Saturday, February 05, 2011

What David Cameron actually said

The PM has made a speech at a security conference in which he addressed issues of extremism and terrorism. You can read the full text here.

I am not the only person who is disappointed at the way some people are misrepresenting what David Cameron said.

For example. Martin Bright (former political editor of The new Statesman) says here that

"The all-too-predictable reaction to David Cameron’s speech on the importance of tackling the ideology of radical Islam has been depressing. Much of what he said in Munich should be entirely uncontroversial."

"Those on the left who feel the need to dismiss Cameron’s speech should first read the response of the anti-extremist Quilliam Foundation. Suzanne Moore’s latest column also provides an intelligent alternative perspective from the left."

"Surely there is a more thoughtful way of approaching this highly complex and emotive subject than dismissing David Cameron as an extremist."


Those who disagree with elements of the PM's speech or the timing of it have every right to explain why they disagree, but it is highly irresponsible to misrepresent him as some of them, notably Labour's shadow justice minister Sadiq Khan, have done, accusing him of writing propaganda for the English Defence League. That is exactly the kind of incendiary approach which does play into the hands of extremists on both sides, including the EDL.

What is even more extraordinary is that Jack Straw, who on more than one occasion has said things on this issue which were far more inflammatory than anything in the PM's speech, has referred to the Prime Minister's comments as "ill-judged." What a ludicrous example of double standards.

Let's look at what DC actually said. Did he link being a devout Muslim to supporting terrorism? Absolutely not, in fact one of the things he criticised was misusing words like "moderate" (as in "moderate Muslims") in ways which may infer this.

These are some of the statements in the speech ...

"It is important to stress that terrorism is not linked exclusively to any one religion or ethnic group."

(He then gave some examples of non-Islamic terrorism)

"Nevertheless, we should acknowledge that this threat comes in Europe overwhelmingly from young men who follow a completely perverse, warped interpretation of Islam, and who are prepared to blow themselves up and kill their fellow citizens."

" ... we need to be absolutely clear on where the origins of these terrorist attacks lie. That is the existence of an ideology, Islamist extremism. We should be equally clear what we mean by this term, and we must distinguish it from Islam. Islam is a religion observed peacefully and devoutly by over a billion people. Islamist extremism is a political ideology supported by a minority."

"It is vital that we make this distinction between religion on the one hand, and political ideology on the other. Time and again, people equate the two. They think whether someone is an extremist is dependent on how much they observe their religion. So, they talk about moderate Muslims as if all devout Muslims must be extremist. This is profoundly wrong. Someone can be a devout Muslim and not be an extremist. We need to be clear: Islamist extremism and Islam are not the same thing."

" ... those on the hard right ignore this distinction between Islam and Islamist extremism, and just say that Islam and the West are irreconcilable – that there is a clash of civilizations. So, it follows: we should cut ourselves off from this religion, whether that is through forced repatriation, favoured by some fascists, or the banning of new mosques, as is suggested in some parts of Europe. These people fuel Islamophobia, and I completely reject their argument."

"The point is this: the ideology of extremism is the problem; Islam emphatically is not. Picking a fight with the latter will do nothing to help us to confront the former.

"On the other hand, there are those on the soft left who also ignore this distinction. They lump all Muslims together, compiling a list of grievances, and argue that if only governments addressed these grievances, the terrorism would stop."


(He then gave a detailed rebuttal of this argument.)

"When a white person holds objectionable views, racist views for instance, we rightly condemn them. But when equally unacceptable views or practices come from someone who isn’t white, we’ve been too cautious frankly – frankly, even fearful – to stand up to them. The failure, for instance, of some to confront the horrors of forced marriage, the practice where some young girls are bullied and sometimes taken abroad to marry someone when they don’t want to, is a case in point."

"We must build stronger societies and stronger identities at home. Frankly, we need a lot less of the passive tolerance of recent years and a much more active, muscular liberalism. A passively tolerant society says to its citizens, as long as you obey the law we will just leave you alone. It stands neutral between different values. But I believe a genuinely liberal country does much more; it believes in certain values and actively promotes them.

"Freedom of speech, freedom of worship, democracy, the rule of law, equal rights regardless of race, sex or sexuality. It says to its citizens, this is what defines us as a society: to belong here is to believe in these things. Now, each of us in our own countries, I believe, must be unambiguous and hard-nosed about this defence of our liberty."


Far from "writing propaganda for the EDL" David Cameron specifically rejected their views. But He also recognised the need to confront the challenge posed, not by Islam, but by extremists.

Don't judge DC's speech by what anyone else says about it. Why not read the full speech for yourself, which again you can do here?

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