Multiculturalism is a philosophical terminology that aspires to protect the rights of diverse communities in terms of culture, religion, caste, race, language etc. It is often understood as how to respond the challenges of cultural and religious diversity. It is an acknowledgement of diverse cultural value system, special protection of certain groups in the society, demand for autonomous right of governance. The term ‘multiculturalism’ rejects the idea in which members of minority groups are expected to assimilate into the dominant culture.
Multiculturalism is closely associated with “identity politics”. Gutmanm and Taylor in their studies have said that multiculturalism is closely associated with “identity politics,” “the politics of difference,” and “the politics of recognition,” all of which share a commitment to revaluing disrespected identities and changing dominant patterns of representation and communication that marginalize certain groups.
Jennifer L. Eagan, in his studies, has commented that most modern democracies comprise members with diverse cultural viewpoints, practices, and contributions. For him many minority cultural groups have experienced exclusion or the denigration of their contributions and identities in the past. Multiculturalism seeks the inclusion of the views and contributions of diverse members of society while maintaining respect for their differences and withholding the demand for their assimilation into the dominant culture.
Multiculturalism is not just mere pluralism, where multiple identities co-exist within the dominant cultural framework. It is a way of addressing the issues of past exclusion, discrimination, and oppression in the political system. Multiculturalism seeks the inclusion of minority views and maintaining respect for differences in a democratic system rather trying to make them assimilate into the dominant culture. Considering the minority rights, theorists like Kukathas have argued for leaving minority groups free of state interference for greater tolerance.
Whereas scholars like Will Kymlicka are of the view that mere toleration of group differences falls short of treating members of minority groups as equals, what is required is recognition and positive accommodation of minority group practices through “group-differentiated rights”. “Group-differentiated rights” include exemptions from generally applicable law, assistance to do things and get representation through affirmative action, representation of minorities in government bodies through quota system, recognition of traditional legal codes, limited self-government rights etc.