David Cameron condemned Britain\'s long-standing policy of multiculturalism as a failure Saturday, calling for better integration of young Muslims to combat home-grown extremism.
In a speech to the Munich Security Conference, Cameron signalled a marked change in policy towards Britain\'s ethnic and religious minorities, saying the "hands-off tolerance" of those who reject Western values has failed.
He urged a "more active, muscular liberalism" where equal rights, the rule of law, freedom of speech and democracy are actively promoted to create a stronger national identity.
"If we are to defeat this threat, I believe it\'s time to turn the page on the failed policies of the past," he told the conference during a panel discussion attended by German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
But his remarks sparked a chorus of condemnation, with the Muslim Council of Britain expressing anger that the Muslim community was being still being treated "as part of the problem as opposed to part of the solution."
Cameron\'s speech echoed controversial comments made by Merkel last year, when she also called multiculturalism a failure, saying Germany had not devoted enough attention to the integration of immigrants.
"What I mean to say is that for years, for decades, the approach was that integration was not something that needed to be addressed, that people would live side-by-side and that it would sort itself out," Merkel said in November.
"This turned out to be false."
In his first major speech on Islamist extremism, Cameron argued that "under the doctrine of state multiculturalism, we have encouraged different cultures to live separate lives, apart from each other and the mainstream".
He said this had resulted in a lack of national identity in Britain which had made some young Muslims turn to extremist ideology.
"Frankly, we need a lot less of the passive tolerance of recent years and much more active, muscular liberalism," Cameron said.
"A passively tolerant society says to its citizens: as long as you obey the law, we will leave you alone. It stands neutral between different values.
"A genuinely liberal country does much more. It believes in certain values and actively promotes them."
Cameron clearly distinguished between Islam the religion and the political ideology of Islamist extremism, saying they "are not the same thing".
But Muslim groups in Britain reacted with a mixture of disappointment and outrage.
"It is disappointing," Faisal Hanjra, assistant secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain, told BBC radio, adding that it did not appear to mark in shift in the approach to tackling terrorism.
"Again it just seems the Muslim community is very much in the spotlight, being treated as part of the problem as opposed to part of the solution."
Mohammed Shafiq, chief executive of Muslim welfare group the Ramadhan Foundation, added: "Singling out Muslims as he has done feeds the hysteria and paranoia about Islam and Muslims."
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