Echoing recent comments by German leader Angela Merkel, the British Prime Minister David Cameron has blasted state multiculturalism in a speech held at a security conference in Munich.
Cameron suggested that Britain’s multitude of immigrants should identify more closely with mainstream values and that the government should not provide public funds to Muslim groups that don’t do enough to tackle extremism within their communities.
He also said that Islamic hate groups should be barred from spreading their message in prisons and universities.
Frankly, we need a lot less of the passive tolerance of recent years and much more active, muscular liberalism, he said. Let's properly judge these organisations: Do they believe in universal human rights - including for women and people of other faiths? Do they believe in equality of all before the law? Do they believe in democracy and the right of people to elect their own government? Do they encourage integration or separatism? These are the sorts of questions we need to ask. Fail these tests and the presumption should be not to engage with organizations.”
In the speech, Cameron was careful to make a strong distinction between Islam as a religion and what he views as Islamist extremism.”
We need to be clear: Islamist extremism and Islam are not the same thing, he said. “We have failed to provide a vision of society to which they feel they want to belong. We have even tolerated these segregated communities behaving in ways that run counter to our values.
The speech has been lambasted by some leading British Muslims – and some have questioned its timing, given that it was delivered on the same day as the right-wing, anti-immigrant English Defence League (EDL) held a major protest in the town of Luton.
A liberal country, Cameron countered, believes in certain values and actively promotes them. Freedom of speech. Freedom of worship. Democracy. The rule of law. Equal rights, regardless of race, sex or sexuality. It says to its citizens: This is what defines us as a society. To belong here is to believe these things.
Sadiq Khan, a member of the opposition Labour Party and himself a Muslim, said Cameron was writing propaganda material for the EDL.”
The Muslim Council of Britain's assistant secretary general, Dr Faisal Hanjra, described Cameron's speech as disappointing.
We were hoping that with a new government, with a new coalition that there'd be a change in emphasis in terms of counter-terrorism and dealing with the problem at hand,” he told a radio program. In terms of the approach to tackling terrorism though it doesn't seem to be particularly new. Again it just seems the Muslim community is very much in the spotlight, being treated as part of the problem as opposed to part of the solution.
Also, Ajmal Masroor of the Islamic Society of Britain, told BBC Radio: I think [Cameron] is confusing a couple of issues: national identity and multiculturalism along with extremism are not connected. Extremism comes about as a result of several other factors.”
However, another prominent British Muslim, Conservative Party chairman Baroness Warsi, defended her boss, saying that to smear the prime minister as a right wing extremist is outrageous and irresponsible.