The Prime Minister’s speech in Birmingham today, outlining the elements of a strategy to tackle extremism, has been welcomed by many for a breadth and nuance that this morning’s newspaper headlines failed to capture, writes Steve Ballinger.
The commitment to “empowering moderate voices” among British Muslims, those who speak for the vast majority, is important – as is the acknowledgement that combating extremism is a shared challenge, not one for Muslims alone.
He was also right to focus on British values as a key foundation for efforts to build a more inclusive society, one that has no room for violent extremism.
Nearly nine in ten people (87%) support British values being taught in schools, according to polling by ICM for British Future, against only 13% who oppose the measure.
However, they are much less sure that we have a clear, commonly-held view of what those values are. Just under half (49%) of people overall believe that we have a clear sense of values regardless of race or religion, but 43% disagree.
Despite this, more than half (55%) of non-white voters believe that people in Britain do share a common set of British values, against only 33% who disagree.
Yet when asked what British values are, there is broad agreement across different faiths and ethnic groups: respect for the law (69%); respect for free speech (66%); democracy (64%); respect for private property (62%); and equality between men and women (61%).
These inclusive values should be at the heart of renewed efforts – with government, civic and religious leaders of all faiths working together – to build a British society that we can all share. Extremism offers a dangerous call to action and it’s important that counter-extremism doesn’t just propose inaction in its place, but also offers a positive vision of a confident, inclusive Britain that is open to all of us.