Full transcript | David Cameron | Speech on radicalisation and Islamic extremism | Munich | 5 February 2011

The Prime Minister says that the “doctrine of state multiculturalism” has failed.

From the Downing Street website:

Today, I want to focus my remarks on terrorism.

But first, let me address one point.

Some have suggested that by holding a Strategic Defence and Security Review, Britain is somehow retreating from an activist role in the world.

This is the complete reversal of the truth.

Yes, we are dealing with the deficit, but we are also making sure our defences are strong.

Britain will continue to meet the Nato 2 per cent target for defence spending.

We still have the fourth largest military budget in the world.

And at the same time, we are putting that money to better use, focusing on conflict prevention and building a much more flexible army.

That's not retreat, it's hard headed. Every decision we take has three aims firmly in mind.

First, to support our continuing Nato mission in Afghanistan.

Second, to reinforce our actual military capability.

As Chancellor Merkel's government is showing here in Germany what matters is not bureaucracy – which frankly Europe needs a lot less of – but the political will to build the military capability we need, as nations and allies, to deliver in the field.

And third, to make sure Britain is protected from the new and various threats it faces.

That's why we're investing in a national cyber-security programme and sharpening our readiness to act on counter-proliferation.

The biggest threat to our security comes from terrorist attacks – some of which are sadly carried out by our own citizens.

It's important to stress that terrorism is not linked exclusively to any one religion or ethnic group.

The UK still faces threats from dissident republicans.

Anarchist attacks have occurred recently in Greece and Italy.

And of course, yourselves in Germany were long-scarred by terrorism from the Red Army Faction.

Nevertheless, we should acknowledge that this threat comes overwhelmingly from young men who follow a completely perverse and warped interpretation of Islam and who are prepared to blow themselves up and kill their fellow citizens.

Last week at Davos, I rang the alarm bell for the urgent need for Europe to recover its economic dynamism.

And today, though the subject is complex, my message on security is equally stark.

We won't defeat terrorism simply by the actions we take outside our borders.

Europe needs to wake up to what is happening in our own countries.

Root of the problem

Of course, that means strengthening the security aspects of our response – on tracing plots and stopping them, counter-surveillance and intelligence gathering.

But this is just part of the answer. We have to get to the root of the problem.

We need to be absolutely clear on where the origins of these terrorist attacks lie – and that is the existence of an ideology, 'Islamist extremism'.

And we should be equally clear what we mean by this term, distinguishing it from Islam.

Islam is a religion, observed peacefully and devoutly by over a billion people. Islamist extremism is a political ideology, supported by a minority.

At the furthest end are those who back terrorism to promote their ultimate goal: an entire Islamist realm, governed by an interpretation of sharia.

Move along the spectrum, and you find people who may reject violence, but who accept various parts of the extremist world-view including real hostility towards western democracy and liberal values.

It's vital we make this distinction between the religion and the political ideology.

Time and again, people equate the two. They think whether someone is an extremist is dependent on how much they observe their religion.

So they talk about 'moderate' Muslims as if all devout Muslims must be extremist. This is wrong.

Someone can be a devout Muslim and not be an extremist.

We need to be clear: Islamist extremism and Islam are not the same thing.

Muddled thinking

This highlights a significant problem when discussing the terrorist threat we face: there is so much muddled thinking about this whole issue.

On the one hand, those on the hard right ignore this distinction between Islam and Islamist extremism and just say:

Islam and the West are in irreconcilable. This is a clash of civilisations.

So it follows: we should cut ourselves off from this religion – whether that's through the forced repatriation favoured by some fascists or the banning of new mosques as suggested in some parts of Europe.

These people fuel Islamaphobia. And I completely reject their argument.

If they want an example of how Western values and Islam can be entirely compatible, they should look at what's happened in the past few weeks on the streets of Tunis and Cairo.

Hundreds of thousands people demanding the universal right to free elections and democracy.

The point is this: the ideology of extremism is the problem. Islam, emphatically, is not.

Picking a fight with the latter will do nothing to confront the former.

On the other hand, there are those on the soft left who also ignore this distinction.

They lump all Muslims together, compiling a list of grievances and arguing if only governments addressed them, this terrorism would stop.

So they point to the poverty that so many Muslims live in and say: get rid of this injustice and the terrorism will end.

But this ignores that fact that many of those found guilty of terrorist offences in the UK have been graduates, and often middle class.

They point to the grievances about Western foreign policy and say: stop riding roughshod over Muslim countries and the terrorism will end.

But there are many people – Muslim and non-Muslim alike – who are angry about western foreign policy and don't resort to acts of terrorism.

They also point to the profusion of unelected leaders across the Middle East and say: stop propping them up and creating the conditions for extremism to flourish.

But this raises the question: if a lack of democracy is the problem, why are there extremists in free and open societies?

Now, I am not saying these issues aren't important.

Yes, we must tackle poverty.

Yes, we must resolve sources of tension – not least in Palestine.

And yes, we should be on the side of openness and political reform in the Middle East.

On Egypt, our position is clear: we want to see the transition to a more broadly based government with the proper building blocks of a free and democratic society.

I simply don't accept that there's a dead-end choice between a security state and Islamist resistance.

But let's not fool ourselves, these are just contributory factors. Even if we sorted out all these problems, there would still be this terrorism.

Identity and radicalisation

The root lies in the existence of this extremist ideology.

And I would argue an important reason so many young Muslims are drawn to it comes down to a question of identity.

What I'm about to say is drawn from the British experience, but I believe there are general lessons for us all.

In the UK, some young men find it hard to identify with the traditional Islam practised at home by their parents whose customs can seem staid when transplanted to modern Western countries.

But they also find it hard to identify with Britain too, because we have allowed the weakening of our collective identity.

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.

So when a white person holds objectionable views – racism, for example – we rightly condemn them.

But when equally unacceptable views or practices have come from someone who isn't white, we've been too cautious, frankly even fearful, to stand up to them.

The failure of some to confront the horrors of forced marriage the practice where some young girls are bullied and sometimes taken abroad to marry someone they don't want to is a case in point.

This hands-off tolerance has only served to reinforce the sense that not enough is shared.

All this leaves some young Muslims feeling rootless.

And the search for something to belong to and believe in can lead them to this extremist ideology.

For sure, they don't turn into terrorists overnight.

What we see is 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 engender a sense of community, a substitute for what the wider society has failed to supply.

You might say: as long as they're not hurting anyone, what's the problem with all this?

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 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's time to turn the page on the failed policies of the past.

So first, instead of ignoring this extremist ideology, we – as governments and 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, open to everyone.

Let me briefly take each in turn.

Tackle all forms of extremism

First, confronting and undermining his ideology.

Whether they are violent in their means or not, we must make it impossible for the extremists to succeed.

For governments, there are obvious ways we can do that.

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 certainly, 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.

As others have observed, this is like turning to a right-wing fascist party to fight a violent white supremacist movement.

So 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?

These are the sorts of questions we need to ask.

Fail these tests and the presumption should be not to engage with organisations.

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 and prisons.

Some say: this is incompatible with free speech and intellectual inquiry.

I say: would you take the same view if right-wing extremists were recruiting on campuses?

Would you advocate inaction if Christian fundamentalists who believe Muslims are the enemy were leading prayer groups in prison?

And to those who say these non-violent extremists are helping to keep young, vulnerable men away from violence, I say nonsense.

Would you allow the far right groups a share of public funds if they promise to lure young white men away from fascist terrorism?

But, at root, challenging this ideology means exposing its ideas for what they are -completely unjustifiable.

We need to argue that terrorism is wrong – in all circumstances.

We need to argue that their prophecies of a global war of religion pitting Muslims against the rest of the world are rubbish.

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's give voice to those followers of Islam in our own countries – the vast often unheard majority – who despise the extremists and their worldview.

Let's engage groups that share our aspirations.

Stronger citizenship

Second, we must build stronger societies and identities at home.

Frankly, we need a lot less of the passive tolerance of recent years and much more active, muscular liberalism.

A passively tolerant society says to its citizens: as long as you obey the law, we will leave you alone.

It stands neutral between different values. 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.

Each of us in our own countries must be unambiguous and hard-nosed about this defence of our liberty.

There are practical things we can do as well.

That includes making sure immigrants speak the language of their new home.

And ensuring that people are educated in elements of a common culture and curriculum.

Back home, we are 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 to 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 is the key to achieving true cohesion.

Conclusion

Let me end with this. This terrorism is completely indiscriminate and has been thrust upon us.

It can't be ignored or contained.

We need to confront it with confidence.

Confront the ideology that drives it by defeating the ideas that warp so many 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.

None of this will be easy. We need stamina, patience and endurance. And it won't happen at all if we act alone.

This ideology crosses continents – we are all in this together.

At stake are not just lives, it's our way of life.

That's why this is a challenge we cannot avoid – and one we must meet.

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In defence of orientalism, the case against Twenty20, and why Ken should watch Son of Saul

My week, from Age Concern to anti-semitism.

Returning late from a party I never much wanted to go to, I leap up and down in the middle of the Harrow Road in the hope of flagging down a taxi, but the drivers don’t notice me. Either they’re haring down the fast lane or they’re too preoccupied cursing Uber to one another on their mobile phones. My father drove a black cab, so I have a deep loyalty to them. But there’s nothing like being left stranded in NW10 in the dead of night to make one reconsider one’s options. I just wish Uber wasn’t called Uber.

Just not cricket

Tired and irritable, I spend the next day watching sport on television – snooker, darts, cricket, anything I can find. But I won’t be following the Indian Premier League’s Twenty20 cricket again. It’s greedy, cynical, over-sponsored and naff. Whenever somebody hits a boundary, cheerleaders in cast-off gym kit previously worn by fourth-form Roedean girls wave tinsel mops.

Matches go to the final over where they’re decided in a thrashathon of sixes hit by mercenaries wielding bats as wide as shovels. Why, in that case, don’t both teams just play a final over each and dispense with the previous 19? I can’t wait for the elegant ennui of a five-day Test match.

Stop! Culture police!

I go to the Delacroix exhibition at the National Gallery to shake off the sensation of all-consuming kitsch. Immediately I realise I have always confused Delacroix with someone else but I can’t decide who. Maybe Jacques-Louis David. The show convincingly argues that Delacroix influenced every artist who came after him except Jeff Koons, who in that case must have been influenced by David. It’s turbulent, moody work, some of the best of it, again to my surprise, being religious painting with the religion taken out. Christ’s followers lamenting his death don’t appear to be expecting miracles. This is a man they loved, cruelly executed. The colours are the colours of insupportable grief.

I love the show but wish the curators hadn’t felt they must apologise for Delacroix finding the North Africans he painted “exotic”. Cultural studies jargon screams from the wall. You can hear the lecturer inveighing against the “appropriating colonial gaze” – John Berger and Edward Said taking all the fun out of marvelling at what’s foreign and desirable. I find myself wondering where they’d stand on the Roedean cheer-leaders of Mumbai.

Taking leave of the senses

My wife drags me to a play at Age Concern’s headquarters in Bloomsbury. When I see where she’s taking me I wonder if she plans to leave me there. The play is called Don’t Leave Me Now and is written by Brian Daniels. It is, to keep it simple, about the effects of dementia on the families and lovers of sufferers. I am not, in all honesty, expecting a good time. It is a reading only, the actors sitting in a long line like a board of examiners, and the audience hunched forward in the attitude of the professionally caring.  My wife is a therapist so this is her world.

Here, unlike in my study, an educated empathy prevails and no one is furious. I fear that art is going to get lost in good intention. But the play turns out to be subtly powerful, sympathetic and sharp, sad and funny; and hearing it read engages me as seeing it performed might not have done. Spared the spectacle of actors throwing their bodies around and singing about their dreams against a backdrop painted by a lesser, Les Mis version of Delacroix, you can concentrate on the words. And where dementia is the villain, words are priceless.

Mixing with the proles

In Bloomsbury again the next day for a bank holiday design and craft fair at Mary Ward House. I have a soft spot for craft fairs, having helped run a craft shop once, and I feel a kinship with the designers sitting bored behind their stalls, answering inane questions about kilns and receiving empty compliments. But it’s the venue that steals the show, a lovely Arts and Crafts house, founded in the 1890s by the novelist Mary Ward with the intention of enabling the wealthy and educated to live among the poor and introduce them to the consolations of beauty and knowledge. We’d call that patronising. We’re wrong. It’s a high ideal, to ease the burden of poverty and ignorance and, in Ward’s words, save us from “the darker, coarser temptations of our human road”.

An Oscar-winning argument for Zionism

Speaking of which, I am unable to empty my mind of Ken Livingstone and his apologists as I sit in the cinema and watch the just-released Academy Award-winning Son of Saul, a devastating film about one prisoner’s attempt to hold on to a vestige of humanity in a Nazi death camp. If you think you know of hell from Dante or Michelangelo, think again. The inferno bodied forth in Son of Saul is no theological apportioning of justice or deserts. It is the evisceration of meaning, the negation of every grand illusion about itself mankind has ever harboured. There has been a fashion, lately, to invoke Gaza as proof that the Holocaust is a lesson that Jews failed to learn – as though one cruelty drives out another, as though suffering is forfeit, and as though we, the observers, must choose between horrors.

I defy even Livingstone to watch this film, in which the Jews, once gassed, become “pieces” – Stücke – and not grasp the overwhelming case for a Jewish place of refuge. Zionism pre-dated the camps, and its fulfilment, if we can call it that, came too late for those millions reduced to the grey powder mountains the Sonderkommandos were tasked with sweeping away. It diminishes one’s sympathy for the Palestinian cause not a jot to recognise the arguments, in a world of dehumanising hate, for Zionism. Indeed, not to recognise those arguments is to embrace the moral insentience whose murderous consequence Son of Saul confronts with numbed horror. 

This article first appeared in the 05 May 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The longest hatred