David Cameron said it was time to replace Britain's 'passive tolerance' with an 'active, muscular liberalism' [EPA]

"State multiculturalism" has failed and left young Muslims vulnerable to radicalisation, David Cameron, the British prime minister, has said, arguing for a more active policy to heal divisions and promote Western values.

Cameron, in a speech to a security conference in Munich on Saturday, said that Britain and other European nations needed to "wake up to what is happening in our countries" as well as tackling terrorism through military operations overseas.

"Under the doctrine of state multiculturalism, we have encouraged different cultures to live separate lives, apart from each other and the mainstream," Cameron said.

"We have failed to provide a vision of society to which they feel they want to belong ... all this leaves some young Muslims feeling rootless.

"We've even tolerated these segregated communities behaving in ways that run completely counter to our values.

"It is time to turn the page on the failed policies of the past."

His comments echo those made by Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, last year and reflect a push by many European governments to try to better integrate immigrants, given persistent domestic tensions between different cultures.

'Muscular liberalism'

Cameron denied that cuts to defence spending as part of efforts to tackle a record budget deficit mean that Britain is retreating from an "activist" global role.

"That is the complete reversal of the truth," he said. "Yes, we are dealing with the deficit, but we are also making sure our defences are strong."

Aides say his comments on multiculturalism and radicalisation help give a sense of future policy, but it remains unclear how the ruling Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition intend to turn such a vision into a reality.

Critics point out that Western foreign policy in the Middle East and beyond, not just a clash of cultures at home, has played a big part in stirring up anti-Western sentiment.

Some members of Cameron's Conservative party, activists in right-wing movements and some voters believe that Britain has become a safe haven for people with anti-Western political views.

Others argue this tolerant approach is the lifeblood of any open and thriving democracy, fearing a crackdown on civil liberties would undermine the kind of society the government is seeking to establish.

Cameron said it was time to replace Britain's "passive tolerance" with an "active, muscular liberalism" to send a message that life in Britain revolves around certain key values such as freedom of speech, equal rights and the rule of law.

"A passively tolerant society ... stands neutral between different values," he said.

"A genuinely liberal country does much more. It believes in certain values and actively promotes them."

Source: Reuters