British Prime Minister David Cameron says his country's long-standing policy of multiculturalism is a failure, and responsible for fostering Islamist extremism. In a speech to the Munich Security Conference 2011 on February 5, 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: "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 is not white, we have been too cautious, frankly -– frankly, even fearful –- to stand up to them…. 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 is needed to neuter the threat of radical Islam in Europe. "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."
On the first challenge of confronting and undermining radical Islam, Cameron said: "We must ban preachers of hate from coming to our countries. We must also proscribe organisations that incite terrorism against people at home and abroad. Governments must also be shrewder in dealing with those that, while not violent, are in some cases part of the problem. We need to think much harder about who it's in the public interest to work with. Some organisations that seek to present themselves as a gateway to the Muslim community are showered with public money despite doing little to combat extremism. So we should 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 separation? These are the sorts of questions we need to ask. Fail these tests and the presumption should be not to engage with organisations -- so, no public money, no sharing of platforms with ministers at home. 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."
On the second challenge of fostering a clearer sense of 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. Now, each of us in our own countries, I believe, must be unambiguous and hard-nosed about this defence of our liberty."
Cameron also said, "Europe needs to wake up to what is happening in our own countries." His comments echo similar observations made by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who recently said that German multiculturalism has "failed utterly" and that more attention must be devoted to the integration of Muslim immigrants.
The public repudiation of multiculturalism by the leaders of two of Europe's biggest countries appears to signal a significant change in perspective, following decades of uncontrolled mass immigration -- particularly from Muslim countries -- that has transformed the political, social and religious landscape of Europe. It also signals the emergence of a nascent movement to question the reigning dogma of post-modern political correctness, which has encouraged immigrants to establish parallel societies within their European host countries. But influential Muslim groups in Europe will fiercely resist integration, and it remains to be seen whether European policymakers can do much to reverse the current trend toward separatism.
Cameron's comments follow the criticism of multiculturalism in Germany voiced by Chancellor Merkel, who told an October 2010 gathering of her center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party that: "We are a country which at the beginning of the 1960s actually brought [Muslim] guest workers to Germany. Now they live with us and we lied to ourselves for a while, saying that they will not stay and that they will have disappeared again one day. That is not the reality. This multicultural approach -- saying that we simply live side by side and are happy about each other -- this approach has failed, failed utterly."
The debate over what to do about Germany's broken immigration system has been simmering for years, but began in earnest last August, when Thilo Sarrazin, a prominent German banker, and also a long-time member of the center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD), published a controversial book titled "Germany Does Away With Itself." That book broke Germany's long-standing taboo on discussing the impact of Muslim immigration by highlighting painful truths about the current state of affairs.
Many observers of contemporary Europe will applaud Cameron's call for integration, while others will question whether it is too little too late. Cameron's speech comes as the Washington, DC-based Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life released a new study titled "The Future of the Global Muslim Population" which forecasts that Britain's Muslim population will double to 5.5 million within the next 20 years.
According to the British government's Labour Force Survey (LFS), which were first published by the Times of London newspaper in January 2009, and later confirmed by Hansard, the official report of debates in the British Parliament, the Muslim population in Britain grew from 1,870,000 in 2004 to 2,422,000 in 2008, an increase of more than 500,000. During those four years, Britain's Muslim population multiplied 10 times faster than the rest of society. By contrast, the number of Christians in the country fell by more than two million during the same period.
As Britain's Muslim population grows, British society is being transformed in ways unimaginable just a few years ago. For example, Mohammed is now the most popular name for baby boys in Britain, according to new data released by the United Kingdom's Office of National Statistics (ONS).
At the same time, Islamic jurisprudence is spreading throughout Britain at an astonishing rate. At least 85 Islamic Sharia courts are now operating in the country, almost 20 times as many as previously believed. A recent think tank study titled "Sharia Law or One Law for All" found that scores of unofficial tribunals and councils regularly apply Islamic law to resolve domestic, marital and business disputes, many operating in mosques. It warns of a "creeping" acceptance of Sharia principles in British law. The study follows the outcry over remarks by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, who has said that Sharia law in Britain is "unavoidable."
Not surprisingly, Muslim groups in Britain are angry about Cameron's speech. Consider the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), a British Muslim lobby group controlled by the Muslim Brotherhood that has been at the forefront of efforts to resist the integration of Muslim immigrants into mainstream British society. (The MCB recently pressured the British government into adopting Islamic law and giving Sharia courts full powers to rule on Muslim civil cases.)
MCB assistant secretary general Faisal Hanjra told BBC Radio 4's Today program: "We were hoping that with a new government, with a new coalition that there'd be a change in emphasis in terms of counter-terrorism and dealing with the problem at hand…. Again it just seems the Muslim community is very much in the spotlight, being treated as part of the problem as opposed to part of the solution."
Imam Abdullah al-Hasan of the East London Mosque says it differently: "Islam is here to stay in Britain. Islam is here to stay in Europe."