David Cameron has declared that multiculturalism had failed in the UK as he called for a “muscular liberalism” that challenges Islamist extremism more forcefully.
In a major speech on tackling the threat of terrorism, the Prime Minister warned that the “hands-off tolerance” of unacceptable practices by non-white communities had only served to encourage extremism.
His intervention angered some Muslim groups and comes as the far-right English Defence League is holding a major demonstration in Luton.
Speaking to a security conference in the German city of Munich, Mr Cameron said that the threat of terrorism must be confronted not only though intelligence and surveillance, but by taking on the ideology of Islamist extremism at home.
“Frankly, we need a lot less of the passive tolerance of recent years and much more active, muscular liberalism,” the Prime Minister said.
While a “passively tolerant” society allowed its citizens to do what they like, so long as they do not break the law, a genuinely liberal country “believes in certain values and actively promotes them,” Mr Cameron said.
“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 these things.
“Each of us in our own countries must be unambiguous and hard-nosed about this defence of our liberty.”
The Prime Minister stressed that right-wing extremists and Christian fundamentalist preachers of hate must also be condemned.
He also insisted that a clear distinction must be made between the religion of Islam and the political ideology of Islamist extremism.