Cameron’s speech should not be lightly dismissed

5 February 2011

8:15 PM

5 February 2011

8:15 PM

The all-too-predictable reaction to David Cameron’s speech on the importance of tackling the ideology of radical Islam has been
depressing. Much of what he said in Munich should be entirely uncontroversial. For too long, Whitehall has been prepared to deal with the self-appointed gatekeepers of the Muslim community without
asking serious questions about their political heritage or commitment to democratic values.

The following passage in the speech marks a crucially important shift in British policy in this area:

"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?"

It is just a pity he did not name the organisations that need to face this new kind of scrutiny. I can help him here: Islamic Forum Europe, the Muslim Public Affairs Committee, the
Muslim Association of Britain and i-Engage all need to be asked hard questions. So does the most embedded institution, the Muslim Council of Britain. These groups should not be allowed the privilege
of representing this country’s diverse and vibrant Muslim communities just by default.


It is now over four years since I wrote When Progressives Treat with Reactionaries for the centre-right
think tank Policy Exchange. I concluded by saying that there was no more serious issue for policymakers, but until the government started looking beyond groups inspired by political Islam as
partners, the sectarian narrative would continue to dominate the discussion.

It would be churlish of me to criticise David Cameron for making precisely the same points. I do, however, think it is fair to criticise his timing. It is unfortunate that his speech coincided with
a massive English Defence League march in Luton. It leaves him vulnerable to the charge that he is pandering to the anti-Muslim prejudice fanned by the EDL.

I also wish he hadn’t used the speech to attack multiculturalism. For me, this is a separate if connected issue, which demands its own critique. It is perfectly possible to celebrate the
distinct identities of different religious and ethnic communities while expressing concern about the specific problems raised by the totalitarian ideology of radical Islam.

David Cameron has called for a muscular liberalism and I am delighted that new institutions have emerged to take the debate to the Islamists. Those on the left who feel the need to dismiss
Cameron’s speech should first read the response of the anti-extremist Quilliam Foundation. Suzanne
Moore’s latest column also provides an intelligent alternative perspective from the

Surely there is a more thoughtful way of approaching this highly complex and emotive subject than dismissing David Cameron as anextremist.

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Show comments
  • MikeF

    Hogspace – nobody’s opinions on the availability or otherwise of abortion make them more or less worthy of citizenship of this country. Don’t confuse general principle with particular beliefs – that is the road that leads to dogmatism and intolerance and it is one that purely secular ideologies are as well capable of treading as any religion.

  • Herbert Thornton

    Cameron’s speech is being hailed as if it were courageous, realistic and determined.

    His half-hearted speech, not even delivered in Britain, was no more sincere than was his promise of a referendum.

    What Britain does not need such an empty fool.

    What both Britain and Europe need are several men like Kemal Ataturk – but even stronger and more determined – to ensure that Islam ceases to have any presence among us.

  • Hogspace

    In order to have a free society we need some basic common standards. And we have them. It’s taken a long time to reach this point.
    What people discuss in the quiet of their homes is nobody’s business but in public and in organisations there can be no quarter given.
    It isn’t throwing people out, it is organisations of all sorts who will not conform which should go.
    I’m a Libertarian but I still accept there have to be ground rules to prevent anarchy and misery.

  • steve

    “Let’s properly judge these organisations: Do they believe in universal human rights – including for women and people of other faiths?”- Surely that applies to a number of religious faiths and not just Islam.

  • Ian Walker

    Hogspace, can you specify how your tenet of “freedom of speech” aligns with your determination to throw people who don’t agree with you out of the country?

    Note that I’m not a sympathiser of any religious cult, but we shouldn’t deny these people free speech. We should just make sure that it is clear that their superstitions will have no bearing upon the law of the land.

    It is a mark of the civilised man to not let anger at injustive turn into further injustice.

  • Sarah AB

    I thought the speech was pretty good. Some people didn’t like the speech because they felt it (and its timing) pandered to the EDL. I thought it was fairly robust about anti-Muslim bigotry but I’d have been very happy if it had included more direct criticism of the EDL. And, although I don’t think the EDL should be pandered to, is it a bad thing if the speech resonated with people who *might* be drawn to the EDL but who would feel very uncomfortable around its more hard core supporters?

  • Augustus

    There’s no doubt about it, Islam brings forth some crazy habits. In Frankfurt, Germany, a case is currently taking place of a Muslim woman, born in Frankfurt and a German citizen but of African descendancy, and who is a local government employee. This woman, after having immersed herself more deeply in the Islamic faith, has decided that from now on she only wants to appear in public in a ‘chic’ gold-coloured
    burka. She sees this as a religious duty.
    Understandably, the lady Mayoress, Petra Roth, is against this, especially as a large part of her job is to deal with passport matters etc. The case continues.

    People have eyes so that they can see and recognize others, but also to be able to recognize foe as well as friend. Men and women find each other mutually attractive, as nature intended, otherwise humanity might have become extinct long ago. facial expression is a natural bodily function, which other higher mammals also make use of.
    One has to ask, how sick do you have to be
    to hide your beauty, veil your facial expressions, and not want to openly face your fellow humans? Or could this just be a way of testing just how far one can go with ridiculous customs in a liberal, democratic
    and oh so tolerant society?

  • Hogspace

    Some people seem to be struggling with Mr Cameron’s excellent and long overdue speech.
    If only we expand it a little further perhaps everything will be clear.
    The foundations of our nation include but are not confined to:

    Freedom of sexual orientation and expression
    Absolute gender equality
    Freedom from religion
    Freedom of speech
    Open availability of early term abortion

    Any religion that does not so preach, any organisation or company that does not conform, should be closed and thrown offshore.
    Does that help?
    Don’t let the door catch your arse on the way out.

  • Keith D

    John,kindly save your disinformation for those useful idiots who sadly still exist.For your information,those of us who’ve taken the trouble to read the hadith and the principles of abrogation enshrined in your books know fine well your motives.These are only too easily seen in the blatant supremacism that manifests itself daily.

    What DC is doing is quite simply saying what we’ve all known for years.He does not criticise Islam itself,even though like us all,he knew the absence of that criticism wouldn’t prevent the on cue whines of victimisation.
    I think we’ll be lucky to see any realism on this issue,and as the rise of nationalism all over Europe demonstrates,people in the street concerned for their childrens future are getting the message.And voting for parties that voice those concerns in increasing numbers.The examples we’ve seen of Sharia hardly sell it to us as an acceptable future.
    Most of us agree with your points on UK ME policy,particularly Iraq,but thats not the point is it?
    Appalling behaviour in Luton or Bradford isn’t going to resolve that.
    Its time to change the message,not deny its content as you have done.

  • Merlyn

    John,my friend, a pensioner lady went shopping to Tescos the other day. She came back via a park pathway and was just walking past a black man walking his dog, when a bicycle rammed into the back of her legs, nearly toppling her over.
    The cyclist was a muslim boy accompanied by his father. They hurled abuse at the balck man for politely reminding them it was a walkway, whilst calling him brother and calling the lady ‘white bitch and worse whilst never once speaking to her or looking at her directly.
    The father was bearded and of Arab appearance. He was frightening and violent in his continual attack on the black man.
    What is coming to light is the apparent superiority that the Muslims feel not only to the whites but also to the blacks.
    I am glad the Muslims are well integrated where you live, but none of them will say good morning where I live and we are all living in a state of fear as they have vastly outnumbered us in the space of 5 years.
    There was never a problem with the Indians or any other racial group in my area, but now in the street we are over taken by burkas at 3.30 in the afternoon as the locals bring their children home. None of them will make eye contact.
    Please advise my pensioner lady friend as to how she is to feel safe here.

  • Mark2

    It would be nice to think of this as the first case of a Tory Prime Minister who has gone to Munich NOT to appease – but time will tell.

  • Erica Blair

    The title of this post, ‘Cameron’s speech should not be lightly dismissed’ reminds me of Dorothy Parker who once wrote, ‘This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force.’

  • Geoff

    Mr Cameron was quite right in the tone and substance of his comments. However, to say multiculturalism has failed is wrong and an insult to the Hindu, Sikh, Jewish communities etc that are integrated, generally successfully, into British society. What has failed is the integration of Islamic communities into western society. This recent article from Canada summarises the point quite nicely:

    Muslims want children excused from music, mixed phys-ed classes

    Whatever the issue it seems that there must always be exceptions!

  • John

    Be careful with polls. lies damm lies and statistics. and all that.
    you can make polls say anything. Muslims are very well integrated. are their problems? Of course there is. Muslims are a very diverse community. As a society we work together to solve problems. We dont demonisw. Thats plane ugly. The purpose of the sharia is the universal values of justice etc. Taken from this angle the uk is 100 / conforms to Islamic norms. Every muslim that I know is working hard and making a valuable contribution to this great country. Cameron’s attack on muliculututism is sick. He’s taken a very squed view( FGm etc) and then rejected it . This will come back to hurt him. We need more multiculturalism not less. and yes behaviour must conform in a way that respects individual rights. Cameron is not the cleverest tool in the box- but the intentions of those behind him are very sinister. It will be intersting to see how the liberals react.

  • Edward McLaughlin

    Some ‘centre-right’ think tank, that Policy Exchange.

    Just goes to remind us all of the extent to which the mindset of the political herd has been discreetly, and in our skysports addled absence, corralled into a particular enclosure.

    The nacker-man with humane stun awaits.

  • TomTom

    Which part of Bradford do you live in Martin Bright? There is so little news of the fastest-growing city in England with its booming population growth… never use it as an example of multicultural nirvana. Why not ?

  • Alleagra

    John – so well integrated that apparently 40% of British Muslims would favour the introduction of Sharia and a fifth have sympathy with the “feelings and motives” of the suicide bombers who attacked London last July 7.

  • Fergus Pickering

    ‘Rampaging’s going a bit, don’t you think? The students against fees were rampaging, or at least some of them were. As for the chanting of abuse, that’s what demonstrations do. You know,’Maggie, Maggie, Maggie, out, out, out.’ I admit these EDL fellows are a bit lower class, but, hell, we need to be all-embracing, eh? By the way, John, I think your post is balls from beginning to end. And Hallo Erica, how’s tricks?

    Dave, Dave, Dave, we love yer!

  • Erica Blair

    Martin ‘Hasbara’ Bright’s apologism for Cameron’s rabble-rousing is oh so predictable. Who is treating with reactionaries now Martin? You seem to be making a nice living out of it – like your mates at the Quilliam Foundation.

  • Andy Gill

    Peter Franzen

    “And why does Cameron fail to speak out against the neo-nazi EDL rampaging and chanting racist and Islamaphobic abuse on our streets?”

    Far from being neo-nazi, the EDL is a committed multiracial movement, with Jewish and gay divisions. One of their senior leaders, Guramjit Singh is not exactly Aryan.

    Thing is Peter, it’s not the EDL that worries me, it’s people like you who call Israel a “Zionist terrorist state”, and who refuse to condemn the racism and intolerance of the Muslim far right.

  • AY

    ..”well integrated” in nothing but barbarism, – and we Westerners will be dragged there too, if listen Islamist propaganda like “Jonh”‘s post above.

  • peter franzen

    Taking a leaf out of the book of Tony Blair and the far right neo-nazi BNP and EDL, David Cameron has come out of the closet and is also blaming UK Islamic terrorism on multiculturalism.
    However the unwelcome phenomenon of “home grown Islamic terrorism” only arose following the UK’s illegal invasion of Iraq, that Cameron supported.
    Why has Cameron ignored the role of the UK’s deplorable foreign policy in the Middle East and beyond?
    In particular why does he continue to ignore the complicity of the UK government in the Iraq and Afghan wars, support for the Zionist terrorist state of Israel and for countless dictators?
    Why does Cameron’s Government continue to prevaricate over the immediate removal of the dictatorial Egyptian regime?
    And why does Cameron fail to speak out against the neo-nazi EDL rampaging and chanting racist and Islamaphobic abuse on our streets?

  • John

    the speech is not only badly timed but is an attack on Muslims and Islam . It’s based on a lie. The lie is that Muslims are some kind of 5th colum in the uk. The truth is Muslims are very well integrated . They love this country. Those from Pakistan have descendants who have given years of loyal service to the British army. Many perished fighting the japanese . It was west that dropped fanatics on the Pakistan border -the mujahdeen. The fanatics today have direct connection with those people. The closest ally of the west in ME is Saudi. A state spewing violence and hate in every direction. but instead of admitting to these mistakes the goverment is pointing fingers at one of the most deprived communities in the uk. Instead of bringing communities together this fingering is desighned to have the opposite effect. Also the organisation who have some connections with the community arebeing shunned but those extremist who created the problem in the first place are now advising the goverment. This racist policy will derail quickly.