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British PM calls multiculturalism a failure

MUNICH, Germany - Agence France-Presse | 2/5/2011 12:00:00 AM |

Prime Minister David Cameron condemned Britain's long-standing policy of multiculturalism as a failure Saturday. (UPDATED)

British Prime Minister David Cameron condemned his country's long-standing policy of multiculturalism as a failure, saying it was partly to blame for fostering Islamist extremism.

In a speech to the Munich Security Conference on Saturday, Cameron said many young British Muslims were drawn to violent ideology because they found no strong collective identity in Britain.

Signaling a marked change in policy towards ethnic and religious minorities, he urged a "more active, muscular liberalism" where equal rights, the rule of law, freedom of speech and democracy were actively promoted. "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, who has recently admitted her country failed on multiculturalism.

But his remarks sparked a chorus of condemnation at home, with the Muslim Council of Britain expressing anger that the Muslim community was still being treated "as part of the problem as opposed to part of the solution."

Many criticized his timing, on the day that 2,000 members of the far-right English Defense League, or EDL, held a rally in the ethnically mixed city of Luton to protest against the spread of Islam in Britain.

Cameron did not mention the EDL but a lawmaker for the opposition Labour Party, Sadiq Khan, accused him of "writing propaganda for the EDL." The prime minister's speech was the first of his premiership on Islamist extremism, a major concern for British governments since four home-grown suicide bombers attacked London in 2005, killing 52 people.

It 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.

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