Saturday, February 5, 2011

Cameron says British multiculturalism has failed

British Prime Minister DavidCameron believes his country''s policy of multiculturalism has"failed" to prevent the radicalisation of Muslims by hinderingtheir integration into the British society.

In his first speech on radicalism and causes ofterrorism, the Prime Minister said a "hands-off tolerance" ofthose who reject Western values had failed to prevent the riseof Islamic extremism in Britain.

He said Britain has "even tolerated these segregatedcommunities behaving in ways that run counter to our values",a policy that needs to be revised.

Addressing a security conference in Germany, Cameronargued in favour of developing a stronger national and"muscular liberalism".

Decrying the long-standing policy of multiculturalism,Cameron also suggested that there should be greater scrutinyof Islamic groups that get public money but do little totackle extremism.

"Let''s properly judge these organisations: Do theybelieve in universal human rights - including for women andpeople of other faiths? Do they believe in democracy and theright of people to elect their own government? Do theyencourage integration or separatism?" he said.

Cameron said what is needed is the strengthening ofnational identity and allowing people to say "I am a Muslim, Iam a Hindu, I am a Christian, but I am a Londoner... too".

"Frankly, we need a lot less of the passive toleranceof recent years and much more active, muscular liberalism,"the prime minister said.

The comments did not go down well with Muslim groups,some of whom said the community had been singled out as partof the problem.

Reacting to the speech, Muslim Council of Britain''sassistant secretary general Faisal Hanjra said the stance wasa disappointment and signalled no positive change in the newgovernment''s approach to tackling the problem of extremism.

"We were hoping that with a new government, with a newcoalition that there''d be a change in emphasis in terms ofcounter-terrorism and dealing with the problem," he said.

"Again it just seems the Muslim community is very muchin the spotlight, being treated as part of the problem asopposed to part of the solution," he was quoted as saying.

Calling for tough measures against groups that areseen as promoting extremism, Cameron said ministers shouldrefuse to engage with such groups, they should be deniedaccess to public funds and barred from spreading their messagein universities and prisons.

He said under "doctrine of state multiculturalism,"different cultures have been encouraged to live separate livesand "we have failed to provide a vision of society to whichthey feel they want to belong".

Britain is scrambling for ways to handle the problemof home-grown extremists, a phenomenon that is worrying thecountry for some years now.

Europe to Egypt: After Mubarak, don't rush election

European powers Germany and Britain urged Egypt on Saturday to change leaders rapidly but take its time holding elections, saying traditions of tolerance and fairness had to be built to make democracy work.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, British Prime Minister David Cameron and European Council President Herman van Rompuy reiterated demands for a rapid "transition" -- a phrase that has become a diplomatic codeword for the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak after 30 years of military-backed autocracy.

But they said caution would be needed in the aftermath.

"I don't believe that we solve the world's problems by flicking a switch and holding an election ... Egypt is a classic case in point," Cameron told a security conference in Munich.

"I think a very quick election at the start of a process of democratization would be wrong," Merkel told the same meeting, citing her own experiences as an East German pro-democracy activist at the time of the 1989 collapse of the Berlin Wall.

"If there is an election first, new structures (of political dialogue and decision-making) don't have a chance to develop."

Mubarak, who has pledged to step down in September, said on Thursday he believed Egypt would descend into chaos if he were to give in to almost two weeks of demands by an unprecedented popular revolt that he quit immediately.

He has fashioned himself as the crucial rampart against Islamist militancy in Egypt and the indispensable player in maintaining a peace treaty Egypt signed with Israel in 1979.


Political analysts say European caution about free elections in Egypt will be seen by many in the Middle East as evidence of Western anxiety about the possibility that Islamists could come to power in the Arab world's most populous country.

Critics of Western diplomacy in the region says this anxiety reflects a double standard, namely that the West compromises on its democratic ideals when the outcome would be unfavorable.

Egypt's largest opposition movement, the Muslim Brotherhood, is tolerated by the authorities despite being officially banned. The Brotherhood says that, if given the freedom to choose, most of Egypt's 80 million population would choose a form of Islamic law, although it is publicly committed to political pluralism.

Cameron said that a transition to a new leadership and political reform in Egypt is essential, because delay would produce an unstable country that the West would not welcome.

But he said building democracy in Britain itself had taken hundreds of years of inculcating traditions of tolerance, showing the growth of democracy was a process, not an event.

"Yes, the transition has to start now to demonstrate to people inside (Egypt) that their aspirations are being understood. But if we think it's about the act of holding an election, we are wrong," he said.

"I think there's a naivety that existed among politicians in the past that somehow if you introduce democracy like that you solve a country's problems," said Cameron. "I don't believe that for one second. But what I do believe is that we should build a partnership for an open society."