Notes & Comments March 2012
The multicultural morass
On Western assimilation and the dangers of multiculturalism.
First it was Angela Merkel. Back in 2010, the German Chancellor observed that the dream of multicultural harmony, according to which people of radically different backgrounds and aspirations would “live side-by-side,” had “failed, utterly failed.” Immigrants, she said, were welcome, but they needed to work harder to integrate into German society, not least by learning German.
The Brits are awakening to this home truth as well. Late last month, The Daily Telegraph reported, a coalition of MPs announced a plan whereby children would be taught a “common culture” and immigrants would be expected to assimilate to British society. “We believe in certain values,” their report declared, “and will actively promote them: freedom of speech; freedom of worship; democracy and the rule of law. Long-standing British values of tolerance are the bedrock of our society. We will champion a united British identity, across class, colour and creed.” The strategy, The Telegraph went on to note, advocated the teaching of British history and culture and favored English as the national vernacular.
Back in 2010, Ms. Merkel’s remarks occasioned a firestorm of protest among liberal elites in the West, who could see as well as anyone that the “immigrants” the Chancellor had in mind were chiefly self-segregating Muslims from Turkey. It’s no secret that the British “integration strategy” is also aimed primarily at Muslims, and we suspect that it will occasion similar criticism from the Left.
But why? Are not the observations of Ms. Merkel and that coalition of British MPs simply common sense? Back in 1913, Teddy Roosevelt observed that “The one absolutely certain way of bringing this nation to ruin . . . would be to permit it to become a tangle of squabbling nationalities.” Update “squabbling nationalities” and you can make a kindred point about the multicultural imperative of today.
Back at the turn of the last century, the issue in the United States was encouraging people from different countries and cultures to assimilate to the American “melting pot.” It’s trickier today in Europe. On the one hand, there is a largely self-segregating population of Muslims. On the other, you have the ideology of multiculturalism, born and bred by Western elites, which sings the siren song of “diversity” and “equality of cultures,” but always with an Orwellian twist: “All cultures are equal, but some (in particular, some non-Western) cultures are more equal than others.” This is the dirty little secret about multiculturalism that Ms. Merkel and now some vigilant British MPs have exposed. In essence, as Samuel Huntington noted in his book Who Are We?, multiculturalism is “anti-European civilization. . . . It is basically an anti-Western ideology.” Multiculturalists claim to be fostering a progressive cultural cosmopolitanism distinguished by superior sensitivity to the downtrodden and dispossessed. In fact, they encourage an orgy of self-flagellating liberal guilt, which is as impotent as it is insatiable.
That’s the curious thing about multiculturalism: it is a Western export that is itself anti-Western. Born in the academy, it is the creature of political correctness. Wherever the imperatives of multiculturalism have touched the curriculum, they have left broad swaths of anti-Western attitudinizing competing for attention with quite astonishing historical blindness. Courses on minorities, women’s issues, and the Third World proliferate; the teaching of mainstream history slides into oblivion. “The mood,” Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. wrote in The Disuniting of America, “is one of divesting Americans of the sinful European inheritance and seeking redemptive infusions from non-Western cultures.”
But as the tocsins sounded by Ms. Merkel and that coalition of British MPs remind us, multiculturalism is not only an academic phenomenon. The attitudes it fosters have profound social as well as intellectual consequences. One consequence has been a sharp rise in the phenomenon of immigration without—or with only partial—assimilation: a dangerous demographic trend that threatens national identity in the most basic way.
Multiculturalism is also an important element in a wider culture war: the contest to define how we live and what counts as the good in the good life.
Our European friends have learned this through bitter experience. Have we? Steve Emerson at the Investigative Project on Terrorism reports that the FBI met secretly on February 8 with a potpourri of Islamist groups and revealed that it had removed from FBI offices around the country a wide range of material on Islam that was deemed “offensive.” The FBI, Emerson notes, did not reveal what criteria was used to denominate certain material “offensive,” but
knowledgeable law enforcement sources have told the IPT that it was these radical groups who made that determination. Moreover, numerous FBI agents have confirmed that from now on, FBI headquarters has banned all FBI offices from inviting any counter-terrorist specialists who are considered “anti-Islam” by Muslim Brotherhood front groups.
Clearly, the FBI has embraced the Islamist agenda, as has the State Department. As Ted Beiman writes at Israpundit, “the Obama administration has made a strategic decision to join forces with the Islamists rather than fight them. This policy has serious implications for America at home and abroad. It also has serious implications for Israel. It means that America will restrain Israel from besting the Islamists and will favour the Islamists over Israel. It is no accident that the Islamists are now in power in Libya, Tunisia, and Egypt or that the U.S. has fully embraced Islamist Erdogan of Turkey and is supporting the advent of the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria. Nothing could be more ominous.”
Except, perhaps, the little friendship party led by Senator John McCain. McCain went to Cairo, The Wall Street Journal reported, in order to offer an olive branch to the Muslim Brotherhood on the very eve of the trial of sixteen Americans charged with violating Egyptian laws on foreign funding of nongovernment organizations. Sen. McCain and his delegation, the Journal observed, also “hinted at warming relations between conservative American lawmakers and the Muslim Brotherhood, an Egyptian Islamist group whose triumphant performance in parliamentary elections rattled U.S. nerves among U.S. policy makers.”
Why the rattled nerves? Or rather, why the sudden chumminess on the part of John McCain and other U.S. representatives? When Cairo erupted last winter, James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence, assured the U.S. Congress that the Muslim Brotherhood was “a largely secular organization.” Right. We wonder if Mr. Clapper was acquainted with the Brotherhood’s motto: “Allah is our objective. The Prophet is our leader. Qur’an is our law. Jihad is our way. Dying in the way of Allah is our highest hope.” Lest readers think this was an uncharacteristic statement, consider this extract from “An Explanatory Memorandum on the General Strategic Goal for the Group in North America,” an internal Brotherhood document written by Yusuf al-Qaradawi and revealed during a terrorism funding trial in 2007.
The Ikhwan [i.e., the Muslim Brotherhood] must understand that their work in America is a kind of grand jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and “sabotaging” its miserable house by their hands and by the hands of the believers so that it is eliminated and God’s religion is made victorious over all other religions.
If the name Qaradawi sounds familiar, it is probably because his return to Egypt, after a long exile in Qatar, following the ouster of Hosni Mubarak in 2011, made headlines. The Brits and the Germans seem to be waking up to the dangers of multicultural accommodation. When will we?
A Message from the Editors
Support our crucial work and join us in strengthening the bonds of civilization.
Your donation sustains our efforts to inspire joyous rediscoveries.
This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 30 Number 7, on page 1
Copyright © 2023 The New Criterion | www.newcriterion.com