David Cameron was Prime Minister from 2010 to 2016. The text below is part of a speech he delivered to the Community Safety Trust earlier this week.
What you [Gerald Ronson] – and your staff, volunteers and supporters – have done for the Community Security Trust is incredible.
The last time I spoke at your Manchester dinner was 2007.
Quite a lot has happened in the decade since.
But one thing that hasn’t changed – indeed, one thing that has got stronger – is the warmth I’ve felt from Britain’s Jewish community. That is something I treasure.
I return here to the CST dinner as an unwavering supporter of your community. The fact is I am not just anti anti-Semitism.
I am pro the freedom to follow a faith and practice that faith, pro Britain’s Jewish community and the vast contribution it makes to this country, and yes, pro the state of Israel and its right to defend itself.
I have been thinking – how did I end up at this viewpoint? Not just as an advocate, but a staunch, steadfast supporter?
Some people might think it’s something to do with my heritage. My grandmother’s grandfather was, after all, a German Jewish banker, Emile Levita, who settled here, in Manchester, in the 1850s. Indeed, I even read – in the Jewish Chronicle no less, so it must be true – that, as a Levita, and therefore of the Tribe of Levi, I could actually be directly descended from the prophet Moses.
But this isn’t what shaped my outlook on these issues. I only found out about this ancestry when I was in my 40s. Indeed, for the first half of my life I had never been to Israel; I hadn’t really met any Jewish people. I didn’t know about the issues they faced – and I didn’t appreciate the contribution they made. So the truth is that my support is not inherited; it is learnt…
…Our agenda requires a clear understanding of the extremism we face. Yes, that extremism is often far-right thugs, as we saw in Charlottesville last month.
But look at Barcelona, London, Brussels, Paris. And look down the road from us at Manchester Arena, where children and their families were murdered. I know everyone in this room will have been touched or affected in some way by that tragedy. We should praise the efforts of everyone – the community, Greater Manchester Police and the other emergency services – in the aftermath of that horror.
And we should remember something. When we look at these cases and so many others, what we are dealing with is extremist Islamist terrorism.
It’s simply not good enough to say that these are extremists without recognising, understanding and challenging the reference they make to religion. The terrorists self-identify as such, quoting verses of scripture before committing their horrific acts.
Of course, Islam is a religion of harmony and peace, practiced by over a billion people across our globe. But a small minority have perverted it into an extreme political mission combined with a death cult.
It is not caused by poverty; many of them come from well off homes with life chances and opportunities.
It cannot be justified by opposition to western foreign policy; too many forget that the attack on New York – 16 years ago today – happened before the Iraq war, and not the other way around.
What we are up against is an extreme ideology. It is an ideology that says that Christians, Hindus, Jews and Muslims cannot live together, that Muslims must only live in one way – in a barbaric, medieval caliphate – and that all who question this path are targets – and it is right to kill them.
We must be clear about the nature of that – and we must defeat it together.
That has real consequences for our policies at home and abroad. Because we won’t win this fight against extremism if we let extremist preachers come here and poison minds. We won’t win if we allow extremists to run schools or madrassas. We won’t win if we support organisations that may not endorse violence but support the thinking that leads to violence.
There should be no opt-outs for combatting extremism. Not for universities, not for schools, not for aid organisations, not for governments, not for communities – not for anyone.
If this is the greatest challenge we face – and I believe it is – we all need to be far more focused on combatting Islamist extremism in all its forms.