We’re as British as fish ‘n’ chips, UK Muslims tell PM
MUSLIM groups in the United Kingdom have hit back at the prime minister’s suggestion that the community needs to be more “British,” saying that Islamic values are in line with those being pushed by David Cameron.
Writing in Mail on Sunday, Cameron said it is time to stop being “squeamish about Britishness,” adding that it was “not an option” for people to live in the UK without accepting British laws and the British way of life.
“Belief in freedom, tolerance of others, accepting personal and social responsibility, respecting and upholding the rule of law [are as vital and] as British as the Union Flag, football and fish and chips,” the PM wrote.
The Mail on Sunday interpreted Cameron’s statements as a direct message to UK Muslims – prompting strong responses from several prominent community members.
“Muslims in Britain are proud to be British,” said Shuja Shafi, the new secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB).
“Freedom, tolerance, accepting personal and social responsibility, upholding the law of the land: these are Islamic values. These are the values described by our prime minister as British values,” he added.
Talha Ahmad, chair of the membership committee at the MCB, said that – if Cameron was indeed specifically addressing Muslims – then his comments are “dangerous” as they reinforce an ‘us-and-them’ mentality.
“Government – either for hatred, prejudice, sheer ignorance, or maybe out of simple political opportunism – find it fitting that they should frame the debate in that light,” he said. “In my view that is dangerous, because it doesn’t address the issue of integration, it doesn’t address the issue of extremism. If anything, it feeds into it.”
Cameron made his remarks ahead of next year’s 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta, the landmark 1215 legal document that for the first time set limits on the English monarchy’s powers, making it clear that the king was subject to the law, not above it.
Ebrahim Rasool, South Africa’s ambassador to the United States of America, questioned Cameron’s reference to an 800-year-old document in shaping modern-day Britain.
“I don’t think he’s understood what [Britishness] means in a multicultural society. He’s asserting values from the Magna Carta. It was a completely different society then – that’s a long time ago,” he said.
Rasool said British society is no longer defined by “white, Anglo-Saxon, English-speaking, fish ‘n’ chips-eating, Anglican-church-going people,” given the scale of the immigration into the country.