UK Prime Minister David Cameron has identified segregation and separatism as key issues behind the threat of Islamic extremism and called for a “shared national identity” to replace “the doctrine of state multiculturalism”.
Speaking at the Munich Security Conference on 5 February, Cameron said that Western countries needed to confront extremism rather than pursue a “hands-off tolerance”.
The UK prime minister said “the doctrine of state multiculturalism” had encouraged segregation and failed to supply “a vision of society” to which people want to belong.
He was keen to stress, however, the difference between Islam as a religion and Islamic extremism as a political ideology.
“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,” Cameron said.
The UK prime minister was critical of British society’s tradition of “passive tolerance”, whereby immigrants are left alone as long as they respect the law.
As an example, he cited the practice of forced marriage in some communities, which he called a “horror” to which British society had not reacted adequately.
Terrorism and radical Islam
Cameron admitted that the biggest threat facing his country is terrorist attacks, “some of which are, sadly, carried out by our own citizens”.
London was hit by terrorist bombings on 7 July 2005, when fifty-six people, including four bombers, were killed and about 700 injured. It appears that the perpetrators were UK citizens of Muslim faith who had been under the influence of radical imams. Successive UK governments have been accused of leniency towards radical Islam.
To put an end to past “liberal” practice, Cameron said the state must make sure that immigrants speak the language of their new home and ensure that they are educated “in the elements of a common culture and curriculum”.
He also said that the UK authorities would introduce a National Citizen Service, which he described as a two-month programme to show sixteen-year-olds from different backgrounds how to live and work together.
“That way, common purpose can be formed as people come together and work together in their neighbourhoods. It will also help build stronger pride in local identity, so people feel free to say, ‘Yes, I am a Muslim, I am a Hindu, I am Christian, but I am also a Londoner or a Berliner too’. It’s that identity, that feeling of belonging in our countries, that I believe is the key to achieving true cohesion,” Cameron said.