There was an excellent column in the Globe and Mail this weekend by Margaret Wente, one of the Globe’s regular columnists. It is subscription-protected, but you may be able to access it by googling the title, “End of the multicultural myth”.
Welcome to the new millenium, in which radical Muslims are driving the global socio-political agenda. The West is stuck in a defensive posture, reacting rather than taking initiatives. Some of our most beloved notions are wearing thin: including, as Wente points out, the multicultural ideal.
The Netherlands are leading the way — forward or backward, I’m not sure which.
Until very recently, the Netherlands was the most “progressive, liberal, tolerant nation on the planet,” according to Wente: but not anymore.
Starting this week, would-be immigrants (but not from the European Union or North America) are required to watch a video about life in the Netherlands. It includes shots of bicycles and windmills, and also of a topless woman and two men kissing. “People don’t make a fuss about nudity,” says the narrator, who also informs us that men can marry other men, and that women have equal rights.
“These are little facts we just want to give,” said one government spokesperson. But critics call the new immigration policy culturally biased and anti-Muslim. “This isn’t education, it’s provocation,” said Abdou Menebhi, who chairs a Moroccan interest group in Amsterdam. “The new law has one goal: to stop the flow of immigrants, especially by Muslims from countries like Morocco and Turkey.”
Dutch politicians deny it. But the critics are largely right. The Netherlands wants to slam the door on Muslims. The multicultural ideal has been a failure.
What has happened to bring about this reversal of values? A series of awful shocks, beginning with two murders:
of the gay politician Pim Fortuyn, who had warned about the threat of unassimilated Muslims, and then of the filmmaker Theo van Gogh. Muslim kids began harassing gay men and women on the streets. Instead of finding Dutch-born wives, second- and third-generation immigrants made arranged marriages with uneducated women from back home. Despite strenuous efforts at integration, Amsterdam’s school system became completely segregated.
We’ve all heard about the violence many times, but there is a second cause for alarm: the demographic trends.
Today, this little nation of 16 million people has a Muslim population of 920,000. Six hundred thousand immigrants don’t speak Dutch, and as many as 60 per cent are unemployed. Many of the foreign imams who are their main source of authority tell them they have no obligation to obey the rules of secular society. Theo van Gogh’s killer, a Dutch-born Moroccan, was so popular in some neighbourhoods that kids put pictures of him on their schoolbags. …
Islamic radicals are convinced that time and demographics are on their side. This week, Mullah Krekar, a leading Muslim supremacist living in Norway (which faces similar problems), said the triumph of Islam in Europe is inevitable. “The number of Muslims is expanding like mosquitoes,” he said. “By 2050, 30 per cent of the population in Europe will be Muslim.”
In the circumstances, Holland’s tough new immigration laws look less like discrimination than a desperate grab at cultural survival. “We demand a new social contract,” Jan Wolter Wabeke, a high court judge in The Hague, told Newsweek. “We no longer accept that people don’t learn our language, we require that we send their daughters to school, and we demand they stop bringing in young brides from the desert and locking them up in third-floor apartments.”
The new laws include tough restrictions on the practice of importing women for arranged marriages. The city of Rotterdam has passed a new “code of conduct” requiring that Dutch be spoken in public. Nationally, the burka has been banned.
Violence and demographics — these two trends are causing all European nations to reconsider the multicultural ideal:
Even before the Danish cartoon wars, attitudes had begun to harden in much of Europe. French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy says France should take a cue from the Netherlands. Some German states are now requiring would-be immigrants to take 600 hours of German-language courses. One German state has a citizenship test that asks about a person’s views on forced marriage, homosexuality and women’s rights. Another has introduced a test that asks whether the applicant believes in Israel’s right to exist.
North Americans are a little more insulated, but we cannot escape the issue that Wente has illustrated so effectively.
My oldest child begins university in September. I worry about what kind of a world my generation will pass on to him and his children.
I find climate change alarming. I worry that the human race will precipitate a global ecological crisis and try to slam on the brakes when it is too late to avoid a calamity.
And I worry about the decline of the West, as our lofty (but naive?) values are swamped by violence and demographics.
What do you think of the Netherlands’ attempts to discourage Muslim immigrants? Of its banning of burkas? Of Rotterdam’s law that people must speak Dutch in public?
What do you think of France’s schools forbidding children from wearing anything that would identify their religious affiliation? Of the citizenship test in one German state that asks about a person’s views on forced marriage, homosexuality and women’s rights?
I entitled this post, Whither multiculturalism. But perhaps I should have spelled it wither.