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By Lee Jasper


Tuesday, March 22, 2011.


Not too long ago, Prime Minister David Cameron made a terrible speech at the European security conference in Munich. His topic was the national hobbyhorse:  Islamic extremism and radicalisation. It was a speech that sought to end the great liberal British tradition of “live and let live”. Official Government policy has fundamentally changed and the emphasis has changed from integration to assimilation. We have adopted the French model of race relations by insisting that despite profound racism, all citizens are equal under the law. This is complete hypocrisy and fundamentally undermined by the reality of institutional racism prevalent in both Britain and France.

I believe in a multicultural society where we are all different but all equal. In order to treat some people equally you may have to treat some people differently.

I for one refuse to be assimilated into Cameroons Camelot period. As an African whose family has been living here for five generations, I believe that, as a citizen, as long as I obey the law, I should be free to live my life anyway I choose. My values, politics and views are my own and Government has no business attempting to demonise distinct cultures. The British expats abroad live their life according to this code as do the Jewish community of Stamford Hill, London or the black communities of Moss Side, Manchester.

The speech was remarkable for a number of reasons.  First there was the timing, coming as it did on the day of a march in Luton where the racist English Defence League sought to ignite a race war it so desperately craves. This speech was deliberately timed to give support to that march, whatever the protestation of the Prime Minister’s Office. Cameron has become their best recruiting sergeant and they are now jubilant after receiving such an endorsement by the PM.  If you do not believe me go and look at the comments on their web site.

Secondly the speech effectively ended the political career of Tory Baroness Varsi, the first Muslim woman to attend a Cabinet meeting. It is less than five weeks ago that she launched an attack on the growing acceptance of Islamophobic attitudes that she felt had now “passed the dinner table test”. Anti Muslim racism is now quite fashionable in certain quarters none more so than the Cabinet table.

That the PM should so publicly reject the view of a senior member of his Government spells the end for Varsi and should send a clear message to other blacks and Muslims in the Tory party:  that they speak out on these issues at their peril.

Thirdly the speech was disingenuous in so far as it conflated the ideas of social cohesion and multiculturalism.  Con-dem’s policy in this regard is built (like so many of their current policies on the political framework) upon that established by New Labour whose policies on these issues were equally confused and completely racist in their implementation and execution. It also follows hot on the heels of the comment by Jack Straw that some Muslim men see white women as “easy meat”

Using language that reflects the philosophical approach of ‘clash of civilizations Cameron makes the point that it is no longer enough for citizens to simply obey the rule of law they must ascribe to a subjective set of universal “British values”.

Cameron: “Under the doctrine of state multiculturalism, we have encouraged different cultures to live separate lives, apart from each other and apart from the mainstream.  We’ve failed to provide a vision of society to which they feel they want to belong.  We’ve even tolerated these segregated communities behaving in ways that run completely counter to our values.”

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.”

He continues

“We must build stronger societies and stronger identities at home.  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.

Much like motherhood and apple pie, these universal values are not particularly British and I can see no evidence that there are organisations Muslim or black that would descent from these basic values. If there are examples of organisations whose practice differs contradicts these basic principles they are in good company as we can point to countless institutions , businesses , the current Government included, whose liberal rhetoric in support of the values is undermined by their actions. This is like claiming to be anti racist whilst pursuing racist policies or proclaiming peace whilst engaging in war.

I have a message on behalf of the black and Muslim communities for Cameron. We don’t want to be “tolerated”. We have already earned our rights to freedom of expression bought and paid for by our ancestors through the blood price of slavery and colonialism.

We have the inalienable right to live as we choose, believe what we like and dress in anyway we see fit. Black and Muslim communities don’t want to be “tolerated” they want the same respect afforded by all British citizens who pay their taxes and obey the law.

Of course Cameron is returning, much like a dog returning to his vomit, to that default setting of the Tory Party when it comes to issues of race. It’s the deep racism of a Government who sees the majority of claims of racism as inflated and politically inspired. Black and Muslim communities are viewed as problematic and there is an explicit expectation that we should be grateful to Massa Cameron for allowing us to be here at all.

He spoke in the Tory tradition of Enoch Powell and more recently the former Premier Thatcher who famously said 1979

“… people are really rather afraid that this country might be rather swamped by people with a different culture and, you know, the British character has done so much for democracy, for law and done so much throughout the world that if there is any fear that it might be swamped people are going to react and be rather hostile to those coming in.”

I believe that Cameron’s speech was intended to whip up racism shedding more heat than light on a subject that is susceptible to hysteria. This is a crude attempt to distract the public away from the issue of the deep cuts to public spending by scape-goating Muslim and black communities. It’s a crude effort at political distraction much beloved by desperate politicians and that is to keep the publics mind and that of the press focused on the “enemy within”.

This speech clearly demonstrates that the Conservatives Party line on citizenship, in a metaphoric sense, reflects the view that there is “no black in the union jack”.

Cameron’s speech will, I believe, give a green light to racist thugs who will see his comments as justification for violent racism. We saw this during the recession of the 1990s when black men were brutally attacked and murdered by racist gangs. It will embolden racist police officers to harass and attack black communities; it will feed a section of a hysterical press that will vent its’ spleen in an attempt to vilify and scapegoat black and Muslim communities.

This is not a war on multiculturalism as depicted in parts of the press, this is a declaration of war against difference and by that I mean anyone who is not straight up white Anglo Saxon protestant. Our message to you Mr. Cameron is this: under attack, black communities fight back and we will not simply be besmirched, bullied and intimidated into quiet acquiescence. We say that two of the greatest British traditional values are those of resistance and rebellion, and that is one set of British values that we are more than happy to adopt. 

Lee Jasper is a leading community activist and organiser. He blogs at http://leejasper.com


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