The Communities and Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles gave a speech recently on Britishness.
Mr Pickles noted that the challenges to British values come from different places:
"Here in Britain tolerance, decency and respect for others are embedded deep within our psyche. Our warmth and hospitality, our willingness to welcome other views and embrace other ways of life are what has made Britain a beacon of hope around the world. Now a few voices from the fringes try and challenge those values:
- Whether Islamist preachers of hate peddling a twisted and distorted version of a peaceful faith
- Or whether malicious trouble makers on the far left – a rent-a-mob only interested in stirring up trouble
- Or those on the far-right who try and claim that being a Muslim and being British are incompatible
Each in their own way attempting to corrode and destroy from within with lies, aggression and violence.
These purveyors of hatred are anti-British.
A powerful theme. These extremists do feed off each other. Mr Pickles added:
After the horrific murder of Drummer Lee Rigby in Woolwich – a young man in the prime of life wearing a ‘Help for Heroes’ t-shirt – Muslim communities were united in revulsion and shouted the loudest of all of us to say not in my name.
In the wake of this senseless death there were a number of attacks on mosques, but still the community was resilient. Still they refused to be cowed or put in the corner – instead they said firmly: we will open our doors, we will welcome in our neighbours and we will work with our community to build a better nation.
We saw that in York where the Muslim community responded to EDL provocation as any Yorkshireman would do – with a cup of tea.
Showing compassion and courage and generosity – a very English gesture and an act of pure genius.
Meeting hatred and anger with friendship – completely defusing the situation.
What a gesture of sincerity, which did so much more good than the self indulgent and pompous posturing of groups like the UAF who are more interested in stirring up further trouble than in actually solving problems.
"the self indulgent and pompous posturing of groups like the UAF who are more interested in stirring up further trouble than in actually solving problems."
The DCLG are supporting the work of Youth United – a group which encourages young people from all communities to join groups like the cadets.
Expressing the case in human terms rather than jargon is welcome. Attacking multiculturalism has been misinterpreted. I was pleased that Mr Pickles avoided it. Debating these concepts can often cause more confusion than enlightenment. The most important way of breaking down barriers in our society is that those settled here are all able to speak English. This is one of the many issues that Mr Pickles is dealing with.