6 Feb 2011

Multiculturalism has failed - Cameron

8:25 am on 6 February 2011

British Prime minister David Cameron says multiculturalism in Britain has failed and liberal western values must be robustly defended instead.

At a security conference in Munich, Mr Cameron said European countries had been fearful of tackling what he called Islamist extremism.

He said they must no longer tolerate those who reject equality and democracy - and that public funds should be used carefully.

Mr Cameron argued that Britain needed a stronger national identity to prevent people turning to all kinds of extremism.

He also signalled a tougher stance on groups promoting Islamist extremism.

Mr Cameron suggested there would be greater scrutiny of some Muslim groups which get public money but do little to tackle extremism.

Ministers should refuse to share platforms or engage with such groups, which should be denied access to public funds and barred from spreading their message in universities and prisons, he argued.

"Frankly, we need a lot less of the passive tolerance of recent years and much more active, muscular liberalism," the prime minister 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 organisations," he added.

Distinction between religion and extremism

In the speech, Mr Cameron drew a clear distinction between Islam the religion and what he described as "Islamist extremism" - a political ideology he said attracted people who feel "rootless" within their own countries.

"We need to be clear: Islamist extremism and Islam are not the same thing," he said.

The BBC reports the government is currently reviewing its policy to prevent violent extremism, which is a key part of its wider counter-terrorism strategy.

A genuinely liberal country "believes in certain values and actively promotes them", Mr Cameron said.

"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."

He said under the "doctrine of state multiculturalism", different cultures have been encouraged to live separate lives.

"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."

Building a stronger sense of national and local identity holds "the key to achieving true cohesion" by allowing people to say "I am a Muslim, I am a Hindu, I am a Christian, but I am a Londoner... too", he said.

Comment

But the Islamic Society of Britain said the prime minister did not appreciate the nature of the problem.

"I think he's 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," Ajmal Masroor told the BBC.