David Cameron has criticized “state multiculturalism” and suggested that the United Kingdom need to foster a stronger national identity in order to combat extremism.
At a security conference in Munich, Germany, the British prime minister this weekend announced measures designed to curb Islamic fanaticism. Instead of financing groups that do little to discourage extremists, Cameron said only organizations that adhere to universal human rights, including gender equality, equality before the law and democracy should receive public funding.
“Frankly, we need a lot less of the passive tolerance of recent years and much more active, muscular liberalism,” the prime minister said.
Across the continent, fear of Islamism has propelled populist parties to power. Politicians on the left continue to underestimate the popular resentment however. Labour is no exception. The party’s shadow justice secretary was reported as saying that Cameron might as well have been “writing propaganda material for the EDL,” referring to the far-right English Defense League.
In his speech though, Cameron drew a clear distinction between religion and extremism, the latter of which, he said, is able to attract young people who feel “rootless” in their own countries. “We need to be clear: Islamist extremism and Islam are not the same thing,” he stressed.
Cameron worried that the “doctrine of state multiculturalism” has given rise to different cultures living side by side in a single society. A genuinely liberal country, he said, “believes in certain values and actively promotes them.” It says to its citizens: “This is what defines us as a society. To belong here is to believe these things.”
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 realization that multiculturalism has failed is dawning across Europe. Last October, German chancellor Angela Merkel similarly criticized the concept which she said encouraged people to live blissfully separated without even speaking the same language.
In Austria, the Netherlands and Scandinavia, political parties that are critical of Islam are increasingly popular while in France, the Front national is prospering anew, in part because it has reinvented itself as an anti-Islamist platform.