The Prime Minister’s speech this week on tackling Islamic fundamentalism has been widely welcomed across the political spectrum. He rightly condemned the poisonous influence of jihadist doctrines, particularly on young people.
It took political courage to take on the liberal Establishment and the many permissive defenders of all aspects of “multiculturalism”, which in practice has meant tacit encouragement of and turning a blind eye to behaviour which is fundamentally wrong and unBritish. We have seen in Rotherham and in too many other parts of the country a shameful failure, by the police and local authorities, to unequivocally condemn aspects of cultural behaviour which is and should be seen to be (by officialdom) as completely beyond the pale, not least the grooming of young white girls by Pakistani gang members.
However, It’s clear from my visit to a city mosque earlier this year, which hosted an innovative seminar on the root causes of extremism for community leaders in Peterborough, that they as Mosque elders, felt exasperated that as moderates, their viewpoint might be drowned out by both intolerant voices in their own tradition but also the misconceptions of others in the city. I felt I understood their faith much better as I left and that is the key to peaceful relations and to marginalising the evil and violence of the jihadists.
I’m not naive but I believe that in Peterborough we can be proud of our community relations and of the fact that we have little of the intra community strife of too many other towns and cities. It’s true that there is some sense of noisy grievance by a minority of Pakistani youths with their poor education and job and life prospects but most Pakistani families have flourished over the years in business, commerce and civic life.
That said, the Prime Minister’s refreshing honesty and assault on the lack of integration and the need for a stronger British identity to knit together different people in a common bond, did strike a chord.
It grieves me that in too many schools in my constituency, well over two thirds of school pupils only have English as their second language and many are clustered in the same areas. Children whose families have lived in Peterborough for 40 years should not be starting school without speaking English. It holds them and the school and other pupils back and we must tackle this segregation and lack of integration.
In our area, the glass is certainly half full but as Rudyard Kipling said, to have been born British is to have won the lottery of life.
Let’s hope all our fellow citizens understand and embrace that belief and we can share those British values of liberty, patriotism and tolerance.