John Hayward Posted: 5 February 2011
Keywords: Worldviews & Culture,
Ten years after Jubilee Centre warned against the assumption that 'inter-religious co-operation is desirable in the same way as racial integration' and opposed the suggestion that Britain should formally be declared ‘multicultural' on the basis that multiculturalist policies 'are not always the best way of responding to ethnic diversity', the Prime Minister has, in the words of at least one commentator, 'taken a rhetorical torch to Islamic extremism.'
Echoing another Jubilee Centre paper from four years ago, David Cameron told a security conference in Munich, 'Islam is a religion, observed peacefully and devoutly by over a billion people. Islamist extremism is a political ideology, supported by a minority. ... It's vital we make this distinction between the religion and the political ideology.'
Exploring some of the practical implications of this position, he set out a fresh direction for government: '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.'
He clearly acknowledges this as a reversal of the former government's policies, but also believes it is a challenge to which we must all rise: 'Frankly, we need a lot less of the passive tolerance of recent years and much more active, muscular liberalism.' It is not just about 'making sure immigrants speak the language of their new home' or 'ensuring that people are educated in elements of a common culture and curriculum.'
His comments are all the more interesting that they come just a fortnight after the Conservative chairman Baroness Warsi caused controversy over her claim that describing Muslims as either 'moderate' or 'extremist' fosters growing prejudice. In contrast, David Cameron insists, 'instead of ignoring this extremist ideology, we – as governments and societies – have got to confront it, in all its forms.'
'Under the doctrine of state multiculturalism, we have encouraged different cultures to live separate lives, apart from each other and the mainstream,' he added. 'We have failed to provide a vision of society to which they feel they want to belong ... All this leaves some young Muslims feeling rootless.'
To consider further what a specifically Christian response should be, read our two papers Multiculturalism (2001) and Christian responses to Islam, Islamism and 'Islamic terrorism' (2007)