LONDON (AFP) - Extremism is flourishing in Britain because the country has been too bashful in promoting its values, Prime Minister David Cameron said on Sunday.
Schools should not just respect British values but actively promote them, Mr Cameron said in an article in The Mail on Sunday newspaper.
His intervention comes after concerns that conservative Muslims in Birmingham had conducted an organised campaign to impose faith-based ideology in the city's schools. Those allegations renewed fears about the risk to young people in Britain of Islamic extremism, and exposed a rift at the heart of the government about how to tackle religious radicalism.
Writing about a "muscular" new defence of "British values", Mr Cameron said he was talking about "a belief in freedom, tolerance of others, accepting personal and social responsibility, respecting and upholding the rule of law.
"To me they're as British as the Union flag, as football, as fish and chips. They should be promoted in every school and to every child in our country."
He said these values, respect for the history that helped deliver them and the institutions that uphold them form the "bedrock of Britishness".
"Sometimes in this country we can be a bit squeamish about our achievements, even bashful about our Britishness. We shouldn't be," the Prime Minister wrote.
"In recent years we have been in danger of sending out a worrying message: that if you don't want to believe in democracy, that's fine; that if equality isn't your bag, don't worry about it; that if you're completely intolerant of others, we will still tolerate you.
"This has not just led to division, it has also allowed extremism - of both the violent and non-violent kind - to flourish.
"So I believe we need to be far more muscular in promoting British values and the institutions that uphold them."
He said the approach in schools was changing so that teachers would "actively promote" such values rather than merely respect them.
Concerns about how some schools in Birmingham, central England, were being run first emerged last year in a leaked anonymous letter which outlined how to implement the takeover of schools by hardline Muslims, dubbed "Operation Trojan Horse".