By Max Wind-Cowie, Head of the Progressive Conservatism Project at Demos.
When David Cameron announced that he wants his Government to pursue ‘active, muscular liberalism’ he was met with a chorus of angst, anger and attitude. Opposition to Cameron’s Munich speech, and to its policy implications, came in two guises. First up were those who claimed that it was somehow sinister, or at the very least oxymoronic, to be a ‘muscular liberal’ – that we have no business worrying about what British Muslims think, say or believe until they break the law. Second, but no less vociferous, were those critics who blasted the Prime Minister’s supposed naivety about Islam. Muslims, this argument runs, cannot join the liberal mainstream of British society precisely because they are Muslims.
Fortunately for the Prime Minister, for all of us, both these lines of attack are profoundly flawed. British Muslims are more liberal, more tolerant and more open than they are often given credit for and this not only justifies Cameron’s commitment to weeding out extremism in their leadership but it holds out hope of success in promoting better, deeper cultural and social integration more widely.
The Progressive Conservatism Project at Demos will soon be launching a new collection of essays on conservatism and multiculturalism in partnership with the Runnymede Trust, for which we polled British people on a series of issues connected with ethnic cohesion, racial justice and immigration. The results that stand out as striking are those that tell us what British Muslims really think about modern British norms and values.