The British government has unveiled a new "integration strategy" designed to "champion a united British identity."
The new policy will require immigrants seeking admission to live in the United Kingdom to learn English and adhere to "mainstream" British culture and values such as democracy and the rule of law.
The measures represent a continuation of recent efforts by the government to reverse decades of state-sponsored multicultural policies that have allowed Muslim immigrants to avoid integration and establish a parallel society in Britain.
The new strategy document titled "Creating the Conditions for Integration" was published on February 21 and states: "We will robustly challenge behaviors and views which run counter to our shared values such as democracy, rule of law, equality of opportunity and treatment, freedom of speech and the rights of all men and women to live free from persecution of any kind. We will marginalize and challenge extremists who seek to undermine our society and we will neither engage with nor fund such organizations."
The document continues: "The long-term presence of a highly diverse population is generally an indicator of good integration and a strong sense that different people get on well. But this can be undermined and even reversed by a range of factors, for example if groups within the local community work and socialize separately."
Among a series of other measures, the government says it will reform laws on immigration and settlement by increasing the requirements on those who want to settle in Britain. Those coming to the United Kingdom to work, study or marry will be required to demonstrate an ability to speak English, and those wishing to remain permanently or seek British citizenship will be required to demonstrate their knowledge of language and life within the United Kingdom.
The new strategy also promotes the teaching of British history and culture in schools and encourages the flying of flags in public places. In addition, the government says it will work to restore the Christian faith to the center of public life in Britain.
Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Eric Pickles, who is responsible for implementing the strategy, says the new measures represent a frontal attack on the multicultural policies introduced by the previous Labour government. Those policies included the watering down of the teaching of British history and policies which promoted "aggressive secularism."
Speaking to the London-based Daily Mail newspaper, Pickles said: "Under [Equality Minister] Harriet Harman's agenda, the Labour Government encouraged different cultures to live separate lives, apart from each other and the mainstream. Political correctness replaced common sense. People were left afraid to express legitimate concerns and frustrations. We need a new approach. One that emphasizes what we have in common rather than difference."
Pickles continued: "It's sad to see how, in recent years, the idea of tolerance has become twisted. A few people, a handful of activists, have insisted that it isn't enough simply to celebrate the beliefs of minority communities; they want to disown the traditions and heritage of the majority, including the Christian faith and the English language."
The new integration strategy comes after British Prime British Prime Minister David Cameron publicly repudiated his country's long-standing policy of multiculturalism, declaring it to be a failure and responsible for fostering Islamist extremism.
In a speech to the Munich Security Conference in February 2011, Cameron said: "Under the doctrine of state multiculturalism, we have encouraged different cultures to live separate lives, apart from each other and apart from 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 completely counter to our values."
Cameron continued: "This hands-off tolerance has only served to reinforce the sense that not enough is shared. And this all leaves some young Muslims feeling rootless. And the search for something to belong to and something to believe in can lead them to this extremist ideology. What we see -- and what we see in so many European countries -- is a process of radicalization."
Cameron said a two-pronged approach would be needed to neuter the threat of radical Islam in Europe: confronting extremist ideology and, instead of encouraging people to live apart, promoting a clear sense of shared national identity that is open to everyone.
On this second challenge of fostering a shared national identity, Cameron said: "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."
In a follow-up to that speech, Cameron in October 2011 announced a series of wide-ranging reforms aimed at cracking down on illegal immigration and visa fraud in order to "reclaim our borders and send illegal immigrants home."
Cameron said that in the future, immigrants applying for visas to live in Britain must show that they can speak English, and must also prove they have the financial resources to support themselves while in the country.
In some of his strongest rhetoric yet on the spiraling problem of illegal immigration, particularly from Muslim countries, Cameron also urged Britons to report suspected illegal immigrants to the authorities so they can be deported.
Cameron further said that in the future, all immigrants applying for a British passport would be required to pass a British history exam first.
Migrants wanting to settle in Britain permanently have been required to take a Citizenship Test since 2005. But that test, a multiple-choice quiz called Life in the UK, was reduced to a laughing stock when the previous Labour government ruled that immigrants should not be required to learn British history because there was too much of it and "it would not be fair."
Instead, applicants were asked questions about equal rights, discrimination and on how to claim social welfare benefits from the British state.
Cameron said: "We're also going to change the citizenship test. There is a whole chapter in the citizenship handbook on British history but, incredibly, there is no question on British history in the actual test. Instead you'll find questions on the roles and powers of the main institutions of Europe and the benefits system within the UK. So we are going to revise the whole test … and put British history and culture at the heart of it."
Despite its efforts to reverse multiculturalism, the British government faces an uphill battle to achieve an integrated society.
One day after the government announced its new integration strategy, the Office for National Statistics revealed that two-thirds of the babies born in London in 2010 had at least one foreign-born parent. In some inner-city areas, more than three-quarters of infants are now being born into immigrant families. The figure is below 50% in only six of the 32 London boroughs.
Migration Watch UK, a think tank that focuses on immigration and asylum issues, said: "These extraordinary figures illustrate the huge and rapid change that is taking place in our capital city. They illustrate the way in which London is being changed beyond recognition and on a scale and at a speed that makes successful integration so much more difficult."