Conservative Party leader David Cameron spent 2 days staying with a Muslim family in Birmingham last week. He now says 'British Asians' are a role model for British society. He wrote this article for The Observer today. It's not clear sometimes whether he is talking about 'British Asians' or 'British Muslims' though:
What I learnt from my stay with a Muslim family
by David Cameron, The Observer, 13 May 2007
The challenges of cohesion and integration are among the greatest we face. I wrote in these pages in January that we cannot bully people into feeling British: we have to inspire them. Last week, I spent two days staying with Abdullah and Shahida Rehman and their family in Birmingham. The experience has strengthened my conviction about the right way to build a more cohesive Britain.
First, a concerted attack on racism and soft bigotry. You can't even start to talk about a truly integrated society while people are suffering racist insults and abuse, as many still are in our country on a daily basis. We must also be careful about the language we use. No Muslim I've ever met is offended by Christmas, or supports its replacement with 'Winterval'. But many Muslims I've talked to about these issues are deeply offended by the use of the word 'Islamic' or 'Islamist' to describe the terrorist threat we face today.
We do need greater understanding of the true nature of the terrorist threat. There's too much complacency about it among non-Muslims, and too much denial of it in the Muslim community. But our efforts are not helped by lazy use of language. Indeed, by using the word 'Islamist' to describe the threat, we actually help do the terrorist ideologues' work for them, confirming to many impressionable young Muslim men that to be a 'good Muslim', you have to support their evil campaign.
There's no easy answer. I don't think this is something that can or should be addressed through a government edict, but the BBC, as our national broadcaster, has both the responsibility and the opportunity to give a lead.
The second priority for building cohesion in our country is more integration: people from different backgrounds sharing public services, neighbourhoods, social networks. As I found in Birmingham, this is something they naturally want to do, and local institutions - including religious ones - provide the opportunity.
For example, those who say that faith-based schools hinder integration are wrong. The three Muslim children in the household I stayed with go to a local faith school - a Jewish faith school, which is massively oversubscribed, has a mixed roll with some 60 per cent of pupils from Muslim families, around a third from Birmingham's Jewish community and the rest a mixture of Christians and Sikhs. My obvious question to Abdullah - why do you, a practising Muslim, send your kids to a Jewish school? - does not get just the obvious answer: good discipline and good results. On top of that, the very fact that the school has a faith and a strong ethos is seen, at least by Abdullah and his family, as a positive advantage.
And the third step in promoting integration is to ensure there's something worth integrating into. 'To make men love their country,' said Edmund Burke, 'their country ought to be lovable.' Integration has to be about more than immigrant communities, 'their' responsibilities and 'their' duties. It has to be about 'us' too - the quality of life that we offer, our society and our values.
Here the picture is bleak: family breakdown, drugs, crime and incivility are part of the normal experience of modern Britain. Many British Asians see a society that hardly inspires them to integrate. Indeed, they see aspects of modern Britain which are a threat to the values they hold dear - values which we should all hold dear. Asian families and communities are incredibly strong and cohesive, and have a sense of civic responsibility which puts the rest of us to shame. Not for the first time, I found myself thinking that it is mainstream Britain which needs to integrate more with the British Asian way of life, not the other way around.
Saying goodbye to Abdullah I was given gifts of T-shirts, shoes and a traditional robe which he said would be perfect for any visit to Pakistan. It's another reminder that integration is a two-way street. If we want to remind ourselves of British values - hospitality, tolerance and generosity to name just three - there are plenty of British Muslims ready to show us what those things really mean.
British Asians are role models, says Cameron (May 13)
is it me or will he make a good PM?