Excerpt from Delectable Lie: a liberal repudiation of multiculturalism by Salim Mansur, whose column is posted here at BoldColors.net weekly. Published by Mantua Books (Canada). The passages are printed here with permission from the publisher and author.
In March 2010, a rare and unusual debate took place in the Senate of the Canadian Parliament. The subject of the debate was on a motion moved by the Conservative Senator Doug Finley, the “Erosion of Freedom of Speech.”
In his remarks, Finley urged his fellow Senators consider the extent to which free speech in Canada was under siege from officially appointed censors in the human rights commissions, in the media, in the universities, and those self-appointed who could mobilize a mob to shut down speech they disapproved. He reminded his peers that Canada inherited the tradition of free speech from Great Britain and France, and that it “is as Canadian as maple syrup, hockey and the northern lights.”
But then Finley said: “Yet, despite our 400-year tradition of free speech, the tyrannical instinct to censor still exists. We saw it on a university campus last week, and we see it every week in Canada’s misleadingly named human rights commissions.”
The reference to university was the University of Ottawa’s cancellation of a speaking event for Ann Coulter, a right-wing American political commentator and author, due to fears that student demonstrations against her views might incite violence. But the odd thing in this decision was even before Ms. Coulter would have spoken, she was cautioned in a letter by François Houle, the university’s vice-president, that promoting “hatred against any identifiable group would not only be considered inappropriate, but could in fact lead to criminal charges.”
The incremental assault on free speech, through such mechanism as Section 13.1 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, that forbids any speech which likely might cause offense to people on the grounds of race, religion, gender or sexual orientation, has had an effect on public opinion in Canada.
Senator Finley’s effort in defending free speech was an indicator of this effect. But there were other indicators that public opinion in the West was increasingly uneasy since 9/11 with multiculturalism as an ideology and official policy undermining the core liberal value of freedom based on individual rights and responsibilities.
Since 9/11 the Muslim population in the West has not shown forthrightness and determination in repudiating Islamism as an ideology that increasingly makes a mockery of Islam as a peaceful religion tolerant of other faith-traditions or in isolating the Islamists.
In Europe, in particular, there is concern about what the growth of Muslim immigrants means for the continent’s culture and for liberal democracy. Muslims in Europe are now estimated to number in around 38 million, or about 5% of the population. In contrast, Muslims account for less than 1% of the total population of Canada and the United States. These numbers will increase relatively quickly through immigration, especially under the family re-unification policy, and a higher fertility rate within the Muslim immigrant communities than among the native non-Muslim population.
It is the meaning of these numbers projected into the future that raises alarm, especially among those Europeans who fear their culture is being undermined by the twin forces of immigration and multiculturalism.
Multiculturalism has meant immigrants are not required to assimilate into the host culture. In the years after 9/11, however, the public concern with erosion of free speech, fear of home grown terrorism, levels of immigration from non-Western cultures, and unemployment among newly arriving immigrants that strained the welfare benefits and social security arrangements in liberal democracies required of politicians to respond.
But in liberal democracies elected politicians are generally followers, instead of makers and leaders of public opinion. Caution is a habit bred in successful politicians, of not being either too far ahead or too far behind the public on issues that might turn out to be of importance during elections. Reading the public mood is something of an art, and success in politics requires the art of gauging well the public mood and responding accordingly.
The response that startled Europe came from Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel addressing a youth meeting of her ruling party, the Christian Democratic Union in October 2010.Merkel remarked, “At the start of the 60s we invited the guest-workers to Germany. We kidded ourselves for a while that they wouldn’t stay, that one day they’d go home. That isn’t what happened. And of course the tendency was to say: Let’s be ‘multikulti’ and live next to each other and enjoy being together, (but) this concept has failed, failed utterly.”
Merkel’s announcement on the failure of multiculturalism as an official policy was hugely important. Germany is the largest and richest member of the European Union, and given its history, Germans have been guarded and reluctant in speaking about their unease with a policy that would brand them as bigots or worse.
But Merkel was not alone. A few months later in February 2011, Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron, speaking at a security conference in Munich, joined Merkel in declaring “multiculturalism has failed.” He called for a stronger national identity and the need for “more active, muscular liberalism.” Cameron’s words were a useful reminder that liberalism is a fighting creed, and freedom cannot be taken for granted.
In April 2011, France became the first European state to officially ban the “burka”–the veil worn by some Muslim women covering the entire face–in public.
The French measure could be viewed as somewhat of an extreme response directed at a very small number of Muslim women wearing the full veil in public, and infringing upon their liberty to dress as they please. But the dress code for women in Muslim countries under pressure from the fundamentalists, as in Saudi Arabia or Iran, had been politicized, and it indicated the public segregation of men and women in an Islamic society.
The importation of such custom by Muslim immigrants to the West and its practice, however limited in numbers, also came to symbolize in the post-9/11 world a repudiation of liberal and secular values that had brought about the gains of the feminist movement. The French law against wearing “burka” indicated tolerance for those intolerant wilfully, or by custom, of liberal values had worn thin.
Taken together the openly stated views of Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel and Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron, the decision of the French government to legislate the banning of burka, and the acquittal by the Netherlands Court of Appeals of Geert Wilders of all charges of inciting hatred and discrimination against Muslims as a visible minority group, showed that despite nearly half-century of official multiculturalism the political philosophy of liberalism as the keystone principle of the modern West was not entirely eroded. At a minimum Britain, France and Germany together as the three largest members of the European Union let it be known that containment, or pushing back, of official multiculturalism needed to be publicly discussed.
Excerpt from Delectable Lie: a liberal repudiation of multiculturalism by Salim Mansur and published by Mantua Books (Canada). The passages printed with permission from the publisher and author.