Policy Exchange’s recent research into multiculturalism, not only created a media splash in England, but in Ireland too. David Cameron’s remarks on the subject were reported (subs needed) in the Irish Times on Tuesday
Mr Cameron identified five barriers, or “Berlin walls of division”, in the way of community cohesion in modern Britain – extremism, multiculturalism, uncontrolled immigration, poverty and educational apartheid. And he coupled that with a strong insistence that politicians should “not hide behind the screen of cultural sensitivity” but say publicly that no woman in Britain should be denied rights that both their religion and their country support.
The Tory leader said urban areas of multiple deprivation were “a breeding ground for resentment and division”. Likewise, those left behind by the educational system became “prime targets for extremists who offer easy explanations and point the finger of blame at other people”.
He warned against politicians giving the impression that these questions of community cohesion and Britishness were all about terrorism, or all about Muslims.
“If we do, then we actually make it harder to beat the terrorist threat. And we make it harder to bring our country together. We need to bring our country together not just to help beat terrorism, but because it is the right thing to do.”
At the same time, he said, it was necessary to “mobilise the instruments of public policy” to draw people away from supporting extremist ideologies. He attacked the “myth” that all Muslim women were subservient observers rather than active participants in British society.
“But we must not be naive. There are still issues we must tackle. In certain sections of the community women are being denied access to education, work, involvement in the political process – and, surprisingly, even denied access to mosques.”
It prompted the Secretary-General and Chair of the Supreme Muslim Council of Ireland, Mohammed AlKabour and Sheikh (Prof.) Shaheed Satardien to issue the following statement:
The Council believes that the rule of civil law, the democratic system of representation in government; the protection of the rights of women and minorities and the freedom of thought and belief; all of which we live under-here in Ireland, is not only compatible with Islamic values but is closer to the ethos and spirit of tolerance pluralism and peace in Islam and better serves the Irish Muslim community than the undemocratic regimes and the draconian judicial systems found in some of the predominately Muslim Countries today.
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty