There appears to be a lot of outrage aimed towards David Cameron today for the speech he gave at the Munich Security Conference. Now, you may not agree with all of what he said – but to dismiss his comments and say he is denouncing multiculturalism is simply wrong.
Firstly, let us not confuse multiculturalism with ‘State Multiculturalism’. Multiculturalism has been around for as long as this country has existed; the cultures of the Welsh, Irish and Scottish are not new, and those from the North of England are not the same as those of the South of England. We run no risk of ever becoming a monocultural society.
But ‘State Multiculturism’ *does* involve a strong dose of ‘passive tolerance’ – allowing groups of all ethnicities and religions to become self-enclosed communities and to segregate themselves from the country as a whole is no way to help promote true integration and harmony.
To want to encourage more social cohesion serves everybody and harms no-one; other than, of course, all those groups who base their messages of hate on the premise of Us v. Them – something which falls at the first hurdle if all groups respect each other and the country they are part of.
Was it ill-advised to give the speech today? That remains to be seen but, probably, yes. It’s not his fault the EDL chose to march on the day his speech was to be delivered but, as a former PR man he should be aware that everything he says can – and will – be spun to suit a purpose and that is all too apparent in today’s media portrayals (made, might I add, before the entire speech was made known).
Unfortunately, people are all too quick to jump on words – Islam, Islamism, Muslims. Cameron may have overused them but, then again, he was at a conference on Terrorism and was impressing upon those present the need to act against our most recent threat. And because of this, people are gong to miss the central point of his speech – something which, sadly, he failed to flag up as much as he could.
The truth is, the far right may think they’ve won – but the speech attacked them (as well as the soft left). Not really a victory if you’re classed as being in the same category as those you despise.
This isn’t about curtailing peoples’ rights to live as they choose, it’s about encouraging everybody to feel part of a collective outside of their religious or ethnic communities – why shouldn’t we encourage people to be proud of the fact they are a British Muslim, a British Christian, a British Asian?
To want to address this issue doesn’t make you racist, it makes you pragmatic.
It’s a discussion that needs to be had, and one where – maybe for the only time in my life – I’ll be on the same side as David Cameron.
(*this is not a phrase I expect to come back to again.)