David Cameron’s Birmingham speech: some responses

Reactions to David Cameron’s heavily trailed speech on extremism, which promised support for liberal and reformist groups, but strongly criticised non-violent as well as violent extremism, have been predictable enough.  Even before it had been delivered, 5Pillars were grumbling about Cameron’s association between extremism and the idea of a Caliphate.  Glenn Greenwald wasn’t too impressed either:

By contrast Sunny Hundal offered a cautiously positive response:

Tell MAMA struck a similar note, highlighting the more supportive elements of Cameron’s speech, in particular his strongly worded condemnation of bigotry.

Quilliam, said to have advised on the speech, came in (as they always do) for plenty of stick.

Apart from perhaps not sharing David Cameron’s absolute confidence about what is and is not ‘true’ Islam, I thought the speech was generally thoughtful and reasonable. I very much agreed with his emphasis on engaging with secular voices rather than groups such as CAGE, and with his  sharp criticism of the double standards at work in university communities, much quicker to condemn the conventional far-right than they are Islamist extremists:

“When David Irving goes to a university to deny the Holocaust – university leaders rightly come out and condemn him,” Cameron said. “But when an Islamist extremist goes there to promote their poisonous ideology […] too often university leaders look the other way through a mixture of misguided liberalism and cultural sensitivity.”

This inconsistency is compounded by the fact that far-right figures are much more likely to speak in a context where they will be challenged, rather than invited as respected authority figures.