In "Assimilation's Failure, Terrorism's Rise" Kenan Malik sees the harm the policy has brought to societies in which it's been practice. He distinguishes between:
(i) Multiculturalism as "mass immigration", which he says has been "a boon to western Europe" (surely an arguable proposition, especially from a working-class perspective), and
(ii) Multiculturalism as policy, which he argues -- quite persusively -- has empowered more conservative elements (aka "radical" or "extremist"), particularly in the Muslim community.
I think there's a lot in this analysis, especially in the critique of multiculturalism as policy. There's been rather too much of a tendency in the Jihad-watching community to blame multiculturalism for the rise of radical Islam, and an implicit assumption that if it's done away with, radicalism will be dealt a blow.
Whereas, it's more like multiculti does not create, but rather enables, radicalism's development. Less of a policy focus on these groups in boxes will certainly help, but won't solve the problem -- that's for another day and for a much more prolonged battle of ideas and ideology; the west's against that of fundamental Islam.
We face a potential problem here in Hong Kong, where some political parties are beginning to think it may be a good idea to appeal to the "Muslim community", as represented by their "community leaders". Yet, as Malik makes clear, in the UK that's led to the empowerment of the most conservative (ie radical) elements in that community, in those "ethnic boxes". Snip/ from Malik's "Assimilation's Failure, Terrorism's Rise":
The British government developed a new political framework for engaging with minority groups. Britain was now in effect divided into a number of ethnic boxes — Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, African, Caribbean and so on. The claims of minorities upon society were defined less by the social and political needs of individuals than by the box to which they belonged. Political power and financial resources were distributed by ethnicity.
The new policy did not empower individuals; instead, it enhanced the authority of so-called community leaders, often the most conservative voices, who owed their positions and influence largely to their relationship with the state. In 1997, the Islamist groups that had led the campaign against Salman Rushdie’s “Satanic Verses” during the 1980s helped set up the Muslim Council of Britain. Its first general secretary, Iqbal Sacranie, had once declared death “too easy” for Mr. Rushdie. Polls showed that fewer than 10 percent of British Muslims believed that the council represented their views, yet for more than a decade the British government treated it as their official representative. More....
Kenan Malik, a British writer and broadcaster, is the author of “From Fatwa to Jihad: The Rushdie Affair and Its Legacy.”