Prime Minister David Cameron criticised what he sees as the dangers of “State Multiculturalism” at the recent security conference in Munich. These comments may have a deep impact on the direction of race and cultural relations in Britain, on the same day that the far right group EDL marches on Luton.
Attempting to explain the reasons behind home grown Islamic extremist movements in Europe, Cameron discussed segregation between certain immigrant communities and mainstream Britain. He said that under the “doctrine of state multiculturalism”, different cultures had been encouraged to live separate lives without engaging with the wider community. He went on to mention that past administrations (hinting Labour) had tolerated these communities, who were acting in ways which ran counter to ‘our’ culture. He noted that certain minority groups got away with ideals and actions which members white community couldn’t, hinting at British political correctness.
Raising the issue of groups who fostered anti-liberal views, Cameron continued; “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?”
However Mr Cameron did make a clear distinction between Islam as a religion and what he described as “Islamist extremism” – a political ideology he said attracted people who feel “rootless” within Britain; stuck between their foreign heritage and religion which could clash with a perceived image of modern British culture.
He went on to state the values which a liberal country believes in: “Freedom of speech. Freedom of worship. Democracy. The rule of law. Equal rights, regardless of race, sex or sexuality.”
Some Islamic groups have reacted negatively to the comments, with the Islamic Society of Britain’s Iman Ajmal Masroor, who appears regularly on British television, said the Prime Minister was, “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,”
Throughout Europe there has been a recent upsurge in far right political activism, while more mainstream governments are also clamping down on the percieved threat of Islamic extremism.
It remains to be seen what effect the Prime Minister’s words will have in practice, but the speech alone is likely to be remembered for some time.