> By Liz Fekete (Institute Race Relations)
7 February 2011, 4:00pm
Cameron’s speech signals a fundamental departure in British race relations.
Why did British prime minister Cameron choose to attack ‘the doctrine of state multiculturalism’ and indicate the parameters of the government’s new counter-terrorism policy at an international security conference in Munich?
The Munich International Security Conference was founded in 1962 and focuses on transatlantic relations and global security, attracting an audience of leading US and European politicians, military, security experts, scientists. media etc. In delivering his speech, Cameron clearly had in his sights a domestic audience, wooing the Sun and the Daily Mail, both of which, in calling for the disciplining of Muslim communities, have promoted a crude British nationalism based on uncritical support for the armed services and military interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan. (Only the day before. the Daily Mail had carried a feature attacking two Birmingham Muslim councillors, Salma Yaqoob and Mohammed Ishtiaq, for refusing to participate in a standing ovation for a British soldier awarded the George Cross for bravery in Afghanistan.) But Cameron’s speech was also intended to send a clear signal to the United States and the European center-Right that Britain would no longer pursue different ethnic minority and race policies from its European counterparts. In particular, Cameron was showing his support for Angela Merkel and her German Christian Democrat party’s idea that security and cohesion are brought about not through integration and pluralism, but through monoculturalism and assimilation into the dominant Leitkultur (lead culture).
Cameron’s speech was reported as a trailer for the up-and-coming government counter-terrorism review and Lord Carlile’s review of the Prevent strategy. And it is here that Cameron indicated to a German security audience support for the German intelligence services’ approach to the compartmentalisng of Muslim organisations into ‘legitimate’ and ‘illegitimate’, with greater surveillance of those deemed ‘illegitimate’. In his speech, Cameron promised that the British government would no longer fund or share platforms with Muslim organisations that, while non-violent, were also a part of the problem because they belonged to a ‘spectrum’ of Islamism. While those who openly support terrorism are at the ‘furthest end’ of this spectrum, it also includes many Muslims who accept ‘various parts of the extremist world view’ including ‘real hostility towards western democracy and liberal values’.
In this, what should be feared is that Cameron is indicating that the government’s review of counter-terrorism policy has been greatly influenced by the approach taken by the German intelligence services (Verfassungsschutz) which has at its base a distinction between legitimate and illegitimate Muslim organisations coupled with the most widespread system of religious profiling in Europe. Verfassungsschutz manuals also outline a ‘spectrum’ of radicalisation’ and include a classification scheme for Muslims which regard the highly religious as just a notch or two below the potentially violent on a continuation of radicalisation. (In fact, the pyramid structure that the German intelligence services use to express this spectrum of radicalisation has already been adapted by the British intelligence services.) The upshot of the German approach is that a number of representative Muslim organisations, while not proscribed as terrorist organisations, are deemed unconstitutional and a threat to German values. As such, they are kept out of official government dialogue mechanisms and do not receive any public funding. Not only are they placed under state surveillance, even though the government acknowledges that they do not promote violence, but members of so-called unconstitutional organisations may also be subjected to reduced employment opportunities in certain professions, and excluded from citizenship via naturalisation. It is an approach that, in 2007, came under severe criticism from the International Crisis Group which defined it as comprising a ‘slippery slope’ view of Islamic extremism, which by lumping together many non-violent organisations with ‘a few potentially violent group’s created a blunt instrument for countering terrorism that leads to stigmatisation (Read an IRR News story: ‘Germany: intelligence services target Muslims’ (http://www.irr.org.uk/2007/april/ha000010.html)).
Another point of note is that Cameron in attacking ‘the doctrine of state multiculturalism’ was sending a signal that government policy in future will not be built on pluralism or integration but monoculturalism, assimilation, exclusion (and surveillance) of those Muslim organisations which refuse to play ball. With the ditching of multiculturalism, also goes the ditching of ‘race relations’ based on the Roy Jenkins model of ‘equal opportunity accompanied by cultural diversity in an atmosphere of mutual tolerance’. And if we are really to go down the German route of monoculturalism, ‘race relations’ policy will also transform beyond recognition, as monoculturalism presupposes the subsumption of the minority under the majority. From now on, ‘ethnic minority’ policy will not only be securitised but will act as an adjunct to anti-terrorist laws.