Byline: Jonathan Walker
Britain has failed to help immigrants to feel part of British society.
That was the message from Conservative leader David Cameron yesterday as he reflected on his recent stay in Birmingham.
He said he understood the scale of the problem after spending a night as the guest of a Muslim family in the city, and warned that Britain needed to face up to the "growing problem of cultural separatism" in this country.
He was speaking at a conference on "Islam and Muslims in the World Today" at the University of Cambridge.
His comments meant both major parties were concentrating on ways of strengthening British identity yesterday.
Immigration Minister Liam Byrne, MP for Birmingham Hodge Hill, and Local Government Secretary Ruth Kelly argued it was essential to promote a stronger sense of Britishness, in a pamphlet published by the Fabian Society.
Their suggestions included a national "Britain" day, which would provide an opportunity for the nation to celebrate its history and achievements in a similar way to the Fourth of July in the US.
Meanwhile, Mr Cameron highlighted his overnight stay with the Rehman family in Balsall Heath, Birmingham, last month.
He said: "Of course the vast majority of families of recent immigrant origin do feel a strong sense of citizenship and what it is to be British.
"Indeed, my time in Birmingham with the Rehmans showed that if we want to remind ourselves of British values - hospitality, tolerance and generosity to name just three - there are plenty of British Muslims ready to show us what those things really mean."
But the stay also heightened his concern that some Muslims were feeling separate from the rest of British society.
He said: "I recently visited a mosque in Birmingham and got some depressing questions about who was really responsible for 9/11 and even 7/7.
"That it was a CIA plot. That Jews had been told to leave the twin towers.
"When it comes to 7/7, there was real scepticism about the suicide bomber videos being fake or not."
He added: "Some recent opinion polls have suggested that we may have a growing problem of cultural separatism.
"In other words, the next generation of British Muslims are more separate from mainstream opinion than their parents."
But it was difficult to encourage people to feel British unless Britain stood for civilised values, he said. …