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Cameron Argues for Muscular Liberalism to Combat Islamists

David Cameron's address at the Munich Security Conference abandoned political correctness. It may be a landmark in fighting Islamic extremism.
By Amiel Ungar
First Publish: 2/6/2011, 8:28 PM / Last Update: 2/7/2011, 9:22 AM

 

British Prime Minister David Cameron delivered a landmark speech this past weekend at the Munich Security Conference. At the start of his address, he assured his listeners that despite budget cutbacks, Britain would not abandon its security role.

The brunt of the speech was devoted to homegrown Islamic terrorism. What was remarkable about the speech is that it to a large degree put paid to political correctness. Although the British prime minister acknowledged that terrorism did come from many sources, he said: "Nevertheless, we should acknowledge that this threat comes overwhelmingly from young men who follow a completely perverse and warped interpretation of Islam and who are prepared to blow themselves up and kill their fellow citizens."

David Cameron knew that his speech would make waves and he encouraged the build up by giving the press a substantial preview, magnifying the effect. In the address, Cameron indicted previous governments for making use of what he termed "non-violent extremist" Muslim organizations. These,  " that seek to present themselves as a gateway to the Muslim community are showered with public money despite doing little to combat extremism".  in a sense, he was echoing the report by the US Senate Homeland security committee. 

Cameron claims that it is not enough simply to tackle those who engage in actual violence. It is necessary to confront the non-violent extremists who promoted the radicalization of youth in the mosques and on the campuses, eventually spawning the violence. In place of the "passively tolerant" society,  there is a need for a muscular liberalism that aggressively promotes ""Freedom of speech. Freedom of worship. Democracy. The rule of law. Equal rights, regardless of race, sex or sexuality."

Conversely the Muslim organizations would have to meet certain objective tests:" Do they believe in democracy and the right of people to elect their own government? Do they encourage integration or separatism?" Fail these tests and the presumption should be "not to engage with [those] organisations."

Charles Moore, the former editor of the Telegraph, praised the new approach in an op-ed in the Telegraph and claimed that no city was more important in fomenting Islamic radicalism than London. "Today, no city is more important in fomenting revolt in the Muslim world than London. The place is awash with exiles, and with British-born extremists. Rachid Ghannouchi, the leader of Tunisia’s version of the Muslim Brotherhood, the most significant global Islamist organisation, has been living here for several years… Much of the propaganda for Hamas, and for one of the Brotherhood’s religious gurus, Yusuf Qaradawi (a big pal of Ken Livingstone [London's ex mayor]), is generated here. Money from charity fund-raisers in Britain is used for its work in Egypt. The Muslim Association of Britain is the Brotherhood’s vehicle in this country."

The fight against Islamic extremism as opposed to mere religious devoutness also required a reassertion of British values and a British identity as opposed to the failed multiculturalism espoused by the Labour government.

According to David Cameron, Young Muslims found it difficult "to identify with Britain too, because we have allowed the weakening of our collective identity."

Anticipating attacks from the left, Cameron launched a preemptive attack on the soft left for condoning Muslim extremism as a response to presumed grievances such as poverty. It was precisely upper-middle-class Muslims who had shown themselves susceptible to the extremist ideology. People from other faiths in similar circumstances had not adopted the same tactics. He warned against a reverse racism championed by the left:

"So when a white person holds objectionable views - racism, for example - we rightly condemn them. But when equally unacceptable views or practices have come from someone who isn't white, we've been too cautious, frankly even fearful, to stand up to them".

Cameron called upon the left to apply to Muslim extremism the same standards and the same solutions that they applied and advocated for right wing extremism.

Cameron's address was assailed by the usual suspects, notably by the Guardian and the Independent, as well as by the many British Muslim groups who felt themselves targeted. Dr Faisal Hanjra, assistant secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain, described Mr Cameron's speech as "disappointing".

"We were hoping that with the new Government, the Coalition, there would be a change of emphasis in terms of counter-terrorism and dealing with the problem at hand."