Tuesday, August 09, 2005


Whither Multiculturalism?

I have been watching events unfold with our British Allies. Adrian Warnock, posting at his UK Evangelical Blog, summed up what seems to be widespread British reaction. I do not mean to underestimate the British or their determination in this struggle our two countries share, but I have been surprised by the magnitude of the British response to recent Al Qaeda attacks and intended targeting. As many commentators have pointed out, Britain has been as enmeshed in a distorted multicultural ethic as much as any nation in Europe. And yet the recent attacks and attempts appear to have woken them from slumber. Warnock describes the “awakening”:
Perhaps the most interesting part of the news that I read is that Blair is considering altering the UK's bill of Human Rights to accommodate this if judges get squeamish about sending people who want to harm us to parts of the world where they themselves might be harmed.

Perhaps we are finally realizing that we can’t base our morality purely on a "rights" approach. The biblical way is instead to base our morality on responsibility. What business do we have in tolerating in our country those who openly advocate violence against it and call for its destruction in public.
Until I read Warnock’s piece, I had been “gathering on my desktop” quotes and pieces from several recent posts of commentary on multiculturalism, and thoughts from Western Jihadis and those who monitor them closely. What emerged, illuminated by Warnock, was of a country perhaps too long obsessed with political and diplomatic niceties despite it’s now 2 year war effort in Iraq, and considerable evidence that nation states (including one leg of the Axis of Evil triad) and non-state actors in our midst continue to actively plot further carnage.

Facts on the ground have clearly shifted. Europeans are studying carefully the American Patriot Act for suitable translation for continental use, this despite what should be known in legal circles, but I never see expressed (in the press), that British and European legal systems and laws are already far more intrusive and draconian in such matters than our quite modest efforts with the Patriot Act. Think Red Brigades, and of course, the Irish Republican Army, and rational observers might see the causation of a tougher European legal approach.

Now Blair quite boldly – has there been a British leader since Churchill with as much raw political courage as our man Tony (yes, yes I know some will say Thatcher) makes an aggressive play towards harnessing public outrage at the attacks, and channeling it towards support for a fundamental shift in the British basis for immigration.

The blog Protein Wisdom neatly summarized:
Make no mistake: this is not an example of legislating against “thought crimes”; this is a pragmatic attempt, on the part of a concerned government who is starting to realize the danger their country is in, to begin addressing the horrific damage done by an extended milieu of multicultural permissiveness that has in fact resulted in enclaves of British “citizens,” grouped into self-protecting communities, who openly swear allegiance to the destruction of the West. (Tip of the hat to Hugh Hewitt)
Multicultural permissiveness. This captures the danger exactly. Tolerance can be exalted above all reason, and elevated as a higher virtue than all others creates many unwarranted and unwanted distortions. The British example (and French and Dutch for that matter) should present in stark relief what can become of such misguided resistance to (and an active offense against) the previously enshrined principle of assimilation so long represented in America’s Melting Pot mythology.

An unadulterated Multiculturalism, in its place, takes away essential moral, ethical and critical components vital to the survival of democracy and freedom.

Norm Geras, posting at his excellent Normblog, describes the philosophical quicksand upon which the orthodoxy of multiculturalism has been (tenuously) built upon:
The ideology of multiculturalism, after a long period of widespread acceptance, is currently coming under attack: its claim that all cultures must be given equal respect, and that any deviation from this amounts to victimization, may have led us seriously to underestimate the need for social cohesion. In any case, whether or not our present lethal lack of cohesion can be attributed to the rise of multiculturalism, the moral relativism implicit in that view always made it a dubious position to hold. But the discourse of human rights is far better founded, and provides us, partly because it is so deeply anti-relativist, with the moral apparatus for protecting everyone from oppression, no matter what culture they are part of or what polity they live under. It can do this because the very idea of individual human rights is the idea of a block on the demands of the general good; an insistence that individuals have claims and interests that mustn't be overridden by the needs of society.
Geras makes a strong argument that multiculturalism, its vague premises and core illogic, are antithetical to the desire to uphold the primacy of human rights. Geras expands this point, and tethers to it what would have been obvious only two generation ago: the absolute need for broad moral constraints within a framework of (some) moral absolutes:
Human rights are an indispensable part of a morally decent society (though the eager embracing of victimhood is not, and there's no doubt that the discourse of human rights has, along with multiculturalism, encouraged many to regard the status of victim of rights-violation as the most attractive one going, and hence to reach for it at the slightest provocation). But protection from those whose direct intention is to kill the innocent is also indispensable. Such protection may require us to be more ready to accept defensive policies which constrain, or in emergency infringe, individual rights than we've hitherto been accustomed to. In the issues raised by Alibhai-Brown's insistence that Muslim worry about the danger from the police to young Muslim men must take precedence over worries about the danger to all of us from suicide bombers, we can see the moral substratum supporting our ways of thinking about social relations beginning to shift. The demand that we reject policies which might disadvantage members of one group more than another is coming up against the requirement that within broad moral constraints we should do what is most effective in preventing murderous attacks on all of us. (Hat Tip: Instapundit)
Switching gears somewhat, Geras also posted excerpts from an interview of Hassan Butt by Aatish Taseer in Prospect Magazine. There is much cause for concern and outrage in this interview, which you would do well to read. It highlights and exemplifies much of what alerts Geras, what concerns Warnock, and evidently what motivates Blair.

Those of us in America might do well to learn well the British examples in this case. Our own forays into multiculturalism may not quite have the same bite and gravity as that ongoing and pending within the European experience, but it might not take much to bring the same state of affairs to pass. (Particularly if some in American Politics achieve electorally what they would perceive as vindication of their view of terror as predominantly a law enforcement issue.)

Taseer describes Hassan Butt as “a 25 year old from Manchester, [who] helped recruit Muslims to fight in Afghanistan. Like most of the London bombers, he is a British Pakistani who journeyed from rootlessness to radical Islam.” Taseer introduces his interview thus:
Britishness is the most nominal aspect of identity to many young British Pakistanis. The thinking in Britain's political class has at last begun to move on this front, but when our tube bombers were growing up, any notion that an idea of Britishness should be imposed on minorities was seen as offensive. Britons themselves were having a hard time believing in Britishness. If you denigrate your own culture you face the risk of your newer arrivals looking for one elsewhere.
Among the many astonishing and disturbing things said in the interview, Butt refers to a concept with some resonance within Western Muslims, that of a “covenant of security.” Conceptually, that refers to an unacknowledged consensus not to undertake any military action in the nation of which you have gained citizenship. For the Pakistani Briton, that would preclude him or her from initiating Jihad against (his or her fellow) British citizens.

In relating this concept, Butt offers that he disagrees with it, which caused his parting from more moderate Muslims. If a Muslim were to initiate an attack against his host country, “Islamically, it would be my duty to support and praise their action. It wouldn’t necessarily be the wisest thing to do, but it wouldn't be un-Islamic.”

In justifying his disloyalty to his host country – of which he claims citizenship – Butt distinguishes between those refugees from the Middle East who ran from persecution and sought protection from Western countries like Britain – and those who he feels “owe nothing to the government.” In the case he presents, a father has entered a covenant of security for him and his family, and owes Britain his loyalty. His sons, so protected, brought west as infants or born since arrival, “did not ask to be born here; neither did they ask to be protected by Britain.” And thus have entered no such covenant, and according to Butt, they owe no allegiance whatsoever, not to the government, nor the generosity of the British people.

It should come as no surprise whatever that such attitudes, widespread among Muslim populations in the West, are raising the ire and ill-will of their neighbors in their host nations. And are they wrong to worry about a potential enemy in their midst?

Butt goes out to speak longingly for a greater Islamic Caliphate, ”A central Islamic authority,” in which “Whether the people are Muslim or not is irrelevant.”

Butt uses several self-serving and post-facto assertions about the triumph of Islam in the countries in which he thrives, making the argument that “both the conquered and the conqueror embraced” the Islamic way of life. That should give pause to any progressive thinkers that perceive any room for discussion with these young firebrands or their ideological sources of inspiration.

The ever-on-point Jonah Goldberg, in I Have Rights; You’re in with the wrong crowd, Mohammed, writing in National Review Online, chides such deluded would-be revolutionaries in the West even as, apprehended in their schemes of glory, they “drop their guns” and cry, “Mercy!” Goldberg rightly traces the ancestry of such hollow revolutionary rhetoric to the old, tired Marxism of generations passed:
To a certain extent, radical Islam in Europe has taken the place of third-world Marxism — hardly a big leap when you think about how many Vietnamese "revolutionaries" were trained in Parisian salons. It's all about fighting capitalism, American "imperialism," modernism, etc. Marxism no longer provides a workable model, but the Islamists think sharia might. At the same time, like fascism and Communism before it, radical Islam provides a sense of purpose and meaning for losers and misfits who blame their misfortunes on "the system" (variously defined as the ruling class, the Jews, the capitalists, Col. Sanders, etc.). In this sense, Islamism is less about religion than ideology, and less about ideology than it is about alienation and low self-esteem.
Exactly right in the cases of Jihadi Joes and Janes, as likewise uncovered in the investigations in London. Those apologists for Terror, who insist on maintaining Western offense or aggression as the cause of emergent Terrorism, are chasing a snake down what they think is a rabbit hole. The new devotees of the cause will no doubt adopt and parrot the slogans of their revered ideology, no less than the Marxists of yesteryear could chant chapter and verse from their sacred texts. But the idea that poverty and oppression is what motivates these pampered thugs is ridiculous, and wrong on its face. Again, Goldberg:
This is just one reason why poverty is such a silly explanation for terrorism. Most of the 9/11 attackers, like the London bombers, were squarely middle class, and the leadership of al Qaeda is downright wealthy. My guess is that most of these losers would be miserable living in the utopia they're fighting for. And should it ever arrive, they shouldn't bother replying to the knock on their door by yelling, "I have rights!" Their kind of people don't bother knocking.
Muslim commentators are sounding similar warnings. Their fears are different; they grow concerned (one might say, finally) that the actions of a few will cause a backlash against all Muslims. And well it might, if a minimal degree of loyalty and allegiance, expected of the Native Born, is in question with self-segregated émigré populations.

Youssef M. Ibrahim, writing The Muslim Mind is on Fire, Middle East Times International Edition, is gravely concerned with the potential enormous might and cold resolve the West might demonstrate in this, the latest War of Civilizations:
What is more important to remember is this: When the West did unite after World War II to beat communism, the long Cold War began without pity. They took no prisoners. They all stood together, from the United States to Norway, from Britain to Spain, from Belgium to Switzerland. And they did bring down the biggest empire. Communism collapsed.

I fear those naïve Muslims who think that they are beating the West have now achieved their worst crime of all. The West is now going to war against not only Muslims, but also, sadly, Islam as a religion.
Yet Ibrahim, in contrast to our Western “loyal” opposition and the apologist left, would not blame the threatened Nations of the West for the outcome he envisions. Rather, he blames those who would ignite such a war for no good end:
In this new cold and hot war, car bombs and suicide bombers here and there will be no match for the arsenal that those Westerners are putting together - an arsenal of laws, intelligence pooling, surveillance by satellites, armies of special forces and indeed, allies inside the Arab world who are tired of having their lives disrupted by demented so-called jihadis or those bearded preachers who, under the guise of preaching, do little to teach and much to ignite the fire, those who know little about Islam and nothing about humanity. (Hat tip: Hugh Hewitt)
What’s to be done about Islam, and what responsibilities rightly can Western societies impose on the native or assimilated Muslims in their midst? Is there in fact a deeper ill, an entrenched sickness throughout the Islamic world, long in need of cure?

Salman Rushdie suggests it is The Right Time for An Islamic Reformation, writing in The Washington Post. He looks at the seedbeds of closed communities, of isolated and unassimilated expatriates, protected from exploding violence in the Middle East, yet protected in their enclaves in the West. His bold call – how many fatwas can a single man have issued against him? – is not so much for a change in response to Terrorism in their midst, as much as a change in their response to their God:
The deeper alienations that lead to terrorism may have their roots in these young men's objections to events in Iraq or elsewhere, but the closed communities of some traditional Western Muslims are places in which young men's alienations can easily deepen. What is needed is a move beyond tradition -- nothing less than a reform movement to bring the core concepts of Islam into the modern age, a Muslim Reformation to combat not only the jihadist ideologues but also the dusty, stifling seminaries of the traditionalists, throwing open the windows to let in much-needed fresh air.
Rushdie goes on to call for a reform movement that would include “a new scholarship to replace the literalist diktats and narrow dogmatisms that plague present-day Muslim thinking.”

A fire has been started, and it rages throughout the world. Surprise may be in store for many of those who sought narrow gain in making sparks, or kindling flames, only to find themselves consumed. Perhaps not yet, but perhaps sometime soon.

As Warnock quoted Prime Minister Tony Blair:
Let no one be in any doubt, the rules of the game are changing.......Coming to Britain is not a right and, even when people have come here, staying here carries with it a duty. That duty is to share and support the values that sustain the British way of life. Those who break that duty and try and incite or engage in violence against our country or our people have no place here.
(See also Multiculturalism's Reality Check 101, by Trent Telenko, at Winds of Change.)

(Linked at Basil's Blog, for whom Beth is guest blogging. Also linked at The Counterterrorism Blog.)

UPDATE: Picked up by the Dawn Patrol at the Mudville Gazette. Thanks, Mrs. G!)

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