| ||David Cameron’s speech at the Munich Security Conference has been hailed by the far-right, who applaud him for “[coming] round to our way of thinking”to Muslims”, precisely at a time when “elsewhere in Europe, far-right organizations such as the BNP have increasingly switched the focus of their hatred from Jews and migrant populations in general to Muslims."|
This was the argument presented by Seumas Milne in the Guardian yesterday. He wrote:
“More than half the "significant demonstrations" in the past 18 months, according to the Inspectorate of Constabulary, were mounted by the English Defence League, which only targets Muslims, smashing shop windows and assaulting passers-by whenever it manages to break through police lines in mainly Muslim areas.”
“So when the EDL organised a ‘homecoming’ march last weekend in Luton, did the prime minister use the opportunity to condemn the racially inflamed provocation of a gang of Muslim-baiters and show solidarity with fellow British citizens under threat? Not a bit of it.
"He didn't even mention what was going on in Luton. Speaking the same day in Munich, of all places, he turned his fire instead on ‘Islamists’, ‘state multiculturalism’ and ‘non-violent extremists’ in the Muslim community.”
Cameron’s speech was hailed by BNP leader, Nick Griffin, as a “further huge leap for our ideas into the political mainstream.”
Reports yesterday also told of his speech being “praised” by the leader of France’s National Front, Marie Le Pen, who previously described Muslims praying in the streets outside overcrowded mosques in France to the Nazi “occupation of territory.”
She told the Financial Times newspaper that Cameron’s views were an endorsement of her party’s views on the failure of multiculturalism and immigration, adding, “It is exactly this type of statement that has barred us from public life for 30 years.” “I sense an evolution at European level, even in classic governments. I can only congratulate him.”
It seems the only people who have taken comfort from Cameron’s speech are the hard right and neoconservatives whose narrative Cameron’s speech is drawn from. The backdrop to this, however, is that Muslims are “effectively under siege” (in the correct words of Seumas Milne).
He highlights, “[Muslims] are routinely spat at and abused in the street. Over the past couple of months there have been arson and other attacks on mosques in Hemel Hempstead, Leicester, Scunthorpe, Stoke and Kingston, as well as desecration of a Muslim graveyard and fire-bombing of a halal shop.”
Both Milne and Mehdi Hasan point out that the non-reaction to Cameron’s speech from both the Liberal Democrats and Labour has been startling. The loudest voice on the issue has been of Sadiq Khan, who accused the PM of “writing propaganda for the EDL” but others have remained mute.
Some of Khan’s Labour colleagues even publically distanced themselves from his comments. Mehdi Hasan notes, “Yvette Cooper and Douglas Alexander appeared on the BBC and Sky News the next day and pointedly distanced themselves from Khan. ‘It is for Sadiq to explain the context in which he made those remarks,’ said Alexander on BBC1.”
Perhaps this is not surprising, given that Cameron has only repeated much of the narrative of New Labour under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. In a 2006 speech, then Prime Minister Tony Blair argued that the security threat to Britain came not from a “generalised extremism” but from “a virulent form of ideology associated with a minority of our Muslim community.”
Blair spoke of the need to define "common values" all citizens were "expected to conform to", adding that they had a “duty to integrate.”
David Cameron’s speech echoes vast swathes of this narrative.
Given this legacy, Hasan asks what Labour’s new leader, Ed Miliband, will do:
“Will Ed Miliband speak up for multicultural Britain; for integration over assimilation; for the virtues of diversity, tolerance and mutual respect?”
That remains to be seen.
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