5 Feb 2011

‘State multiculturalism’ has failed – Cameron

Multiculturalism in Britain has failed to provide a vision of society in which members of all ethnic groups feel they want to belong, Prime Minister David Cameron tells a Munich security conference.

Addressing a security conference in Munich, David Cameron called for “a lot less of the passive tolerance of recent years and much more active, muscular liberalism”.

He went on to state the values which in which a liberal country believes: “Freedom of speech. Freedom of worship. Democracy. The rule of law. Equal rights, regardless of race, sex or sexuality.”

And he stressed that it was wrong to confuse religious faith with radicalism. “Someone can be a devout Muslim and not be an extremist,” the prime minister said. “We need to be clear: Islamist extremism and Islam are not the same thing.”

Mohammed Shafiq, of the Muslim youth group the Ramadhan Foundation, rejected what he said was the suggestion that British Muslims are not in favour of tolerance, respect and freedom.

We need to be clear: Islamist extremism and Islam are not the same thing. UK Prime Minister David Cameron

“Multiculturalism is about understanding each other’s 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,” Mr Shafiq said in a statement.

Mr Cameron’s speech comes on the day the far-right English Defence League (EDL) holds a major demonstration in Luton.

Former home secretary David Blunkett agreed that the prime minister was right to promote national identity, but attacked Education Secretary Michael Gove for threatening to withdraw citizenship lessons from the National Curriculum in England.

“Teaching young people an understanding of the world, ensuring that there is a common heritage to draw on, and linking this with citizenship for adults, is what the last decade has been about,” Mr Blunkett said.

Multiculturalism is about understanding each other’s cultures whilst being proud of our British citizenship. Mohammed Shafiq, Ramadhan Foundation

Shami Chakrabarti, director of the civil liberties group Liberty, agreed with “every fundamental right and freedom set out in his speech”.

“These are the values enshrined in the human rights act, which I hope he will now promote rather than denigrate.”

Shadid Mursaleen, a spokesman for Minhaj-ul-Quran UK, which says it promotes religious moderation, insisted that it was possible to reconcile multiculturalism and liberalism: “Democracy, human rights, equality integration and women’s rights are core teachings of Islam which are also core British values of which Muslims are proud,” he said.

Mr Cameron was speaking at the 47th Munich Security Conference. He also responded to questions on the situation in Egypt, saying the longer change was deferred, the more likely the situation would produce “an Egypt we wouldn’t welcome”.