Conservative leader David Cameron has accused the government of trying to "bully people into feeling British".
David Cameron has called for a calmer debate
Writing in The Observer, he attacked Labour's "clunking" efforts to promote national identity, such as urging Muslims to "spy" on their children.
He also criticised the government's "dangerous muddling" of community cohesion and the terror threat.
The Tory leader will also pledge later to tackle the oppression of Muslim women, in a speech in Birmingham.
The government has launched a number of efforts to promote national identity and cohesion, including citizenship tests for foreigners who want to become British.
Chancellor Gordon Brown, widely expected to be Mr Cameron's opponent at the next general election, has also made "Britishness" one of his key themes.
In a speech last year, he urged Labour supporters to "embrace the Union flag" and celebrate shared British values of decency and tolerance.
Home Secretary John Reid has, meanwhile, made promoting better community relations part of his strategy for tackling the rise of extremism.
But he created controversy last year when he urged British Muslims to "confront" extremist bullies in their communities - and said Muslim parents should guard against their children becoming radicalised.
In his article, Mr Cameron says "new ways should be found to celebrate our sense of nationhood".
"A number of interventions we have seen from ministers recently have spectacularly failed to do that," the Tory leader writes.
"Instructing Muslim parents to spy on their children. Offending our war heroes with the proposal of a new 'Veteran's Day' when we already have Remembrance Sunday. Suggesting that we put flags on the lawn."
Mr Cameron calls for a "calm, thoughtful and reasonable" approach to building community cohesion.
"It's no use behaving like the proverbial English tourist abroad, shouting ever more loudly at the hapless foreigner who doesn't understand what is being said.
"We can't bully people into feeling British - we have to inspire them," he said. "Inspiring as well as demanding loyalty from every citizen will require a new crusade for fairness."
In his speech later, Mr Cameron will warn that in some parts of Britain's Muslim community "women are being denied access to education, work, involvement in the political process and surprisingly even denied access to mosques".
He will go on to say: "We must be bold, and not hide behind the screen of cultural sensitivity to say publicly that no woman should be denied rights which both their religion and their country, Britain, support".