Rishi Sunak makes impassioned plea to protect British democracy

PTI, Mar 2, 2024, 8:41 AM IST

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Friday evening issued an impassioned plea for Britain to protect its democracy as he warned that extremist forces were out to tear the country apart and undermine its multi-faith identity.

Referencing his own Hindu beliefs, the British Indian leader stressed that the enduring values of the UK are about embracing migrants of all faiths and ethnicities and urged protesters to ensure peaceful demonstrations are not hijacked by extremist forces.

“Immigrants who have come here have integrated and contributed. They have helped write the latest chapter in our island story. They have done this without being required to give up their identity,” said Sunak in a speech outside 10 Downing Street. “You can be a practising Hindu and a proud Briton as I am, or a devout Muslim and a patriotic citizen as so many are, or a committed Jewish person and the heart of your local community, and all underpinned by the tolerance of our established, Christian church,” he said.

“But I fear that our great achievement in building the world’s most successful multi-ethnic, multi faith democracy is being deliberately undermined. There are forces here at home trying to tear us apart,” he added.

He was speaking soon after what he characterised as the ”beyond alarming” win in a byelection on Thursday of a controversial politician, George Galloway, in Greater Manchester following a campaign dominated by the divisions of the Israel-Hamas conflict. He said on too many occasions recently, the streets of Britain had been hijacked by small groups who are hostile to British values and have no respect for its democratic traditions.

“Islamist extremists and the far right feed off and embolden each other. They are equally desperate to pretend that their violence is somehow justified when actually these groups are two sides of the same extremist coin… both loathe the pluralist, modern country we are,” he said.

The British Prime Minister stressed that both these groups of extremists were spreading the poison of extremism with the aim of draining Britain’s confidence.

He added: “No country is perfect, but I am enormously proud of the good that our country has done.

“I stand here as our country’s first non-white Prime Minister, leading the most diverse government in our country’s history to tell people of all races, all faiths and all backgrounds it is not the colour of your skin, the God you believe in or where you were born, that will determine your success but just your own hard work and endeavour.” Sunak reiterated his support for a new protocol agreed with the police forces of the country earlier this week to take action against violent activities that threaten the personal security of members of Parliament and also any violence during serial protests taking place in response to the Israel-Hamas conflict. He said threats of violence and intimidation are alien to the British way of doing things and must be resisted at all times.

“I love this country. My family and I owe it so much. The time has now come for us all to stand together to combat the forces of division and beat this poison. We must face down the extremists who would tear us apart,” he urged.

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