David Cameron with the Prime Minister of Malaysia

Prime Minister David Cameron's speech, with Prime Minister Najib Razak, at the University of Nottingham, Malaysia.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government
The Rt Hon David Cameron

Introduction of David Cameron by Prime Minister Najib Razak

Good afternoon, I would very much like to welcome the Prime Minister of the UK, the Right Honourable David Cameron, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen. When Prime Minister David Cameron called me a few weeks ago, one of the first things he said to me was, ‘I’d like to share the same platform with you on the Global Movement of the Moderates’. And today he’s keeping his promise, and we’re here today to share the same platform to talk about the Global Movement of the Moderates.

I’m really delighted that Prime Minster David Cameron decided to visit Malaysia and visit the Nottingham Campus. It’s of course my alma mater. I went to Malvern and Nottingham. Prime Minister David Cameron did a lot worse: he went to Eton and Oxford. And today we’re going to talk about the Global Movement of the Moderates, but before we go to the subject of Global Movement of the Moderates, I’d just like to make a remark about how much we have in common within our countries. We drive on the left side - or the wrong side - of the road and we continue to do so.

We have the same legal system; we have the Westminster. We have a parliamentary democracy. It’s actually a Westminster type of democracy. Of course, they have moved on. They’ve decided on a fixed term of tenure of five years. But we’ve still stuck to the old system. So I have the liberty of deciding when the next general election should be, which may or may not work for me or against me - it remains to be seen. But we have so much in common. Of course, football is a great thing in Malaysia and I told David Cameron in the car that the best place in the world to watch English football is right here in Malaysia. People are passionate about football; I’m a passionate supporter of Manchester United. I think I’ve struck the right chord. I wouldn’t embarrass David with the team he supports, Aston Villa, but I think Manchester United will meet Aston Villa again in the next few days, so we will see what happens then.

We have a lot of things here. We understand some of the things like British brands here: Rolls Royce, even Marks & Spencer is here. When I described Marks & Spencer as Marks & Sparks, some Malaysians thought I made a mistake. But actually Marks & Sparks to the Brits is Marks & Sparks, to the Malaysians it’s Marks & Spencer.

British humour is well appreciated here, Prime Minister, if you’d like to know. Personally, one of my favourite programmes is, of course, Yes, Minister and Yes, Prime Minister. Some very quotable quotes. I remember one of the earlier episodes when Minister Hacker came into the office and Bernard said ‘Sir, we’ll take care of your letters’. ‘As in what way?’ ‘Well, we will reply either, ‘we will look into it’ or ‘we will seriously look into it’’. So in a rather baffled manner he quizzed Bernard and said, ‘What’s the difference?’ ‘Well, sir, when we say we will look into your letter it means we have lost your letter. When we say, ‘We will seriously look into it’, it means we are looking for your letter.’ So that has stuck with me in terms of how to deal with bureaucracy.

I’m very fond of this rather wry humour. When a good friend of mine - in my previous life - took me to this wonderful club in London called ‘White’s’, and of course I did ask him whether I would be allowed in the club. We had this wonderful lunch and after lunch we adjourned to this room to have coffee. In this room I saw a few elderly looking gentlemen slumped in their chairs, ostensibly looking and reading newspapers. So I said to my friend, Lord Cranborne, ‘How do you know whether they are still alive?’ And he said, without missing a beat, ‘Very easy, just look at the date of the newspaper’.

So, Prime Minister, you are in good company here. We understand British humour; we understand how the British mind works. I’m delighted that you’re here putting right what has been missing in our bilateral relations, which is a long hiatus. The previous visit by a UK Prime Minister took place almost 19 years ago. So David Cameron has put it right, and from now on we see a strong resurgence in UK British relations. Thank you very much for your presence and support.

Touching on the Global Movement of the Moderates, there is something which is important to us because I made a couple of very, very poignant, very, strong points in my speech in Oxford. I said,’You know the four young men who came from Yorkshire and decided to bomb the London Underground, they were wrong. They were people who were misconceived in their ideas because they thought they were doing something right for Islam. They were doing a wrong, very sinful deed because Islam is against killing yourself, first of all. That is un-Islamic; it’s totally unacceptable.’ I believe that I am one of the few Muslim leaders who have said it - and put it on record - that Islam is against suicide killing. Secondly, Islam is against killing of the innocent. So bombing civilians is totally unacceptable in Islam; as you know, even in conflict or war, you are not allowed to kill innocent civilians.

That is why the Movement of the Moderates is so important because underpinning the fight against global terrorism – by the way, I am against the idea or notion of calling it a war against global terrorism because a war connotes just using military might. You really can’t put down extremism, fanaticism and global terrorism just by using military might. You have to tackle it where it is important: it is in the minds of the people. You have to tell to them what is right and what is wrong. And if they understand that Islam stands for life; Islam is against killing oneself; Islam is an inherently, fundamentally moderate religion in the sense that Islam rejects extremism. Islam respects other religions and other faiths, for example, Prophet Muhammad, during his lifetime there was a funeral of a Jew passing by him and he stood up to give respect. His friends, asked him, ‘Prophet, why did you do it?’ And his response was, ‘I am respecting him because he is another human being’. That is the true value of Islam: Islam stands for universal good values, and respecting other faiths and religion is part and parcel of Islam as well.

So that’s the message that we need to send to the world; people who believe in moderation should speak up. It’s only those who are at the extreme -the fringes – who make the loudest noises. If we do not stare them down, if we do not speak up, if we do not articulate our views, then the people on the fringes – the extremists – will occupy the centre stage. This is where we will lose out. That is why we call for the Global Movement of the Moderates, so that moderates across all faith will speak up – will articulate – and will drown out the voices of the extremists. The problem is not between Christianity and Islam; it’s not between the Muslims and the Christians; it’s between the extremists and the moderates. So if we are all together in this Global Movement of the Moderates, I believe that we have very strong, underlying philosophical basis for us to tackle global terrorism. We all want to live in a more peaceful and more secure world.

Finally, I’d like to say that the future of the world rests upon the young people; that’s why we are here. I would like to echo Prime Minister David Cameron’s idea that there is nothing more important than us relating to the young people, because as we always say, ‘You are the face of the future. If you all believe in being moderates, if you believe principally that moderation in the right path, then I think we will have a much better future for all of us.’ Thank you very much.

David Cameron

Thank you, Prime Minister Najib. Ladies and gentlemen, as-salamu alaykum. Thank you for inviting me to join you today, and thank you for speaking about our shared interests, our shared values, our shared history.

Prime Minister, ever since your visit to London and your speech in Oxford last year, I’ve been keen to share a platform with you on the Global Movement of Moderates. So I’m very pleased to do so as part of my visit to Malaysia today. We are here to discuss something that we feel very strongly about as your powerful speech just now has demonstrated. I think it’s great that we’re able to do this at the Nottingham University campus here in Malaysia; the first full campus of a British university overseas. A really pioneering partnership that sees the full breadth of the academic study and research here in Malaysia. It represents the best of British and the best of Malaysia. I’m very proud to be here today.

I know, Prime Minister, that developing this campus has long been an urge of yours when you were Education Minister. So I’m grateful to you, Prime Minister Najib, for your vision and your support over many years in helping to bring this about.

Now of course, there are many huge challenges facing our world that we could discuss today: tackling climate change; securing sustainable economic growth; how we cope with the aftermath of the financial crisis. But one of the biggest challenges of all is how we tackle the rise of Islamist extremism: young men who follow a completely perverse, warped interpretation of Islam who are prepared to blow themselves up and kill their fellow citizens in the process.

And that extremism is what I want to talk about today. We need to be, as you were, sir, absolutely clear about the nature of the threat we face in order to address it correctly. So let me first be absolutely clear what I’m not saying. I’m not saying that terrorism is linked exclusively to any one religion or ethnic group. It is not. In Britain, in my country for example, we still face threats from dissident groups, terrorist groups in Northern Ireland. And I’m also not suggesting that Islam is the same as Islamist extremism. It is not: they are completely different and we should be absolutely clear on this point.

Islam is a religion of peace observed devoutly by over a billion people across the world. Islamist extremism is a warped political ideology. It is vital that we make this distinction between religion on the one hand and an extremist political ideology on the other. Because time and again, too many people equate the two. They think whether someone is an extremist is dependent on how much they observe their religion. So, they talk about moderate Muslims as if all devout Muslims must be extremist. This is profoundly wrong. You can be a devout, faithful Muslim and not be an extremist. And the idea that extremism means passion whereas moderation is for those weak in their faith, is also a dangerous myth. We need to be absolutely clear. Religion and political ideology are not the same thing. The real divide, as you said Prime Minister, is not between East and West or between the developed or developing worlds or between Muslims and non-Muslims, the real divide is between political moderates and political extremists.

Now, having made that distinction, let’s be clear about the reality of the threat that we face from Islamist extremism. From 9/11 and 7/7 to the bombs in Madrid or in Bali, we have seen our security interests intertwined as never before in the face of prejudice, persecution and sickening acts of terror and violence. These killings have been indiscriminate. Indeed, there are more Muslim people in the death toll of these bombs than any other religious group. As you have said so powerfully, Prime Minister, the terrorists who carried out these attacks do not represent Islam. And such vile misrepresentations of Islam, as you said again today, are source of great anguish to the vast majority of Muslims. And your powerful and moving condemnation of suicide bombing in your speech in Oxford last year, repeated again today, has rightly won you plaudits and admiration. Together, we must defeat this ideology. And I believe that we can. So, let me turn to how we do so.

Part of the answer has to be a security response. There are people who have tried to kill and maim and who have to be stopped. And thanks to counter-terrorism efforts and thanks to the cooperation of like-minded states, this can happen. But this, as you’ve just said, can only ever be a part of the answer. We can stop many of the terrorists through counter-terrorism measures: policing, intelligence, prosecution, conviction. And another important part of defeating extremism is to tackle all the issues of grievance, whether it is the treatment of the Palestinians or the poverty of so many Muslims in the world.

But while that can drain the swamp, we should be clear that nothing justifies terrorism. And as the Prime Minister has said, some of the terrorists indeed come from middle income or even wealthy backgrounds. So ultimately, as you have argued, as I argue today, we need to defeat the idea on which that terrorism is based. And this is where the Global Movement of Moderates is so vital. As you have said, it is for people who cherish moderation, dignity and justice everywhere to stand firm, to stand proud and to dissipate the pool of terror and deny those at the margins a foothold in this middle ground. That is what your movement is all about and it is why I’m so pleased to support it.

Now, since your speech at the UN in September 2010 this idea has captured imaginations around the world. And we very much welcome the new Global Movement of Moderates foundation and have been thinking about how we can help support a European dimension for this work. And it seems to me the most crucial question is: how do we inspire people, particularly young people that this is the right approach?

For some time many people claimed that the way to tackle extremism and to maintain security, stability and moderation was to enforce it with strong, authoritarian leaders. This was the argument that gave support – including, I have to say, from the West – to leaders like Mubarak in Egypt, Gaddafi in Libya or Assad in Syria. But the reality is that authoritarianism builds up resentment by denying people the rights and the responsibilities and the freedoms of citizenship. It denies them dignity. It feeds rather than negates the narrative of Muslim and Arab victimhood. It weakens the legitimacy of the state and fails to address the very emotions and frustrations that can drive people to extremism in the first place. So, authoritarianism cannot be the way to defeat extremism or to bolster moderation in the long-term.

The right way to foster this moderation is I believe to build the building blocks of democracy. The independence of the judiciary, the rule of law, the rights of individuals, a free media and association, a proper place in society for the army, strong political parties and a strong, rich, civil society. These democratic foundations are the greatest threat to extremism and the vital foundation for moderation.

Why? Well, because democracy, real democracy – not just where you vote every four or five years, but where you have a real voice, real rights, real freedoms – that is the foundation of dignity. The Islamist extremists claim they provide a route to dignity through the supposed purity of their world view but they’re wrong. Their denial of individual rights and freedoms are in fact the denial of true dignity. The extremists want to impose a particular and very specific form of Islam on society to the exclusion of all others. So, they reject debate and democratic consent. They argue that Islam and democracy are incompatible and they deny rights to people who don’t share their particular view. Democracy requires people to respect the rights of others and to make their case reasonably in a democratic debate. It demands that everyone enjoys the same freedoms, rights and responsibilities as citizens together, whether or not they subscribe to any one specific version of religious faith. And as I’ve said, most crucially of all, democracy gives people the power and dignity to choose; the ability to take decisions over your own lives, not to have someone else’s will imposed on you.

That is a vision that has inspired people throughout history, and the struggles for freedom – whether in North Africa or in Burma today – show it still inspires people in our modern world. Democracy and moderation go hand in hand. And that is what countries like Malaysia and Indonesia are showing. It is possible to develop a democracy and a modern economy that neither compromises people’s security nor their ability to practise their religion by guaranteeing democratic citizenship for all. A citizenship that means access to justice and the rule of law is available to everyone. A citizenship that means every individual has the same fair access to services. A citizenship that means that everyone has a fair chance to play a role in shaping their own society.

As I said in Jakarta this morning, there is a great global opportunity right now to demonstrate that democracy doesn’t endanger stability, moderation and prosperity; but is indeed the best foundation for it. That democracy offers an alternative to both dictatorship and extremism. And that following the example of the Global Movement of Moderates, young people across the world should be inspired to chose democracy as their future. This would be the greatest defeat that al-Qaeda and its affiliates could ever suffer. They fear democracy, they fear choice, they fear young people being inspired by that vision more than anything else. And that to me is what the Global Movement of Moderates and your leadership, Prime Minister, can help us to bring about.

Thank you very much for listening.

QUESTION Mr Cameron, I hear you’re ending your tour of Asia in Burma. And I was just wondering what you’re going to be doing to strengthen relations between the UK and Burma when you visit?

PRIME MINISTER Well, Britain has historically had very strong relations with Burma for obvious historical reasons. In recent years, we’ve obviously had very difficult relations because Britain has taken the view that the regime in Burma was an undemocratic regime, was one that held back the forces of democracy and freedom, that imprisoned people who spoke out on political issues and that placed Aung San Suu Kyi effectively under continual and repeated house arrest.

But what I see happening in Burma is a potential flowering of freedom and democracy. And I think from everything I’ve seen – although I will see for myself tomorrow – it seems as if the President of Burma is intent on taking a new path and wants to see a progressive flourishing of freedom and democracy. And those aren’t just my words or the words of the Prime Minister of Malaysia, that is the feeling of Aung San Suu Kyi who has suffered incredibly a long and lonely but incredibly dignified struggle for democracy.

So, I hope that following my meetings tomorrow I will have the confidence to go back to my country, to go back to others in the European Union and argue that the change in Burma is irreversible: that they are set on a path towards democracy. That in a world of difficulty and darkness and all sorts of problems, here is one bright light that we should encourage and we should respond in a way that makes that regime feel that it is moving in the right direction and the world is on its side.

QUESTION Do you think that Burma would be more likely to follow the direction of democracy if Britain had done something earlier?

PRIME MINISTER Well, I think that I would argue that Britain has played quite a leadership role in having a tough approach to the Burmese regime. We have often led the arguments in the European Union for putting sanctions in place and for putting embargoes in place and for the motions and other things we’ve done both through the European Union and at the UN. So, I think if you want to look around for countries that have not taken a tough approach against the Burmese regime, I think you’d have to look elsewhere than the United Kingdom.

NAJIB RAZAK I would just like to – the word ‘irreversible’ was actually used by President Thein Sein when I had a four-eyed meeting with him. So, my assessment is I told Prime Minister Cameron that the path towards reform and more inclusive democracy is the path that they are committed to. And whether it’s because of tough sanctions or because of the ASEAN way, which is more conciliatory, is arguable. But what is important is that they have decided to make real reform and real change is taking place there.

QUESTION Hi. What is Global Movement of Moderates doing about Syria?

NAJIB RAZAK I think we will not be country specific, but we are concerned – obviously concerned about what is happening in Syria. Our position is that there must be a political solution, violence must stop, intervention diplomatically should be done, some tough sanctions be put into place. Syria must receive a strong message that they need to comply with the demands of the international community. But as far as the Movement is concerned, we just want to spread the meaning of moderation so that more and more people will realise the importance of being committed towards moderation as a way of life as well as a solution towards solving any problems in the world.

PRIME MINISTER I very much agree with that. I think the strength of the Global Movement for Moderates is that the problem we face in the world, if you look behind the terrorism, the problem is an idea, is an ideology. That somehow you achieve your goals and greater purity through an ideological extremism. And to me, the strength of the Global Movement of Moderates is that it is trying to take on and defeat that idea. That’s not to say there aren’t important things we have to do to combat the fact of terrorism: cooperation between like-minded countries. It’s not to say we don’t have to deal with some of the very strong issues that concern people around the world – and I mention Palestine, but we could mention many others – but there’s an idea that lies behind even that: this idea of political extremism and this warped version of Islam, that the Prime Minister, I think, has set his face against and this movement can have such a strong impact in arguing against.

QUESTION Honourable Prime Ministers, it’s a pleasure for you to be here. My question, is, first of all, Mr Cameron, you did mention that multiculturalism has failed and British people should adopt more British values while on the other hand, Prime Minister Najib has embraced multiculturalism and put forth the idea of ‘one Malaysia’. My question is what are the values that British and Malaysian people can possibly embrace together?

PRIME MINISTER I think we’re really not disagreeing on this at all. I think there is a linguistic issue that I need to explain. What I argued in my speech in Munich is that the approach we have taken in Britain in years gone past – what I would call a state multiculturalism – where we’ve said to people coming to Britain, we’ve kept them in separate silos and we’ve treated Somalis as Somalis rather than British Somalis, or we’ve treated Pakistanis as Pakistanis rather than British Pakistanis. That has been wrong. And we need instead – I was very struck actually at the lunch by the way you put the arguments about ‘one Malaysia’ – we need an approach that says whoever comes to our country, of course they don’t give up all their culture, all their heritage. But they should be part of building one single and stronger society – a British society and I think that’s exactly the argument you’re making here in Malaysia. So I use the term ‘state multiculturalism’ to describe what is wrong in the past. But I suspect we’d have very similar views on how you actually try and build a strong and cohesive society where you have to build an identity for everyone.

NAJIB RAZAK Yes indeed, we do have – we are on the same page because you know we believe in the idea that the there must be a sense of belonging and whilst we celebrate diversity, whilst we are at ease with diversity, there must be one common thread that binds people together. Otherwise we’ll be working at odds with one another, we’ll be living in silos, but there is no sense of togetherness binding us as one community with one dream, one goal and that’s what ‘one Malaysia’ is all about.

Published 13 April 2012