Alle som kommer til Storbritannia må gjerne beholde sin kultur og religion, men de må fremfor alt bekjenne seg til et sett av verdier som utgjør kjernen i det britiske demokrati. Hvis de ikke aksepterer disse verdiene kan de bare dra, sa statsminister Tony Blair i en tale som markerer at regjeringen har endret syn på det multikulturelle samfunn.

Flere statsråder har det siste halvåret holdt taler som peker i samme retning: hvis man lar grupper styre seg selv vil samfunnet til slutt falle fra hverandre. Det må være noen sentrale verdier som er bindende for alle. Hvis ikke vil integrasjon bare bli et tomt ord.

In a speech that overturned more than three decades of Labour support for the idea, he set out a series of requirements that were now expected from ethnic minority groups if they wished to call themselves British.

These included «equality of respect» – especially better treatment of women by Muslim men – allegiance to the rule of law and a command of English. If outsiders wishing to settle in Britain were not prepared to conform to the virtues of tolerance then they should stay away.

He added: «Conform to it; or don’t come here. We don’t want the hate-mongers, whatever their race, religion or creed.

«If you come here lawfully, we welcome you. If you are permitted to stay here permanently, you become an equal member of our community and become one of us.

«The right to be different. The duty to integrate. That is what being British means.»

Although Mr Blair, speaking in Downing Street, said the diversity of cultures in Britain should still be celebrated, the whole tone of his speech was against the ideology that became known as multiculturalism.

«The right to be in a multicultural society was always implicitly balanced by a duty to integrate, to be part of Britain, to be British and Asian, British and black, British and white,» he said.

«Integration is not about culture or lifestyle,» said Mr Blair. «It is about values. It is about integrating at the point of shared, common unifying British values. It isn’t about what defines us as people, but as citizens, the rights and duties that go with being a member of our society.

«Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs and other faiths have a perfect right to their own identity and religion, to practice their faith and to conform to their culture. This is what multicultural, multi-faith Britain is about. That is what is legitimately distinctive.

«But when it comes to our essential values – belief in democracy, the rule of law, tolerance, equal treatment for all, respect for this country and its shared heritage – then that is where we come together, it is what we hold in common; it is what gives us the right to call ourselves British. At that point no distinctive culture or religion supercedes our duty to be part of an integrated United Kingdom.»

Blair: Paying religious groups is a mistake

Muslimske organisasjoner likte ikke det de hørte.

The speech was greeted with a mixture of anger from Muslim groups and scepticism from his political opponents. A spokesman for the Muslim Association of Britain called it «concerning and alarming». He added: «Mr Blair should be investing in our society to help the deprived, rather than investing millions and billions in illegal occupations which had not helped to promote multiculturalism in this country.

«Rather than standing up and lecturing us, it’s time he puts his money where his mouth is.»

Blair er spesielt opptatt av likhet mellom kjønnene, og har bestilt en rapport til neste vår om hvordan likestillingen kan bedres innen religiøse samfunn.

But his specific proposals were aimed directly at the Muslim community.

He suggested that women were not treated well and should be allowed access to mosques. «Those that exclude the voice of women need to look again at their practices. I am not suggesting altering the law. But we have asked the Equal Opportunities Commission to produce a report by the spring of next year on how these concerns could be practically addressed, whilst of course recognising that in many religions the treatment of women differs from that of men.»

There was also no question of Islamic Sharia law being imposed in any part of the country, though there was room for the agreed settlement of civil disputes by religious courts, something that happens in the Jewish community.