A few days ago, Tory Party leader David Cameron posted a short piece entitled, “Davos 08: Tackling radical Islam is my priority” on Comment is Free. Whilst a bit ‘content light’ in my opinion, it’s interesting that he apparently feels that amongst all the other things that an opposition leader can (and indeed might) be concerned about, it’s ‘radical Islam’ that is his top priority.
“For me Davos this year was about the issue of how we in the west stop and reverse the process of the radicalisation of Muslim youth. What is shocking is that whether you talk to the prime minister of Pakistan, the Queen of Jordan or the deputy prime minister of Iraq (to name but three), they all agree that we have a huge task in the UK. The agenda is pretty clear. Promote modern integration, not old style multi-culturalism. Boost initiatives that bring people together, such as my national citizens service and school exchanges. And don’t shy off tough choices like insisting new Imams speak English and backing schools over uniform policies. Most of all, back Muslim leaders in the UK who promote moderation, tolerance and integration, not a false sense of continuous grievance. The truth is we have barely made a start”
From Cameron’s suggestion that “we in the west” are different to – I presume – ‘them Muslims’ and that ‘we’ as a British society need to get away from “old style multi-culturalism” (spelt multi-culturalism rather than the traditional multiculturalism no doubt to accentuate the fact that we are multi rather than mono) there appears to be little difference between the new Tory politics of Mr Cameron and the ‘old-skool’ Thatcherite politics of Norman Lamont et al as typified in the Telegraph article, “Down with Multiculturalism, Book-burnings and Fatwas” (I have responded to this article in an academic piece that I wrote for the Durham Anthropology Journal…you can read this on this website by clicking here)
More worrying though is the fact that Cameron speaks about more ‘integration’ and ‘exchanges’. Many more of us will need to take a leaf out of Cameron’s top tips for better integration and go and work in an ‘Asian’ (I quote from the Conservative Party press release) corner shop for a weekend. After that extremely worthwhile experience (tongue placed firmly in cheek), Cameron declared in the Daily Mail that:
“It’s hard to overemphasise the importance of language. Every time the BBC or a politician talks about Islamist terrorists they are doing immense harm (and yes I am sure I have done this too, despite trying hard to get this right)…When they hear this kind of language. Muslims simply think ‘they mean us’.
Integration is a two-way street. Yes we can ask minority ethnic communities to work at integrating with British society as a whole, but we have to recognise that it won’t happen unless there’s something attractive to integrate into.
As I’ve said before, we can’t just bully people into being more British, we’ve got to inspire them. And frankly, there are many aspects of our society today which are hardly inspiring — the drinking, the drugtaking, the rudeness and incivility, the lack of consideration for others, anti-social behaviour … we’ve got a serious fight on our hands to build a responsible society that is the kind of society people admire and want to be part of”
Given this was only last year, it’s a shame then that David has put all those other things – “the drinking, the drug-taking, the rudeness and incivility, the lack of consideration for others, anti-social behaviour” – lower down his list of priorities than the radicalism that he failed to mention at the time. Why also is Cameron raising this as an issue when at the moment it’s probably something of a non-issue especially knowing the apparent damage – his words not mine – that his words are causing? Sorry, but it all sounds a little too much like ‘new Tory, old story’ to me.
But if it is ‘new Tory’, what does this all mean?
Well if the best that Cameron and his cohorts can come up with is a “national citizens service” that encourages more school leavers to spend the weekend with ‘Asian’ families working in their corner shops, we really do have a lot to worry about not just in terms of what a future Tory government might subject us to, but also to the reality that ‘Islamic radicalism’ is still some way from being adequately, realistically and sensibly understood and responded to.
Oh dear David…