British Prime Minister David Cameron has pledged to tackle Muslim clerics in the UK who inflame terrorism by denouncing free speech, equality and democracy.
In a powerful intervention clearly aimed mainly at ‘preachers of hate’, the Prime Minister in an article in the Daily Mail sayd the failure to stand up to such firebrands has ‘allowed extremism – both the violent and non-violent kind – to flourish’.
He plans to use the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta – 12 months from today – to reassert British values in a ‘Magna Carta for Modern Britain.’ It is time to stop being ‘squeamish about Britishness’ and tell everyone who lives here that refusing to accept British laws and the British way of life is ‘not an option’, Mr Cameron argues. The Prime Minister will emphasise the commitment by insisting that Magna Carta becomes part of the school curriculum.
Downing Street stressed the Prime Minister’s comments, which come in an article in today’s Mail on Sunday, are aimed at all sections of the community, not just Muslims. However, they appear to signal a key change in the stance of successive recent governments, Tory and Labour, on this sensitive issue.
They have faced claims that some unrepresentative ethnic minority leaders have been given free rein to promote extremist views – and trample on UK laws and rights on democracy, women’s equality, religious freedom and tolerance. Mr Cameron’s initiative is a direct response to the ‘Trojan Horse’ scandal of Islamist extremists who infiltrated state schools.
School inspectors said that at some Muslim-dominated schools in Birmingham, pupils were taught that white women were ‘prostitutes’, boys and girls were segregated, Christmas events were scrapped, tombolas were banned as ‘non-Islamic’ and children in biology lessons were told that evolution was untrue. The dispute convinced Mr Cameron that it was time to lead a fightback on behalf of British values.
In addition, there are growing fears that radical preachers are encouraging young British Muslims to join terrorists fighting to bring down the democratically elected government of Iraq. And it is alleged radical clerics have tried to establish ‘Sharia Law Zones’ in some British cities with bans on gambling, music and alcohol.
Education Secretary Michael Gove has announced plans to teach British values in schools, but Mr Cameron wants to go further.
‘It isn’t enough simply to respect these values in schools,’ he says. ‘They’re not optional; they’re the core of what it is to live in Britain.
‘In recent years we have been in danger of sending out a worrying message: that if you don’t want to believe in democracy, that’s fine; that if equality isn’t your bag, don’t worry about it; that if you’re completely intolerant of others, we will still tolerate you,’ he writes.
‘This has not just led to division, it has also allowed extremism – of both the violent and non-violent kind – to flourish. We need to be far more muscular in promoting British values and the institutions that uphold them.