ethnic society. We respect others' ways of worshipping. We compromise on dress codes - what we wear at work may not be what we wear at home.

And above all, we use the English language for everyday intercourse with others - even if there is only one person in the group who does not speak some other language.

But just as the nature of the transport landscape changes - more powerful cars, innovations like motorways and so forth - the rules of the road have to be developed from time to time.

Today, globalisation means that the rules of multi-ethnic Britain are under constant challenge as we encounter new cultures and our own culture changes. We need a modern highway code for multi-ethnic Britain, our unwritten handbook for getting on with each other.

Should councils print all their important documents in several languages to encourage participation, or is this encouraging separatism?

What should we do about holy days which are not bank holidays, for example? Should we put off that important meeting because it's Yom Kippur, even though only one of the people attending is Jewish?

Are judges right to say that school uniform may not be compulsory for the devout - even though for some it is compliant with Islamic modesty?

Is it really offensive to call someone "coloured"?

Are there any circumstances in which we sacrifice freedom of expression to protect the minority from ridicule?

We need to find ways of reaching a national agreement on some of these issues. We need to update our highway code of conduct to meet the needs of our multi-ethnic society.