In a carefully-written article for The Sunday Telegraph, David Davis has joined the growing number of Labour MPs who are raising concerns about the failure of many Muslims to integrate into British society. In this week’s Spectator Fraser Nelson, Political Editor, had already noticed Labour’s initiative in this area:
"Tensions over multiculturalism are rapidly growing and Mr Straw has raised an issue more real to the British public than any soap opera being played out in Westminster. Mr Brown and Mr Reid both understand the power of this subject — hence their interest in (respectively) Britishness and controlling immigration. Everything may be going wrong in government, and the Tories may be gathering strength. But for a beleaguered Labour government, declaring such a cultural war might just provide the perfect diversion."
Mr Davis is now playing catch-up. He says that Jack Straw was right to recently identify the communication barrier presented by the Muslim veil but he also agreed that neither he nor Labour’s Leader of the House would legislate to prevent someone from choosing to wear the veil. The excited popular response to the veil debate reflected, the Shadow Home Secretary thinks, a fear within Britain that our nation is becoming an increasingly divided society:
"What is important is the greater issue of social division. At the starkest level, we may be creating conditions in the recesses of our society that foster home-grown terrorism. The vast majority of British Muslims lead lives that are practically identical to the lives of everyone else living, working and playing in the same places. But we may be allowing the radicalisation of a few young Muslims. At its very least, there is a growing feeling that the Muslim community is excessively sensitive to criticism, unwilling to engage in substantive debate. Much worse is the feeling of some Muslim leaders that as a community they should be protected from criticism, argument, parody, satire and all the other challenges that happen in a society that has free speech as its highest value."
Mr Davis goes on to make a number of criticisms of how the Labour Government has responded to recent episodes where radical Muslims have clashed with wider British society. He accuses Labour of dithering in response to the Danish cartoons protests; weakness in delaying prosecution of Abu Hamza and other preachers of hate; of attempting to bring in a religious hatred law that would have "imposed the biggest restriction on free speech in peacetime in this country"; and of careless initiatives in the wake of 7/7.
Mr Davis offers little new in the article in terms of solutions but he has at least joined a debate that Labour politicians were beginning to dominate.