I see Nigel Farage is doing his hopes of taking John Bercow's House of Commons seat no favours with his calls for banning the wearing of the burka and other face-covering veils by Muslim women. He reckons it is a symbol of "an increasingly divided Britain." Critics, including Schools Secretary Ed Balls, have said it is "not British" to tell people what to wear.
For me, I think Farage is wrong. I also think Balls is wrong - quite how something can be "not British" when you can't actually define what "British" means is beyond me - but that is a different debate. I don't think ANY government should intervene in personal religious choice (with exceptions in obvious cases of harm etc). Again, I guess that raises questions over whether wearing a burka is a choice and not forced. But again, that is another debate.
The question I really want to ask is this: how far must those who move to a country - any country - conform to that particular country's culture?
That question is at the heart of Farage's comments - and at the heart of this debate. In essence, Farage's comments suggest you should leave your religious/political and social baggage at the airport on your arrival in the UK. Multiculturalism is unacceptable to the former UKIP leader. Instead, immigrants should be forced to assimilate to the dominant culture within the UK - I guess just as soon as we work out what that is.
Now, I may be slightly exaggerating Farage's position - but that really is the end point of what he is suggesting. He makes a fair point about "divided society" (incidentally, a point Cameron's Conservatives have been making for several years) and offers his own solution, a solution which the liberal UK isn't quite ready for. Especially a liberal UK that is already fighting fascism in the face of the BNP.
I return to the question though. How much conformity are we looking for? Look at the US, a veritable salad-bowl (Standard Grade Modern Studies terminology) of cultures, immigrants retaining their own sense of identity and distinctive culture but becoming part of something larger. Look also at the levels of violence in the US, the cross-cultural trouble, gangland warfare and racial tension.
A multicultural ideal is just that - an ideal. A laudable aim. But the notion that all cultures can peacefully co-exist, without any cross-cultural tension is as wrong as it is naive. And that naivety is perhaps what Balls is looking for when he is defining what it means to be British.