Here’s the final part of my analysis of David Cameron’s Multiculturalism speech delivered on 5 February 2011. Here’s the first and second part.
Cameron’s speech was widely reported as opposing what he termed ‘state multiculturalism’ – that the state supports groups that actively oppose “our values”. Apart from the fact that “our values” is mostly undefined and that a unified set of values does not actually exist, this thesis would not be particularly controversial. Cameron extends far beyond this superficial argument and it is understandable that Muslim groups objected to his speech. Cameron repeatedly repeats the rhetoric of the previous administration under Tony Blair.
Cameron argues that young Muslims are drawn to so-called ‘extremist ideology’ since they do not either identify with traditional Islam or a British identity.
I notice that the way it’s stated is noteworthy “We’ve failed to provide a vision of society to which they feel they want to belong.” Notice that it’s not a society to which they feel they want to belong but a vision, an image.
Cameron: “We’ve even tolerated these segregated communities behaving in ways that run completely counter to our values.” ‘Our values’ is somewhat defined in terms of intolerance.
Cameron proceeds in his prejudice “So, when a white person holds objectionable views, racist views for instance, we rightly condemn them. But when equally unacceptable views or practices come from someone who isn’t white, we’ve been too cautious frankly – frankly, even fearful – to stand up to them. The failure, for instance, of some to confront the horrors of forced marriage, the practice where some young girls are bullied and sometimes taken abroad to marry someone when they don’t want to, is a case in point.” This is prejudice since it is generalising to all from a few examples. That’s prejudice.
Cameron continues by discussing what he calls ‘a process of radicalisation’.”Internet chatrooms are virtual meeting places where attitudes are shared, strengthened and validated. In some mosques, preachers of hate can sow misinformation about the plight of Muslims elsewhere. In our communities, groups and organisations led by young, dynamic leaders promote separatism by encouraging Muslims to define themselves solely in terms of their religion. All these interactions can engender a sense of community, a substitute for what the wider society has failed to supply. Now, you might say, as long as they’re not hurting anyone, what is the problem with all this?”
I certainly do say what is the problem with all this? Cameron is discussing simple fellowship and support common to many – if not all – religious groups. He is saying that it’s acceptable for all religious groups except Islam. It’s ok for Jews and born-again Christians, but not Muslims.
“Well, I’ll tell you why. 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 they then took those radical beliefs to the next level by embracing violence. And I say this is an indictment of our approach to these issues in the past. And if we are to defeat this threat, I believe it is time to turn the page on the failed policies of the past. So first, instead of ignoring this extremist ideology, we – as governments and as societies – have got to confront it, in all its forms. And second, instead of encouraging people to live apart, we need a clear sense of shared national identity that is open to everyone.”
David ‘Tony Blair’ Cameron talking. The trouble is that all sorts of other so-called extremism is tolerated. Cameron is saying that it is unacceptable for one distinct sector of society to discuss or hold radical views.
“At the same time, we must stop these groups from reaching people in publicly-funded institutions like universities or even, in the British case, prisons. Now, some say, this is not compatible with free speech and intellectual inquiry. Well, I say, would you take the same view if these were right-wing extremists recruiting on our campuses? Would you advocate inaction if Christian fundamentalists who believed that Muslims are the enemy were leading prayer groups in our prisons? And to those who say these non-violent extremists are actually helping to keep young, vulnerable men away from violence, I say nonsense.”
That’s interfering with the rights of freedom of expression and association and he can hardly argue that Universities are publicly funded, can he?
“Now, governments cannot do this alone. The extremism we face is a distortion of Islam, so these arguments, in part, must be made by those within Islam. So let us give voice to those followers of Islam in our own countries – the vast, often unheard majority – who despise the extremists and their worldview. Let us engage groups that share our aspirations.”
The Labour party were keen on aspirations. Peoples’ aspirations could mean what they strive to achieve without any chance of success. Also means breaths ;)
“Now, second, we must build stronger societies and stronger identities at home. Frankly, we need a lot less of the passive tolerance of recent years and a much more active, muscular liberalism. A passively tolerant society says to its citizens, as long as you obey the law we will just leave you alone. It stands neutral between different values. But I believe a genuinely liberal country does much more; it believes in certain values and actively promotes them. Freedom of speech, freedom of worship, democracy, the rule of law, equal rights regardless of race, sex or sexuality. It says to its citizens, this is what defines us as a society: to belong here is to believe in these things. Now, each of us in our own countries, I believe, must be unambiguous and hard-nosed about this defence of our liberty.”
He’s saying that ‘our values’ is what defines us as a society – notice that wealth is conspicuously absent from that list?
That muscular liberalism is nothing like liberalism and far more like Fascism – that the State actively promotes an authoritarian ideology.
Cameron fails to mention equality before the law. I could never lie to Parliament and the British people and engage in uncounted hundreds of thousand of murders and expect to get away with it. Yet, here’s Cameron using His words and phrases. The implicit message must be that former prime minister war criminals have nothing to fear. Cameron’s values.
What about murders by police and immigration officers, even defenestrations by private companies? Cameron’s values.
Then there is Oxford’s Bullingdon Club. Some may have spent the night in a police cell. How many of them will have been served an ASBO, prosecuted for a crime or have a criminal record? I’ve seen somebody given an ASBO for peeing in a hedge never mind smashing restaurant windows. Cameron’s values.
The message to Cameron is that we most definitely do not share your values.
“There are practical things that we can do as well. That includes making sure that immigrants speak the language of their new home and ensuring that people are educated in the elements of a common culture and curriculum. Back home, we’re introducing National Citizen Service: a two-month programme for sixteen-year-olds from different backgrounds to live and work together. I also believe we should encourage meaningful and active participation in society, by shifting the balance of power away from the state and towards the people. 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 Londonder 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.
So, let me end with this. This terrorism is completely indiscriminate and has been thrust upon us. It cannot be ignored or contained; we have to confront it with confidence – confront the ideology that drives it by defeating the ideas that warp so many young minds at their root, and confront the issues of identity that sustain it by standing for a much broader and generous vision of citizenship in our countries. Now, none of this will be easy. We will need stamina, patience and endurance, and it won’t happen at all if we act alone. This ideology crosses not just our continent but all continents, and we are all in this together. At stake are not just lives, it is our way of life. That is why this is a challenge we cannot avoid; it is one we must rise to and overcome. Thank you.”
I know that it’s not indiscriminate.