British Prime Minister David Cameron, outlining an aggressive program to confront Islamic State extremism in his country on Monday, blamed a misguided national sensitivity to religious and ethnic minorities for keeping the United Kingdom from confronting the “poison” of extremism.
“We have lacked the confidence to enforce our values,” he said in a statement that addressed everything from female genital mutilation to Islamist extremism. “No more turning a blind eye on the basis of cultural sensitivities.”
Cameron proposed new laws that would allow parents to apply to have their children’s passports confiscated if they feared they were preparing to join the Islamic State; force Internet service providers to identify and remove extremist material from their servers; and allow government regulators to block the broadcast of channels supporting extremism.
Cameron gave his nationally televised speech from a school in Birmingham, a city known for support for the Islamic State.
We believe in respecting other faiths, but also in expecting those faiths to support the British way of life.
Prime Minister David Cameron
An estimated 5,000 Europeans, mostly younger than 25, have left their home or adopted nations to travel to Syria and Iraq to join and often fight for the Islamic State. Europe is increasingly fearful not only of the fate of those who make that journey, but also what happens if and when they return.
Cameron told British youth that they are not being recruited to be a vital part of an endeavor, but to be cannon fodder.
“If you are a boy, they will brainwash you, strap bombs to your body and blow you up,” he said. “If you are a girl, they will enslave and abuse you.”
Cameron called Britain a nation that respects “equal rights regardless of race, sex, sexuality or faith. We believe in respecting other faiths, but also in expecting those faiths to support the British way of life.”
In fact, he said, it’s important to make the point that “Britain is a far, far better place to live than ISIL-run Syria, or ISIL-run Iraq,” referring to the Islamic State by an acronym.
Cameron attributed the hesitancy to misguided views about multiculturalism, particularly the notion that people from different backgrounds and traditions wanted to be treated differently.
“This is a country we’re building together,” he said, noting that the British people are of different religions and races and traditions. “But as we do, the British values we adhere to and the British institutions we rely on are open to everyone.”
And he said that for any of this to happen, the discussion has to be open and honest.
“Any strategy to defeat extremism must confront head on the extreme ideology that underpins it,” he said. “We must take its component parts to pieces. The cultish world view, the conspiracy theories and yes, the so-called glamorous parts of it as well.”
Cameron said that the United Kingdom could and would remove what he called the “poison” of extremism.
“We should expose their extremism for what it is: A belief system that glorifies violence and subjugates its people, not least, Muslim people,” he said. “We should contrast their bigotry, aggression and theocracy with our values. We have in our country a very clear creed and we need to promote it much more confidently.”
Matthew Schofield: @mattschodcnews