London ~ Saturday February 05 2011
Cameron: My war on multiculturalism
No funding for Muslim groups that fail to back women's rights
By Oliver Wright and Jerome Taylor
David Cameron launches an attack today on 30 years of multiculturalism in Britain (AFP)
David Cameron launches a devastating attack today on 30 years of multiculturalism in Britain, warning it is fostering extremist ideology and directly contributing to home-grown Islamic terrorism.
Signalling a radical departure from the strategies of previous governments, Mr Cameron says that Britain must adopt a policy of "muscular liberalism" to enforce the values of equality, law and freedom of speech across all parts of society.
He warns Muslim groups that if they fail to endorse women's rights or promote integration, they will lose all government funding. All immigrants to Britain must speak English and schools will be expected to teach the country's common culture.
The new policy will be outlined today in a speech to an international security conference in Munich and will form the basis of the Government's new anti-terrorism strategy to be published later this year.
But his remarks have already infuriated Muslim groups, as they come on the day of what is expected to be the largest demonstration so far of anti-Muslim sentiment being planned by the English Defence League. They accused Mr Cameron of placing an unfair onus on minority communities to integrate, while failing to emphasise how the wider community can help immigrants feel more welcome in Britain. They suggested his speech was part of a concerted attack on multiculturalism from centre-right European governments and pointed out he was making it in Germany – where Chancellor Angela Merkel recently made a similar attack.
In his speech, Mr Cameron rejects suggestions that a change in Western foreign policy could stop the Islamic terrorist threat and says Britain needs to tackle the home-grown causes of extremist ideology. "We have failed to provide a vision of society [to young Muslims] to which they feel they want to belong," he will say. "We have even tolerated segregated communities behaving in ways that run counter to our values. All this leaves some young Muslims feeling rootless. And the search for something to belong to and believe in can lead them to extremist ideology."
Mr Cameron blames a doctrine of "state multiculturalism" which encourages different cultures to live separate lives. This, he says, has led to the "failure of some to confront the horrors of forced marriage". But he adds it is also the root cause of radicalisation which can lead to terrorism.
"As evidence emerges about the backgrounds of those convicted of terrorist offences, it is clear that many of them were initially influenced by what some have called 'non-violent extremists' and then took those radical beliefs to the next level by embracing violence. This is an indictment of our approach to these issues in the past. And if we are to defeat this threat, I believe it's time to turn the page on the failed policies of the past.
"Instead of ignoring this extremist ideology, we – as governments and societies – have got to confront it. Instead of encouraging people to live apart, we need a clear sense of shared national identity, open to everyone."
Mr Cameron goes on to suggest a radically new government approach which Downing Street said would form the basis of a review of the "Prevent Strategy", launched under Labour in 2007. "We need to think much harder about who it's in the public interest to work with," he will say. "Some organisations that seek to present themselves as a gateway to the Muslim community are showered with public money despite doing little to combat extremism. This is like turning to a right-wing fascist party to fight a violent white supremacist movement."
He adds, that in future, only organisations which believe in universal human rights – particularly for women – and promote integration will be supported with public money. "Frankly, we need a lot less of the passive tolerance of recent years and much more active, muscular liberalism," he will say.
But Muslim groups said Mr Cameron's approach was simplistic and would not succeed in tackling extremism. "Communities are not static entities and there are those who see being British as their identity and there are those who do not feel that it is an overriding part of their identity," said Fiyaz Mughal, founder of interfaith group Faith Matters. "Finger-pointing at communities and then cutting social investment into projects is a sure-fire way of causing greater resentment. It blames some communities while his Government slashes social investment."
Inayat Bunglawala, chairman of Muslims4UK, described the speech as "deeply patronising". He said: "The overwhelming majority of UK Muslims are proud to be British and are appalled by the antics of a tiny group of extremists."
In its latest annual survey of immigration attitudes, the German Marshall Fund found that 23 per cent of Britons believed immigration was the country's largest problem. In Canada and the US, where the number of foreign-born people is considerably higher, the figure is closer to 10 per cent.
* Mohammed Shafiq, chief executive of Muslim youth group The Ramadhan Foundation, said: "The speech by British Prime Minister David Cameron MP fails to tackle the stooge of the fascists EDL and the BNP. Singling out Muslims as he has done feeds the hysteria and paranoia about Islam and Muslims.
"British Muslims abhor terrorism and extremism and we have worked hard to eradicate this evil from our country but to suggest that we do not sign up to the values of tolerance, respect and freedom is deeply offensive and incorrect.
"Multiculturalism is about understanding each others faiths and cultures whilst being proud of our British citizenship - it would help if politicians stopped pandering to the agenda of the BNP and the fascist EDL.
"On the day we see fascists marching in Luton we have seen no similar condemnation or leadership shown from the Government. Only when we see true action on the fascists will confidence be restored in our politics.
"Politicians should be working to bring communities together not ripping them apart.
"This sort of rhetoric to score cheap political points will damage community relations in the long term and affect our efforts to deal with terrorism and extremism."
Dr Faisal Hanjra, assistant secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain, described Mr Cameron's speech as "disappointing".
"We were hoping that with the new Government, the coalition, there would be a change of emphasis in terms of counter-terrorism and dealing with the problem at hand," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.
He said he supported the Prime Minister's comments about learning English and the need for a more coherent national identity.
But he went on: "In terms of the approach to tackling terrorism, though, it doesn't seem to be particularly new - it wasn't so long ago that the Labour government was telling Muslim parents to look out for your young children and make sure you tell us if they are becoming radicalised.
"Again, it seems very much that the Muslim community is in the spotlight and being treated as part of the problem rather than part of the solution."
What he said
"Young white men are told, 'The blacks are all criminals. Young Afro-Caribbean men are told, 'The Asian shopkeepers are ripping you off'. Young Muslim men are told, 'The British want to destroy Islam'. The best answer to ignorance like this is a good education. We've got to make sure that people learn English, and we've got to make sure that kids are taught British history properly at school." 29 January 2007
"We wouldn't be half the country we are without immigration. But you can't have a situation where a country doesn't know – and can't control – who is coming in and out, and who is settling here. The government needs to be in control of the situation." 29 January 2007
"For too long we've caved in to more extreme elements by hiding under the cloak of cultural sensitivity. For too long we've given in to the loudest voices from each community, without listening to what the majority want. And for too long, we've come to ignore differences – even if they fly in the face of human rights, notions of equality and child protection – with a hapless shrug of the shoulders, saying, 'It's their culture isn't it? Let them do what they want'." 26 February 2008
"Whether it's making sure that imams coming over to this country can speak English properly, whether it's making sure we deradicalise our universities, I think we do have to take a range of further steps and I'm going to be working hard to make sure that we do this. Yes, we have got to have the policing in place, yes, we've got to make sure we invest in our intelligence services, yes, we've got to co-operate with other countries. But we've also got to ask why it is that so many young men in our own country get radicalised in this completely unacceptable way." 15 December 2010
London ~ 6 February 2011
Diversity does not breed terrorists – politics does
By Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed
David Cameron's recognition that we should acknowledge the dangers of extremist ideology, and the need to tackle it head-on, is welcome. His call for a social vision that young British Muslims can feel part of, to overcome the sense of rootlessness which can make a minority vulnerable to extremist recruitment, makes eminent sense. And his condemnation of the divisive impact of segregated communities, along with state support for groups with backward ideas about women and society, is certainly important – though hardly groundbreaking.
But by identifying the root cause of terrorism as an amorphous "state multiculturalism", Cameron reveals his understanding of the problem is as simplistic as his predecessors'.
The background of those convicted on terrorism charges undermines his suggestion that there should be a crack-down on "non-violent extremists" – a category that could include anyone from climate protesters to student dissidents. Over a third of terrorism convictions between 1999 and 2009, and every single major terrorist plot in the UK including 7/7, were linked to the extremist network formerly known as al-Muhajiroun. Yet despite being proscribed, the network has never been fully investigated by police. Many of its leaders roam free despite a track record of inciting violence, while its spiritual leader, Omar Bakri Mohammed, was able to escape to Beirut despite confessing to having advanced warning of al-Qa'ida plans to bomb London.
These links are compounded by an interventionist foreign policy that has been heavily disfigured under the influence of short-sighted (and self-interested) US geostrategy. In Pakistan and Afghanistan, for instance, the radicalisation of the insurgency has accelerated in direct proportion to Nato's troop surge, and civilian casualties from airstrikes have inflamed grievances both locally and in the UK.
In Britain, the mood is exacerbated by domestic policies that reinforce the structural problems prevailing in many British Muslim communities. For instance, Cameron overlooks how government policies have intensified British Muslim social exclusion. The dogmatic adherence to neoliberal principles pursued by all governments have widened inequalities in the UK with debilitating consequences for both white and ethnic minority working class communities. So 69 per cent of British Muslims of South Asian background live in poverty, compared to 20 per cent of white people. Meanwhile, questionable local council housing policies systematically house white and ethnic minority communities in segregated areas of the same cities. The upshot is that Muslims in Britain are now overrepresented in poor housing, unemployment, low educational achievement, and in prisons.
Poverty by itself does not cause extremism, but on this scale feeds the sense of a separate identity. The danger is that by blaming "state multiculturalism", Cameron is not simply missing the point, but undermining goodwill on both sides of the fence. As inequalities deepen under coalition cuts, social cohesion will be challenged. Meanwhile, his speech will be exploited by militant Muslims to back their claims that the state is the avowed enemy of Islam, and by far-right extremists to legitimise their hostility.
Rather than dealing with the root causes of terrorism, this just risks making things more volatile.
Dr Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed is author of 'A User's Guide to the Crisis of Civilization' (2010) and 'The London Bombings' (2006)
London ~ Saturday 5 February 2011, page 1
David Cameron tells Muslim Britain: stop tolerating extremists
PM says those who don't hold 'British' values will be shunned by government
By Patrick Wintour
David Cameron (Oli Scarff/AFP/Getty Images)
David Cameron will today signal a sea-change in the government fight against home-grown terrorism, saying the state must confront, and not consort with, the non-violent Muslim groups that are ambiguous about British values such as equality between sexes, democracy and integration.
To belong in Britain is to believe in these values, he will say. Claiming the previous government had been the victim of fear and muddled thinking by backing a state-sponsored form of multiculturalism, the prime minister will state that his government "will no longer fund or share platforms with organisations that, while non-violent, are certainly in some cases part of the problem".
In a major speech to a security conference in Munich, he will demand: "We need a lot less of the passive tolerance of recent years and much more active, muscular liberalism."
He will say that "some organisations that seek to present themselves as a gateway to the Muslim community are showered with public money while doing little to combat extremism. This is like turning to a rightwing fascist party to fight a violent white supremacist movement."
Cameron's aides, aware the speech may prove highly controversial, refused to identify the organisations in his sights, but it is clear one target is the Muslim Council of Britain.
Last night some Muslim groups criticised the prime minister for making the speech on the same day that the English Defence League is holding its biggest ever demonstration, in Luton.
Cameron will also make clear that his tougher stance extends to unambiguous support for the democracy movement in Egypt: "I simply don't accept that there's a dead-end choice between a security state and Islamist resistance."
His remarks suggest that a Home Office-led review into the government Prevent programme, being overseen by Lord Carlile, is going to lead to major changes.
It also suggests that he has sided unambiguously with figures such as Michael Gove inside his cabinet rather than his party chairman, Lady Warsi, who has complained of fashionable Islamophobia.
Cameron will argue many young men have been drawn to extremism due to a rootlessness created by the weakening of a clear collective British cultural identity.
He will say: "Under the doctrine of state multiculturalism we have encouraged different cultures to live separate lives, apart from each other and the mainstream. 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. So when a white person holds objectionable views – racism, for example – we rightly condemn them. But when equally unacceptable views or practices have come from someone who isn't white, we've been too cautious, frankly even fearful, to stand up to them."
He will warn his audience: "Europe needs to wake up to what is happening in our own countries. We need to be absolutely clear on where the origins of these terrorist attacks lie – and that is the existence of an ideology, Islamist extremism."
This ideology he says, is entirely separate from Islam, and "at the furthest end includes those who back terrorism to promote their ultimate goal: an entire Islamist realm, governed by an interpretation of sharia".
But he adds: "Move along the spectrum, and you find people who may reject violence, but who accept various parts of the extremist world-view including real hostility towards western democracy and liberal values.
"If we are to defeat this threat, he says, its time to turn the page on on the failed policies of the past. So first, instead of ignoring this extremist ideology, we as governments and societies have got to confront it in all its forms."
Echoing Tony Blair after 9/11, he rounds on the soft left that "lump all Muslims together, compiling a list of grievances and arguing if only governments addressed them, this terrorism would stop".
Inayat Bunglawala, chair of an anti-extremist group called Muslims4Uk, said: "Mr Cameron's remarks are ill-judged and deeply patronising. The overwhelming majority of UK Muslims are proud to be British and are appalled by the antics of a tiny group of extremists and so will hardly be pleased with his lecture on integration.
"Ironically, the PM's comments come on a day when the viciously Islamophobic English Defence League are to stage their biggest demonstration yet on our streets. Integration works both ways and we would expect Mr Cameron and his government to be openly challenging these EDL extremists. Instead, he and his senior ministers have to date remained totally mute. It is disgraceful."
In opposition the Tories began considering the policy on Muslims, which critics say risks branding many as extremists even though they do not espouse violence.
Critics say it is based on flawed neo-Conservative thinking and risks backfiring, while supporters say it is necessary to tackle those who are fellow travellers with violent extremists.
London ~ Sunday 6 February 2011, page 32
Multiculturalism: Mr Cameron's crude caricature solves no problems
The prime minister's speech disguises a paucity of coherent thought
Multiculturalism is one of the most flexible words in the political lexicon, meaning whatever the speaker wants it to mean.
To its defenders, it is the principle that people of different faiths and traditions should be able to live side by side, without surrendering their identities. To its detractors, it is the notion that the state should sponsor cultural division, exempting minority groups from certain obligations of citizenship. Viewed this way, multiculturalism is seen as excusing behaviour that should never be tolerated in a civilised democracy.
That is the interpretation given in a speech in Munich yesterday by David Cameron. He drew a direct connection between "the doctrine of state multiculturalism" and the insularity of Muslim communities that can foster terrorism.
Britain, the prime minister said, has "encouraged different cultures to live separate lives" with the effect of "weakening our collective identity". This has contributed to a disorientation among young Muslims that makes them susceptible to extremist preachers. The antidote, according to Mr Cameron, is a more consistent, robust promotion of liberal-democratic values – human rights, religious tolerance, gender equality – and a greater emphasis on shared British cultural attributes. He calls it "active, muscular liberalism".
It is a forcefully worded intervention on a sensitive topic and therefore guaranteed to cause controversy. Probably, that was part of the intention. Uncontroversial pronouncements don't make headlines. But the provocative tone also guarantees a more frenzied debate, which suits the least tolerant forces in society.
It was sad and predictable that Mr Cameron's words were quickly hailed by the far right, anti-Muslim English Defence League, which held a rally in Luton yesterday. Any speech that heartens the fascist fringe must be deemed a failure.
But at one level, Mr Cameron is right. The state should never turn a blind eye to cruelty and crime out of some misguided sense of cultural sensitivity. That is as true in cases of female genital mutilation, forced marriage and "honour killing" as it is in the case of jihadi preaching.
Police, social workers and teachers have all sometimes been guilty of excusing appalling or dangerous behaviour instead of confronting it. Meanwhile, the government has often failed to make the right partnerships with the Muslim community. That is generally because there is no such thing as "the Muslim community", but, rather, a patchwork of communities, with their distinct traditions and beliefs. That is one reason why the Home Office and local government have struggled effectively to manage funds that are meant to promote social cohesion. Misallocated grants can end up in the hands of groups that foster division.
In fairness to Mr Cameron, these problems can reasonably be seen as unintended consequences of multiculturalism. But it is some extrapolation to then say the whole concept has failed.
At the end of his speech, Mr Cameron made an ambitious leap from bemoaning social segregation to blaming government intervention per se. Integration, he maintains, will happen when people from different communities find "common purpose", released from the burden of the state. He stopped short of weaving "muscular liberalism" into the "Big Society", perhaps because he was addressing a foreign audience unfamiliar with his pet project for civic renewal.
But the prime minister cannot seriously believe that big government is the main cause of social division, still less that his cuts agenda solves the problem. He says, for example, that he wants to make sure more immigrants learn English. Who will teach them? The courses are all run by further education colleges whose budgets are being annihilated. At the heart of Mr Cameron's analysis is a sound impulse. He wants the boundaries of acceptable behaviour – cultural, social, political – to be set in line with modern liberal notions of equal rights and then applied, without fear, favour or prejudice to every section of society. Who could disagree?
But wishing it were so will not get him any closer to achieveing that goal. Nor will caricaturing multiculturalism as some sinister big state project to undermine national unity get him closer to fostering collective solidarity.
The problems Mr Cameron identifies are not new. Headline-grabbing rhetorical flourishes are no substitute for policy solutions.