David Cameron’s speech at the Munich Security Conference last week was jumped upon by the EDL as somehow supporting their point of view, and celebrated the fact that the Prime Minister was now on-board. Typical of the EDL is their inability to have an intelligent debate much beyond the headline.
Cameron’s thesis starts with the discussion about the difference between Islam and Islamic extremism, and is quite clear in distinguishing between the two. For anyone operating on the right side of the law, or remotely interested in social cohesion, will be against any form of extremism – whether that by Islamic, Christian, or any other religion or ideology. The EDL feel that they were the founders of this position, and therefore any indication of a reference to this must mean that one is a supporter – fortunately, not.
The understanding of why extremism comes about in the UK is attributed to the fact that young Muslims cannot either identify with the staid traditions of their parents , or with the weakened British national idenity, which has, over the decades become a cocktail of separate communities with little to bind them together. They have not been led with a vision of society as a whole and have been drawn into the clutches of people who have filled that gap – being the preachers of hate, or other such characters.
When issues have arisen in the non-white community, we have, generally, been too cautious or fearful of dealing with it – unlike if issues have arisen in the white community, we have been very active. There has been a hands-off tolerance to differences, and on some occasions a fear of offence, which has then driven annoyance in the white community ( e.g. the anecdotal stories of not recognising Christmas in ethically diverse communities). All of this serves to promote separatism, and not integration which is the necessary bond of a modern nation.
He proposed two ways forward – one – instead of ignoring extremism, we should confront it head-on, and make it impossible for such organisations to thrive. That any acceptance of any marginal organisations would be dependent upon demonstrating shared ideals about democracy, liberalism, free-speech and respect for others.
The second way forward was to develop a shared national identity – not through passive tolerance, and neutrality about differences, but through “active muscular liberalism” which promotes a shared culture, languages and engagement with Britain as a nation state, and encourages an active participation in society. The aim would be to continue to celebrate the variety of cultures that exist within the nation but at the same time actively drive a common feeling of nationhood.
There has been much debate over the last week about multiculturalism, and multiracialism, and this tends to descend into a semantical battle which does not help understanding – merely allows “showboating” for the intellectuals. Cameron is not suggesting that Muslims cannot have a cultural identity within Britain, and would encourage the celebration of their religious festivals, alongside those of the other aspects of the community. He believes that our strength, will be in avoiding cultural and national disenfranchisement , by being positive about the value of a national identity.
Sound words and a laudable objective. The danger of course is that the soundbites are picked up by the likes of the EDL, and used to support their position, or completely obfuscated by intellectual commentators. Many non-Western countries do not tolerate the extent of cultural diversity that we do – this is part of our heritage since the Romans invaded 2000 years ago, followed by the Angles, Saxons, Jutes, Vikings, Normans, Scots, Celts, Picts, plus the vibrant influx of people from throughout the Empire, latterly the Commonwealth and the European Union.
The EDL stand for intolerance and a utopian England that only becomes clear through a drunken haze of ignorance , and confused thinking. Cameron is making a bold statement about how we make some difficult choices and take action to ensure that the richness of our country does not implode through any form of uncontrolled extremism.