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Archive for the category “David Cameron”

6 Degrees of Anders Breivik

Occasionally I like to indulge my immature side and post something a bit more light hearted than usual, but as ever, there’s always a message.

1. Anders Breivik

Far right extremist, anti-Muslim terrorist, perpetrator of 77 murders in Oslo & Utoya. EDL supporter.

2. Daryl Hobson

EDL organiser & logo designer, Facebook friend of Breivik & recipient of his infamous manifesto.

3. Stephen Lennon

EDL leader & founder, despite denying knowledge of Hobson they have been photographed together.

Daryl Hobson & Tommy Robinson/Stephen Lennon

4. Robert Spencer

Robert Spencer

Namechecked 64 times in Breivik’s manifesto, eminent Islamophobe, co-founder of SIOA and EDL endorser.

5. Douglas Murray

Douglas Murray

Heads conservative think tank Centre for Social Cohesion, has liaised with Spencer on ‘counter terrorism’ issues, EDL sympathiser, influential in formulating David Cameron’s Prevent strategy addressing Islamic extremism.

6. David Cameron

Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, denouncer of multiculturalism, Muslim scapegoater.

Despite this being a slightly mischievous post, it’s not entirely frivolous. The issue that has caused these people’s paths to cross socially or professionally is Islam. The thought that the work of Robert Spencer could influence both the acts of a terrorist and government policy on dealing with the Muslim community is worrying to say the least, and is yet another reason to put these hatemongers under the microscope and blow their industry wide open.

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Camer-rant

“Put simply, we will never control immigration properly unless we tackle welfare dependency,”

Cameron is cynically playing on the insecurities of the disillusioned and uneducated by blaming Labour and the benefits culture for mass immigration. It’s using an acceptable scapegoat as blackmail for the people willing to swallow it. He’s saying ‘If you go back to work we’ll stop letting brown people in.’

“When there have been significant numbers of new people arriving in neighbourhoods, perhaps not able to speak the same language as those living there, on occasions not really wanting or even willing to integrate, that has created a kind of discomfort and disjointedness in some neighbourhoods. This has been the experience for many people in our country and I believe it is untruthful and unfair not to speak about it and address it.”

Where’s the proof for this? Integration is a two way street, the onus is on us to make people feel welcome. Is it a surprise that some minorities are afraid to interact with the wider community when groups of people are marching through our high streets in protest at aspects of their faith and culture? Is it surprising that people feel safer in communities that consist of their ‘own people’ when they face discrimination on a daily basis?

But, on this point, according to academics who have studied this subject, Cameron is wrong. Recently the University of Manchester sent me a news release about some research funded by the Economic and Social Research Council which found that deprivation, not multiculturalism, was the root cause of fragmented communities. The research team was headed by Dr Laia Bécares and this is what she had to say:

Politicians seem to link racial tensions to the perception that ethnic minority people and newly arrived migrants are not integrated into their host culture. But our findings show it is not neighbourhood ethnic profile but neighbourhood deprivation which erodes social cohesion in England.

The paper, called Composition, Concentration and Deprivation: Exploring their Association with Social Cohesion among Different Ethnic Groups in the UK, has been published in the journal, Urban Studies. Unfortunately it’s only available to subscribers. But here’s an extract.

Our findings show that it is not neighbourhood ethnic profile, but neighbourhood deprivation, which erodes social cohesion for ethnic minority and White British people in the UK. The fact that it is deprivation, and not ethnic heterogeneity, which causes social ills in the UK has been reported before, although previous studies have not examined whether this varied by ethnic group … Regardless, by exploring how the association between neighbourhood ethnic profile and social cohesion changes once area deprivation is adjusted for, and by assessing the contribution of area-level socioeconomic characteristics to social cohesion among different ethnic groups, the present study argues that increased residential heterogeneity does not erode social cohesion in the UK …

High levels of area deprivation have been stated to generate feelings of powerless, threat and alienation among neighbourhood residents, leading, in turn, to low levels of neighbourhood attachment and participation. Prior to engaging in building social cohesion, ethnic minority people living in deprived neighbourhoods are often more concerned about access to jobs, housing and public services. Efforts to promote social cohesion in the UK through integration and communitarism have been criticised because they fail to recognise the importance of the wider social and economic inequalities they produce and have been blamed to direct attention away from the institutional structures and practices of racism that have created existent health and socioeconomic inequalities in the first place. Existent sociopolitical schemes, thus, should not overlook the findings that highlight the importance of area deprivation on the erosion of social cohesion, given that initiatives that seek to enhance social cohesion while ignoring the structural factors that are responsible for material deprivation are unlikely to have a major impact.

Cameron wants to restrict non-EU migrants to highly skilled, well educated individuals, rich students who will only be allowed to stay if they find highly skilled graduate jobs and talented entrepreneurs. These are good immigrants. A coincidence that they fit the demographic that is more likely to vote Conservative? Isn’t this a cynical attempt at social engineering that they constantly tell us Labour are guilty of?

This is the second public speech made by Cameron this year that panders to the right-wing, with anti-immigration, anti-Muslim, anti-multiculturalism sentiments that closely resemble the rhetoric we hear from the BNP, UKIP and the EDL. This is a worrying trend that isn’t confined to the UK. In France we have seen Sarkozy attempt to restore his ailing popularity by trying to be more of a bigot than his rival Marine Le Pen. Across the Atlantic we have seen Donald Trump throw his hat into the Presidential candidates ring while jumping on the overcrowded anti-Muslim bandwagon in the clumsiest possible fashion.

Cameron makes the bogus claim that not talking about immigration “created the space for extremist parties to flourish, as they could tell people who mainstream politicians weren’t listening to their concerns or doing anything about them”.

We heard this during last years electioneering. It was inaccurate then and it is now. As Sunder Katwala points out, the talk of stifling the debate on immigration is a complete myth.

This hoary old myth doesn’t get us very far. The idea that debate about immigration has been silenced and closed down in Britain is a pervasive myth.

But, as a matter of fact, it can be easily disproved if one goes and looks at what politicians said and did throughout the period, or reviewing the endless noisy public debates about immigration, and volumes of legislation on immigration (broadly in a restrictive direction) under almost every post-war government, whether Conservative or Labour. I published a Comment is Free post ‘The Enoch Myth in 2008, offering chapter and verse which proves beyond any reasonable doubt just how noisy these decades of supposed silenced debate always were. (Cameron, perhaps prey to the myth, says in his speech “I remember when immigration wasn’t a central political issue in our country – and I want that to be the case again”. I wonder if he could cite any five or ten year post-war period which he has in mind when he claims that?).

It is interesting to reflect on the drivers of the sense of political disconnection which means that this is widely believed, but that is a very different thing from the myth being true.

Cameron directly echoes Michael Howard’s election posters in 2005, which proved somewhat less effective than the Conservatives hoped at the time, and which had the rather odd aim of starting a debate about immigration which will not be distracted by allegations of racism by starting a debate about racism and being silenced, rather more than to start a frank and rational public debate about immigration itself.

It was rather odd to claim that the other major party was treating all discussion of immigration as verboten – because I clearly recall that Labour had election posters in 2005 which proclaimed in bold, primary colours “Your Country’s Border’s Safe”, and it would be rewrite history rather spectacularly to claim that Labour home secretaries such as Jack Straw or David Blunkett did not speak about immigration. (Despite this, the claim has often been implicit in Labour’s post-election debates, which sometimes strike me as taking place as if we all had the memories of goldfish, leading to proposals to ‘break’ with the party’s recent approach and move on by saying all of the same things again, so as to also sound ‘tough’).

Immigration was also the only subject raised in all three of the televised election debates. The claim that extremists have flourished doesn’t quite explain how the BNP lost support and the Lib Dems ended up in a coalition government either.

The same David Cameron who today states: Our country has benefitted immeasurably from immigration. Go into any hospital and you’ll find people from Uganda, India and Pakistan who are caring for our sick and vulnerable. Go into schools and universities and you’ll find teachers from all over the world, inspiring our young people. Go to almost any high street in the country and you’ll find entrepreneurs from overseas who are not just adding to the local economy but playing a part in local life. Charities, financial services, fashion, food, music – all these sectors are what they are because of immigration. So yes, immigrants make a huge contribution to Britain. We recognise that – and we welcome it.

Is the same David Cameron who made a speech in February declaring that multiculturalism had failed. Which is it Dave?

David Yaxley-Griffin

Half listening to Radio 5live on Saturday, while going about my business, in a haze of sleep deprivation, and the first 6 Nations hangover of the year. I caught the tail end of David Cameron’s speech in Munich. To my surprise he seemed to be making refreshingly balanced and even complimentary statements about Muslims and Islam. As I was going to be spending the majority of the afternoon keeping tabs on the EDL demo taking part in Luton that day, it gave my spirits a little boost.

A little while later, a news item on the PM’s speech reported him as having claimed that multiculturalism had failed, while also making criminally inaccurate and ignorant comments regarding what seemed to be the British Muslim community in isolation. I checked my Twitter feed as soon as I could, and the more I read, the more stunned and dismayed I became. It was as if he, and his writers, had used Daily Express back issues and BNP propaganda as research material. As a result he inadvertently gave a speech that, while not going as far as endorsing the EDL, legitimized their cause and their reasoning. The timing couldn’t have been worse. It was a kick in the teeth to every person working hard to combat the bigotry of the EDL, and an insult to the Muslim communities of the UK.

How could the Prime Minister of one of the most tolerant and compassionate countries in the World (in my opinion), get it so spectacularly wrong? He would surely have access to information that documents the work done within the Muslim community to counter extremism? Is he genuinely ignorant to the complex and varied reasons why segregation and division occur? In a way I hope he is. Because if his speech is an indication of what will be put into practice as part of the Governments anti-terrorism strategy, he will only alienate the very people best positioned to co-operate. If he is oblivious to this, at least there’s a possibility of him revising his position. But if this is actually another ideological policy, hidden behind disingenuous misinformation, designed to cut public funding, it worries me even more.

This thinly veiled attempt at justifying withdrawal of funds for Muslim organisations, andstirring of Nationalist pride will act as a rubber stamp for the EDL. Stephen Lennon has already welcomed Cameron’s words, and accepted them as approval for the EDL stance. Whilst Nick Griffin has also claimed that they echo the BNP’s sentiments. You’d think that this would be cause for concern for the Coalition, but instead they’ve issued an unapologetic defence of the speech. There will undoubtedly be numerous blogs and articles that will dissect Cameron’s words, policies and hypocrisy far more articulately and knowledgeably than myself, so I’ll leave that to them. What I will address though, is the concept of multiculturalism. What does he actually mean by ‘state multiculturalism’, and what does multiculturalism mean to me?

I’m assuming that when he’s talking of ‘state multiculturalism’, he’s referring to the popular right-wing cliché that New Labours immigration policy was an attempt at social engineering, whereby immigrants would keep them in power in a display of eternal gratitude, whilst also encouraging a dilution of British ‘identity’ and ‘values’ so precious to the Tories. This has been reported as fact, denied, and debated over and over, so I’ll leave it at that. It seems to me that when Cameron talks of this supposed doctrine, he’s referring to the acceptance and tolerance of diversity. But doesn’t see it as being compassionate, and aiding in a transitional process. His view is that it’s divisive and detrimental to society. This is what he said in February 2008.

“State multiculturalism is a wrong-headed doctrine that has had disastrous results. It has fostered difference between communities,”

“And it has stopped us from strengthening our collective identity. Indeed, it has deliberately weakened it.”

Cameron defined “state multiculturalism” as “the idea that we should respect different cultures within Britain to the point of allowing them – indeed encouraging them – to live separate lives, apart from each other and apart from the mainstream.”

it meant “not just essential information, but all information, endlessly translated into numerous languages, to cater for numerous people, who can then continue to go about their daily lives without ever having to learn English.

“Multiculturalism was manipulated to entrench the right to difference – which is a divisive concept. What we need is the right to equal treatment despite difference.”

On Sharia law:

If Williams meant that different communities should have different laws, then that would be “dangerous and illiberal”, the Tory leader said.

The introduction of sharia law for Muslims would be “the logical endpoint of the now discredited doctrine of state multiculturalism”, he said.

He went on: “It would alienate other communities who would resent this preferential treatment. It would provide succour to the separatists who want to isolate and divide communities from the mainstream.

“And it would – crucially – weaken, destabilise and demoralise those Muslims who embrace liberal values and desperately want to integrate fully in British society.”

Cameron said that “state multiculturalism” led to people accepting different cultural behaviour, even if it contravened human rights.

This not only shows his ignorance of Sharia law and its role, but is full of contradictions and huge assumptions. He seems to be inferring that segregation in our towns and cities is based on race and religion, without factoring in economic and social issues. It appears he’s putting the onus on the minority to integrate with the ‘mainstream’, but doesn’t seem to be aware of, or sympathetic to any challenges or obstacles they may face.

Is he actually proposing assimilation rather than integration? Does he expect immigrants, and children or grandchildren of immigrants to abandon all trace of their cultural heritage and identity? What exactly is he suggesting?

Something that really confuses and annoys me is the idea of a British culture, with British values and British identity. Am I alone in wondering what on earth this concept looks or feels like? I mean, I accept that there are character and personality traits that what the BNP would call indigenous British people have in common. The stereotypical stiff upper lip, don’t cause a scene, carry on regardless attitude. The inability to express emotion overtly. The permanently apologetic, awkward person. But even this is a rather outdated and romantic cliché, which fails to acknowledge individual differences.

Are my culture, values and identity identical to those of every other British person? Of course not. How could a married father of two, living in a predominantly white, but ethnically mixed, working class suburb of Cardiff have anything in common with a single, Oxbridge educated man, living in Chelsea? My lifestyle and experiences are worlds apart from many people living on my street. All I could reliably guess I share common ground with most male neighbours on are an interest in football and possibly similar musical tastes. Does a farmer in rural Scotland have an identical culture to an unemployed single mother living on a council estate high-rise in inner city London? Then how can an immigrant adopt a certain culture and a set of values that are supposedly uniquely British, when the ‘indigenous’ British people already have varying cultures, identities, values and moral codes? That’s before you start taking into account British Italians, Greeks, Jamaicans etc that have been part of our society for generations. Is there something I’m missing? Is my definition of culture different to David Cameron’s?  Here’s the Wikipedia definition.

  • An integrated pattern of human knowledge, belief, and behavior that depends upon the capacity for symbolic thought and social learning
  • The set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution, organization or group

The word multicultural suggests that there are several sets of the above criteria in existence in Britain. But how can that be as a result of race, nationality, faith or ethnicity, when people of the same race will naturally have different goals, attitudes, values, behaviours and practices already? What if we narrow down and simplify the criteria to positive values that the majority of us have in common, and the rights we hold dear? Regard for the law, free speech, democracy, tolerance and equality? That’s enough to be getting along with. Is Cameron suggesting that immigrants and Muslims already living here don’t share these values? Is he implying that all ‘indigenous’ Britons do exhibit these values? To suggest either is not only inaccurate, but extremely insulting. Let’s give him the benefit of the doubt on this one for now. Let’s assume that what he means by multiculturalism is, a variety of people from different ethnic backgrounds, maintaining their cultural identity, within a society that accepts their difference. As Wikipedia puts it:

The appreciation, acceptance or promotion of multiple cultures, applied to the demographic make-up of a specific place, usually at the organizational level, e.g. schools, businesses, neighbourhoods, cities or nations. In this sense multiculturalism approximates to respect for diversity.

The term may also describe people who have more than one culture in them (people who grew up with more than one cultural identity, also sometimes called bicultural).

If he’s claiming that this concept has failed in Britain, he must also accept that there cannot be true multiculturalism without the acceptance and respect of the host nation’s population. If that’s the case, Britain has failed multiculturalism. I don’t buy that for one second. Britain has welcomed immigrants from former colonies and beyond for decades, and they have played their part in transforming this country into a diverse and vibrant society, that has produced unique cultural phenomena. Multiculturalism in Britain has given us 2 Tone, Drum n Bass, Grime, Dubstep, M.I.A, Balti and Chicken Tikka Masala, as a direct result of the melting pot of cultures, styles and tastes.

No ones claiming Britain to be a utopian cross between a Benetton advert and The Truman Show. There are tensions, and some may indeed manifest themselves along ethnic or racial lines. There may well be issues within certain communities that are particular to a certain faith or nationality. But to present these issues with inaccurate information, and use them to justify unnecessary criticism of the Muslim community, and quite possibly introduce policies that target them unfairly, is disgraceful. Would assimilation eradicate social problems? No. The people who have issues with cultures and customs they see as alien to our society, would simply find another reason to discriminate, be it colour, religion, nationality or anything else that sets people apart from the ‘indigenous’.

In a poll conducted for the BBC in 2009, people were asked to agree or disagree with the statement “Our laws should respect and be influenced by UK religious values”. The proportion of Muslims who agreed (79 per cent) was higher than for Christians themselves (70 per cent). In a survey by the Centre for Social Cohesion, and ironically used selectively by the Daily Mail to portray British Muslims as condoning killing in the name of Islam, found that 89% of those surveyed said women should be treated equally, with only 5% disagreeing, only 25% had an issue with homosexuality, nearly 80% said it was possibly to be equally Muslim and British, 92% had a range of friends across cultural boundaries, and nearly 80% had respect for Jews (with only 7% expressing disrespect), while a similar number respected Atheists. More than 70% said they were more liberal than their parents. Is this an indication that as Cameron states;

“We have failed to provide a vision of society [to young Muslims] to which they feel they want to belong,” and “We have even tolerated segregated communities behaving in ways that run counter to our values. All this leaves some young Muslims feeling rootless. And the search for something to belong to and believe in can lead them to extremist ideology.”?

It wouldn’t appear so. Is he really this out of touch and badly informed? Or is it the start of something altogether more sinister?

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