Archive for Multiculturalism

In Breivik, troubling echoes of West’s view of Islam

Posted in Anti-Loons with tags , , , , , , on April 18, 2012 by loonwatch


An excellent analysis.  (H/T: islamispeace)

In Breivik, troubling echoes of West’s view of Islam

By Timothy Stanley, CNN

The trial of mass murderer Anders Breivik has confirmed one thing so far: He seems quite mad. Looking plump and dumb, with a slightly receding hairline, the Norwegian gave a right-wing salute as he entered the courtroom and smirked his way through CCTV footage of his handiwork.

Breivik claims that he killed 77 people as an act of self-defense against the Islamification of Norway, that he is a member of the Knights Templar and part of an “anticommunist” resistance to multiculturalism. Reading his insane manifesto, it is tempting to dismiss him as a nut with a gun.

Nevertheless, there’s no denying the political context to what Breivik did. Since 9/11, fringe and mainstream politicians in Europe and America have spoken of Islam as incompatible with Western values. Breivik quoted many of them in his manifesto. This is not to say that he took direct inspiration from those public figures, or that they bear personal responsibility for his crimes. But Breivik’s paranoia does conform to a popular — wholly negative — view of the twin problems of Islam and multiculturalism. Tragically, it is a view that few mainstream politicians have been willing to challenge.

Breivik makes two false claims. The first is that Islam is ethically inferior to Christianity and cannot exist peacefully within the secular democracies of the post-Enlightenment West. That is the open view of the Dutch Party for Freedom, the French National Front, the English Defense League and the Finnish True Finns. It was implicit in Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain’s aversion to the building of mosques. We might also infer it from much of the testimony presented at Rep. Peter King’s congressional hearings into the radicalization of American Muslim youth. King has opined that there are “too many mosques” in the United States and that roughly 80% of American Muslims are radical.

The mistake being made by all these people is to conflate a tiny minority of political Islamists — whose precise ideology has only really emerged in the last 30 years — with the entire global and historical community of Muslims. It is true that Islam has never undergone a total Reformation, but it has experienced mini-enlightenments. The most celebrated is the Islamic Golden Age (750- 1258), centered in Baghdad, in which the arts and sciences flourished in a manner that left Dark Ages Europe far behind. (You can also find humanist poetry and art in Persia and even a small amount of erotica in Northern Africa.)

Islam never outright rejected scientific empiricism but instead tried to reconcile and integrate it into its religious beliefs, with a surprising amount of debate about the primacy of either faith or reason. It preached that divine revelation could be found in other religions and so practiced tolerance in the lands that it conquered — a kind of Islamic multiculturalism. One of the giants of the European Enlightenment, Voltaire, favorably opined that Islam was more tolerant in its treatment of minorities than Christianity (consider the comparative persecution of Catholics in Ireland or of Jews in Spain).

Today, Islamic society looks different in every region where it is found. The royal families of Saudi Arabia have promoted ultra-conservative Wahhabism, which discourages personal vice, idolatry, veneration of saints, etc. The Bangladeshis prefer the more mystical Sufism, which places greater emphasis upon a subjective experience of Allah and is traditionally more tolerant of human foibles and dissent.

Almost every part of the Islamic world has produced progressive movements, some headed by women. Pakistan gave the world Benazir Bhutto and Indonesia Megawati Soekarnoputri. In all cases, the political development of Muslim countries has been as much shaped by poverty and the legacy of colonialism as it has Islam. Iran might have continued on a course toward liberalism had the West not sponsored an anti-democratic coup in 1953.

In short, there is no monolithic Islamic history or experience, which makes it hard or even disingenuous to talk about the challenge that Islam as a whole poses to the West. Put another way, no American would want anyone to think that the Westboro Baptist Church spoke for all of Christianity.

Breivik’s second, equally fallacious claim is that Islam’s growth in the West has been encouraged by liberal elites as a means to destroy traditional Christian culture. Indeed, multiculturalism has been strongly critiqued by two British prime ministers – Tony Blair and David Cameron. Cameron said that it had “failed” because it did not demand submission to the liberal principles of gender and sexual equality.

But multiculturalism is not a Marxist ideology carefully plotted by the “Saul Alinksy radicals” so loathed by Newt Gingrich. Rather, it was free-market economics and globalization that caused the mass migration of Muslims from East to West — and multiculturalism was simply a policy response. The aim was to protect the cultural integrity of both host and guest populations by allowing them separate spaces in which to develop.

Far from intending to threaten the religious or civil liberties of the majority Christian population (which remains vastly superior in numbers), the goal was to create a common framework of laws but otherwise leave everyone to their own devices. If Christianity has declined in the West, it’s the fault of the Christians who stopped going to church — not the small groups of Muslims quietly attending their local mosque.

And yet Muslims in Western countries now live under the pressures of anti-terrorist surveillance and social ostracism. They are forced to defend their Britishness, their Frenchness or their Americaness — even if they are third- or fourth-generation citizens of those countries. Breivik’s attack has raised the threat level against the West’s Muslims: They are now the target of our politically engaged sociopaths.

Given how widespread the condemnation of both Islam and multiculturalism is across the West, perhaps it is apt to describe Breivik as a symptom of Western psychological angst. It is a condition of neurosis about decline and paranoia about foreign invasion that is in desperate need of remedy.

Timothy Stanley is a historian at Oxford University and blogs for Britain’s Daily Telegraph. He is the author of the new book “The Crusader: The Life and Times of Pat Buchanan.

Pennsylvania “Sharia Court”: Loons Jump the Gun AGAIN on Ginned up “Legal Jihad”

Posted in Feature, Loon Sites with tags , , , , , , , , , on February 26, 2012 by loonwatch

Zombie Atheists

Zombie Pope and Zombie Muhammad Marching in a Halloween Parade

by Ilisha

(H/T: CriticalDragon1177)

All across the looniverse, there is an uproar over an alleged triumph of Sharia in a Pennsylvania court case presided over by a “Muslim” judge.  It’s not the first time anti-Muslim bigots pounced on a story of so-called “legal jihad” before they got their facts straight.

This time, Pennsylvania State Director of American Atheists, Ernest Perce V, was parading down the street as “Zombie Muhammad,” when an outraged Muslim bystander allegedly grabbed him, choked him from behind, and attempted to remove a “Muhammad of Islam” sign from around his neck. Both men complained to  police, Perce for assault and Elbayomy because he apparently thought insulting Islam was a criminal offense.

Perce filed charges, but a judge dismissed the case after he allegedly said, “I’m a Muslim,” and chastised the atheist in question for his misinterpretation and lack of understanding concerning Islam. Judge Martin is not a Muslim, and later said himself he is Lutheran.

Parts of the court video are garbled, and it seems he either misspoke or part of his statement was inaudible.  In any case, his statements and decision to dismiss the case have sparked a fresh controversy over  the limits of free speech.

The judge said in part:

Before you start mocking someone else’s religion you may want to find out a little bit more about it. That makes you look like a doofus…

Here in our society, we have a constitution that gives us many rights, specifically, First Amendment rights. It’s unfortunate that some people use the First Amendment to deliberately provoke others. I don’t think that’s what our forefathers really intended. I think our forefathers intended that we use the First Amendment so that we can speak our mind, not to piss off other people and other cultures, which is what you did.

I don’t think you’re aware, sir, there’s a big difference between how Americans practice Christianity – uh, I understand you’re an atheist. But, see, Islam is not just a religion, it’s their culture, their culture. It’s their very essence, their very being. They pray five times a day towards Mecca. To be a good Muslim, before you die, you have to make a pilgrimage to Mecca unless you are otherwise told you cannot because you are too ill, too elderly, whatever. But you must make the attempt…

Then what you have done is you’ve completely trashed their essence, their being. They find it very, very, very offensive. I’m a Muslim, I find it offensive. [Unintelligble] aside was very offensive.

But you have that right, but you’re way outside your bounds on First Amendment rights.


The inflammatory headline was followed by, “Infidel victim, Ernest Perce, has received 471 verifiable threats.” No source was cited to substantiate the claim.

Robert Spencer’s Jihad Watch declared:

This is enforcement of Sharia in a Pennsylvania court. The attacker supposedly got off because he “is an immigrant and claims he did not know his actions were illegal, or that it was legal in this country to represent Muhammad in any form. To add insult to injury, he also testified that his 9 year old son was present, and the man said he felt he needed to show his young son that he was willing to fight for his Prophet.”

Though part of the statement on Jihad Watch is in quotes, it’s unclear who Spencer is quoting. A full transcript of the judges statement is here, and the defendant’s immigrant status and lack of legal knowledge are not cited as reasons for dismissing the case.

Spencer also doesn’t explain how this is an example of Sharia. What Islamic Law did the judge cite in this case? Spencer doesn’t say, and apparently that’s fine with his no-evidence-required audience.

Although Eugene Volokh of  The Volokh Conspiracy strongly disagreed with the judge’s decision, he said:

…This is not a situation where the judge “applied Sharia law” in any normal sense of the phrase. The judge claimed that he simply didn’t find enough evidence against the defendant. Perhaps the judge was biased against the victim because of the victim’s anti-Muslim speech, but an anti-Sharia law wouldn’t have helped avoid that. More broadly, a law banning judges from “consider[ing] … Sharia Law” (in the words of the Oklahoma anti-Sharia amendment) wouldn’t keep judges from concluding that someone who insults members of other religious groups should be admonished, punished, or even stripped of the right to legal protection — they would just conclude this based on their own notions of refraining from offending other groups….

The case has nothing do with Sharia, and everything to do with the interpretation and application of American Law.

In the US, free speech is protected by the First Amendment to the US Constitution, and in most cases, speech that is distasteful, inflammatory, racist, sexist, or even outright hate speech, is usually permitted. However, there are exceptions, including ”fighting words” and “incitement to imminent lawless action.” Though the judge did tell the plaintiff it was his opinion he’d gone way outside the bounds of free speech, this was not the stated reason for dismissing the case.

In response to the controversy, Judge Martin gave a statement clarifying :  ((H/T: Just Stopping By)

This story certainly has legs. As you might imagine, the public is only getting the version of the story put out by the “victim” (the atheist). Many, many gross misrepresentations. Among them: I’m a Muslim, and that’s why I dismissed the harassment charge (Fact: if anyone cares, I’m actually Lutheran, and have been for at least 41 years).

I also supposedly called him and threatened to throw him in jail if he released the tapes he had made in the courtroom without my knowledge/permission (Fact: HE called ME and told me that he was ready to “go public” with the tapes and was wondering what the consequences would be; I advised him again to not disseminate the recording, and that I would consider contempt charges; he then replied that he was “willing to go to jail for (his) 1st amendment rights”- I never even uttered the word “jail” in that conversation).

He said that I kept a copy of the Quran on the bench (fact: I keep a Bible on the bench, but out of respect to people with faiths other than Christianity, I DO have a Quran on the bookcase BESIDE my bench, and am trying to acquire a Torah, Book of Mormon, Book of Confucius and any other artifacts which those with a faith might respect).

He claims that I’m biased towards Islam, apparently because he thinks I’m Muslim. In fact, those of you who know me, know that I’m an Army reservist with 27 years of service towards our country (and still serving). I’ve done one tour in Afghanistan, and two tours in Iraq, and am scheduled to return to Afghanistan for a year this summer. During my first tour in Iraq, I was ambushed once, attacked by a mob once, sniped at once, and rocketed, bombed, and mortared so many times that I honestly don’t know how many time I’ve been attacked. Presumably by Muslim insurgents. My point: if anyone SHOULD be biased towards Muslims, one would think it would be me. I’m not, however, because I personally know or have met many good, decent people who follow Islam, and I shouldn’t characterize the actions of those who tried to kill me as characterizations of all Muslims.

When I asked him why he dressed up as “Muhammad zombie,” he told me that it was because he was reflecting the Muslim belief that Muhammad rose from the dead, walked as a zombie, and then went to heaven. That was one of the reasons I tried to spend 6 whole minutes trying to explain and de-mystify Islam through my own knowledge, and in an attempt to prevent an incident like this recurring in my community. Unfortunately, the message was obviously not received in the vein that I had intended. And, in the interest of full disclosure, I did use the word “doofus,” but didn’t call him that directly; I said something akin to “ if you’re going to mock another religion or culture, you should check your facts, first- otherwise, you’ll look like a doofus.”;

In short, I based my decision on the fact that the Commonwealth failed to prove to me beyond a reasonable doubt that the charge was just; I didn’t doubt that an incident occurred, but I was basically presented only with the victim’s version, the defendant’s version, and a very intact Styrofoam sign that the victim was wearing and claimed that the defendant had used to choke him. There so many inconsistencies, that there was no way that I was going to find the defendant guilty.

A lesson learned here: there’s a very good reason for Rule 112 of Rules of Criminal Procedure- if someone makes an unauthorized recording in a Court not of Record, there’s no way to control how it might be manipulated later, and then passed off as the truth. We’ve received dozens upon dozens of phone calls, faxes, and e-mails. There are literally hundreds of not-so-nice posts all over the internet on at least 4 sites that have carried this story, mainly because I’ve been painted as a Muslim judge who didn’t recuse himself, and who’s trying to introduce Sharia law into Mechanicsburg.

Attempts to link the case to Islamic Law are illogical and absurd, but will no doubt provide convincing “evidence” for those already inclined to believe “creeping sharia” is a genuine threat to America.

However, the case may very well spark a wider debate. The idea that a judge may have sacrificed free speech on the alter of religious and cultural sensitivity is bound to attract attention, especially as Western democracies increasingly grapple with issues of multiculturalism, provocation, and the boundaries of free speech.


The judge’s controversial statements begin in minute 29:

John R. Bowen: Europeans Against Multiculturalism

Posted in Loon Politics, Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 13, 2011 by loonwatch

A very extensive piece from John Bowen regarding the rightward shift of European politics and the constructed attack against “multiculturalism.”

Europeans Against Multiculturalism

John R. Bowen (Boston Review)

One of the many signs of the rightward creep of Western European politics is the recent unison of voices denouncing multiculturalism. German Chancellor Angela Merkel led off last October by claiming that multiculturalism “has failed and failed utterly.” She was echoed in February by French President Nicolas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister David Cameron. All three were late to the game, though: for years, the Dutch far right has been bashing supposedly multicultural policies.

Despite the shared rhetoric, it is difficult to discern a common target for these criticisms. Cameron aimed at an overly tolerant attitude toward extremist Islam, Merkel at the slow pace of Turkish integration, and Sarkozy at Muslims who pray in the street.

But while it is hard to know what exactly the politicians of Europe mean when they talk about multiculturalism, one thing we do know is that the issues they raise—real or imagined—have complex historical roots that have little to do with ideologies of cultural difference. Blaming multiculturalism may be politically useful because of its populist appeal, but it is also politically dangerous because it attacks “an enemy within”: Islam and Muslims. Moreover, it misreads history. An intellectual corrective may help to diminish its malign impact.

Political criticisms of multiculturalism confuse three objects. One is the changing cultural and religious landscape of Europe. Postwar France and Britain encouraged immigration of willing workers from former colonies; Germany drew on its longstanding ties with Turkey for the same purpose; somewhat later, new African and Asian immigrants, many of them Muslims, traveled throughout Western Europe to seek jobs or political refuge. As a result, one sees mosques where there once were only churches and hears Arabic and Turkish where once there were only dialects of German, Dutch, or Italian. The first object then is the social fact of cultural and religious diversity, of multicultural and multi-religious everyday life: the emergence in Western Europe of the kind of social diversity that has long been a matter of pride in the United States.

The second object—suggested by Cameron’s phrase “state multiculturalism”—concerns the policies each of these countries have used to handle new residents. By the 1970s, Western European governments realized that the new workers and their families were there to stay, so the host countries tried out a number of strategies to integrate the immigrants into the host society. Policymakers all realized that they would need to find what later came to be called “reasonable accommodations” with the needs of the new communities: for mosques and schools, job training, instruction in the host-country language. These were pragmatic efforts; they did not aim at assimilation, nor did they aim to preserve spatial or cultural separation. Some of these policies eventually were termed “multicultural” because they involved recognizing ethnic community structures or allowing the use of Arabic or Turkish in schools. But these measures were all designed to encourage integration: to bring new groups in while acknowledging the obvious facts of linguistic, social, cultural, and religious difference.

The third object that multiculturalism’s critics confuse is a set of normative theories of multiculturalism, each of which attempts to mark out a way to take account of cultural and religious diversity from a particular philosophical point of view. Although ideas of multiculturalism do shape public debates in Britain (as they do in North America), they do so much less in continental Europe, and even in Britain it would be difficult to find direct policy effects of these normative theories.

Politicians err when they claim that normative ideas of multiculturalism shape the social fact of cultural and religious diversity: such diversity would be present with or without a theory to cope with it. Nor are state policies shaped by those ideas, which tend to be recent in origin. Quite to the contrary, each European country has followed well-traveled pathways for dealing with diversity. Methods designed to accommodate sub-national religious blocs are now being adapted and applied to Muslim immigrants. Far from newfangled, misguided policies of multiculturalism, these distinct strategies represent the continuation of long-standing, nation-specific ways of recognizing and managing diversity.

• • •

Consider the case of Germany. Merkel’s claims were perhaps the least weighty, but her words point to a growing conviction among some Germans that Muslim immigrants are inassimilable. Merkel’s attack was as vague as it was opportunistic. She regretted that the German “tendency had been to say, ‘let’s adopt the multicultural concept and live happily side by side, and be happy to be living with each other’” and concluded that this attitude had not produced results, as if she had thereby identified policies that could be changed. Her real meaning was made clear by the presence of Horst Seehofer next to her on the podium. Seehofer, the Bavarian state premier and Merkel’s coalition partner, has called for curtailing immigration.

One poll showed a third of Germans believed the country was ‘overrun by foreigners.’

Merkel’s speech followed a series of anti-Muslim public statements by high-placed German officials. In June 2010 then-Bundesbank member Thilo Sarrazin published a book in which he accused Muslim immigrants of lowering the intelligence of German society. Although he was censured for his views and dismissed from his central bank position, the book proved popular, and polls suggested that Germans were sympathetic with the thrust of his arguments. One poll showed a third of Germans believed the country was “overrun by foreigners.” A few months earlier, in March, Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble waded in to say that Germany had been mistaken to let in so many Turkish workers in the 1960s because they had not integrated into society.

At least the finance minister pointed to a real German policy, one that encouraged low-paid laborers to relocate to the country and rebuild it. But Merkel’s notion that the German government had promoted a multikulti society (as distinct from celebrating colorful Kreuzberg or a Turkish star on the German soccer team) ignores the brunt of German immigration policy, which, until 2000, denied citizenship to those workers, their children, and their grandchildren. In other words, the government and many, perhaps most, Germans had not hoped, as Merkel claimed, that everyone would live side by side. Rather, the hope was that “they” would just pack up and leave.

In this sense Germany has largely followed its longer-term policies for dealing with diversity: German federal and state governments have historically denied that immigration could be of value and maintained a policy of limiting citizenship only to those who could demonstrate German descent. But Germany may also follow the public-corporation model it has arranged with Christian and Jewish groups. A proposed Islamic public corporation would have the legal status to obtain government funding for mosques and would serve as a legitimate overseer of materials selected for Islamic religious education. This promising policy goal, not yet achieved, would recognize and support Islam in accordance with long-standing German principles governing religious diversity, not on grounds of multiculturalism.

• • •

In contrast to Germany, Britain has promoted multiculturalism as an explicit policy, but not in those domains where Cameron denounced it. In his February 2011 speech, Cameron blamed multiculturalism for creating spatial divisions and fomenting terrorism. “Under the doctrine of state multiculturalism,” he claimed, “we have encouraged different cultures to live separate lives, apart from each other and apart from the mainstream.” Left apart, some have submitted to extremism, he argued, and some of those extremists have in turn carried bombs in the name of Islam. His solution was three-fold: ensure that any organization asking for public money subscribes to doctrines of universal rights and encourages integration, keep extremists from reaching students and prisoners, and ensure that everyone learns English.

As a diagnosis of problems of homegrown terrorism, the speech fell short. The British bombers principally responsible for the 2005 attacks in London knew English and English people well. Mohammad Sidique Khan, believed to be the leader of the bombing plot, was recalled as a “highly Westernized” man who grew up in Leeds and attended university there. Shehzad Tanweer, another of the bombers, had a similar background. According to the official report on the bombings, both men had developed jihadist convictions in Pakistan.

If these and other homegrown terrorists have problems feeling at home in Britain, it is because they do not remain in their “separate cultures” but instead become isolated individuals without a social or cultural base. In otherwise-distinct analyses of European jihadists, French political scientist Olivier Roy and American counterterrorism expert Marc Sageman each paint a picture of young men who suffer from a lack of ties with others in their communities. Roy calls them “deterritorialized”; Sageman describes a “bunch of guys” who find themselves without opportunities at home, who are considered foreigners despite being born in Europe, and who end up traveling abroad to seek out extremists. Hardly walled off in enclaves in Bradford (or Hamburg), they are free-floating, perfect speakers of English (or German) who feel themselves rejected by the people and institutions around them.

It’s not just Muslims who cut themselves off. A large percentage of British children attend schools that admit only Catholics and Anglicans.

Cameron used his speech to argue for his “Big Society”—policies of state divestment from welfare predicated on the belief that if people have to work together to survive they will gain a stronger sense of being British. But whatever the merits of this approach to British social ills, it has little to offer individuals who already consider themselves discarded by those around them.

So Cameron got it wrong when it comes to homegrown terrorism. What did he have in mind when he spoke of “state multiculturalism”? Multicultural policies in Britain today mainly concern how state schools handle their diverse clientele: teaching cultural and religious studies curricula, offering halal meals to Muslim pupils. Behind these specific policies is the notion, generally accepted in Britain, that the cultural and religious traditions of each pupil should be positively recognized. These politics find one salient expression in a commissioned white paper by the political theorist Bhikhu Parekh, whose 2000 book, Rethinking Multiculturalism, asks: in a multicultural society, how should the state balance legitimate claims to diversity with the need to “foster a strong sense of unity and common belonging among its citizens”? This is precisely Cameron’s concern, but Parekh voices it as a justification for educational multiculturalism. Parekh argues that recognizing the traditions held by religious and ethnic communities through multicultural school curricula provides a psychologically sound basis on which to construct an inclusive national identity. (His view comes close to claims made by another political theorist, Will Kymlicka, who argues that maintaining cultural heritage is of psychosocial importance in the development of a liberal citizen.)

There is controversy in Britain about schooling and the isolation of cultural minorities, but spatial segregation of immigrant communities was a product of South Asian settlement patterns in Britain in the 1960s and ’70s, not state multiculturalism. When men (and, later, families) moved from Pakistan and Bangladesh to Britain, they brought whole lineages and villages along with them, reproducing their old linguistic and religious networks in urban British neighborhoods. The result was a chasm separating Asian and white communities, and in some cities this absence of interaction and understanding spiraled into hatred and unrest. In the spring and summer of 2001, riots pitted Asians against whites in the northern cities of Oldham, Burnley, and Bradford. Today, these cities remain highly segregated. Their schools reflect, and exacerbate, the problem. Pupils remain sorted into largely white and largely Pakistani or Bangladeshi schools. As one head teacher at a 92 percent Pakistani primary school said in a report released on the tenth anniversary of the riots, “Some of our children could live their lives without meeting someone from another culture until they go to high school or even the workplace.”

Charles Roffey / / CharlesFred

The combination of religion and schooling contributes to this segregation, but not in the way that Cameron’s speech suggests: it’s not just Muslims who’ve cut themselves off from the rest of society. Across Britain a large percentage of children go to schools that only admit students who regularly attend a Catholic or an Anglican church. In sharply segregated Oldham, 40 percent of secondary schools are of this type, and they draw from a largely white population. This religious divide is increasing, due to the addition to the school scene of state-supported “faith academies,” mainly Church of England and Catholic schools. Whereas in the United States government support for religiously exclusive schools would be judged as excessive entanglement of the state with religion, British ideas of public life start from the premise that religious communities are legitimate and socially important sources of citizen education, and thus deserving of state aid.

Thus, if state multiculturalism exists in 2011, it would be found in broadly accepted principles about the role of state support in promoting diverse kinds of schools. These policies can have segregating effects, but they are also current Tory policies. Cameron and his Party don’t like to bring them up in other contexts, though; they are not in the business of attacking Christian schools.

On the whole, then, it seems that accommodation of immigrants in Britain has taken the usual course for that nation. The methods applied to distinct religious groups that predate Islam on the Isles have been extended to the newest arrivals.

British ideas of public life start from the premise that religious communities are legitimate sources of citizen education.

Cameron’s policy proposals were on a wholly different topic: he paid special attention to reducing the degree of toleration afforded Islamic groups with extreme views. Here one might join with the prime minister in finding that certain Islamic groups ought to have their public activities curtailed. The most frequently cited example is the Hizb ut-Tahrir, who reject participation in British politics and urge British Muslims to prepare themselves for the coming of the Islamic state, to be created somewhere in the world in the not-too distant future. This, however, does not concern the validity of recognizing cultural diversity but rather the degree to which the state ought to allow extreme or intolerant public speech, the same issue that arose thanks to the Danish cartoons controversy and that regularly figures in laws against Holocaust denial.

• • •

Although French President Nicolas Sarkozy attacked le multiculturalisme, more often French politicians use the term “communalism” (communautarisme). This refers not to the North American philosophy of communitarianism, although that takes its lumps sometimes as well, but to everyday practices and attitudes that reject “living together” in favor of “living side by side.” Usually Britain is the negative example, though of late the French have been blaming themselves for this supposed deficiency as well.

But communalism is no more precise an object of denunciation than is multiculturalism. InLe Monde on March 16 of this year, the new Interior Minister, Claude Guéant, said that high unemployment among those who come to France from outside the European Union proves “the failure of communalisms” because those immigrants tend to clump together by culture and doing so keeps them from getting jobs. He acknowledged that people chose where to live, that the state did not put them there, but argued, “We have gone too long in letting people group together in communities.” Guéant suggests that what has been going on is a state multiculturalism of inaction without specifying how the state could break up existing communities.

A few pages later in the same issue, a columnist analyzed the American “Galleon affair,” a case of financial fraud involving financiers from India, as an instance of communalism because these men, who held degrees from Harvard and Wharton and worked at Goldman Sachs and McKinsey, had common national origins. Now, these immigrants did get jobs, great ones. Apparently communalism of one sort is the key to success, albeit illicit success, while communalism of another sort explains high unemployment rates. A cynic might add that if working in small incestuous groups defines communalism, then France, with its unusually small set of industrialists serving on interlocking boards of major companies, its exclusive school system, and marriage practices designed to preserve the elite, is among the most communalist of nations.

In any case France has never undertaken state multiculturalism. Although some officials have decried the politics of the “right to a difference” that marked several years at the beginning of François Mitterrand’s presidency in the 1980s, those politics could hardly be called “multicultural.” Some instruction in “languages of origin” was provided, but this was intended to facilitate the eventual “return” of immigrants and their children. Other sources of aid provided tutoring and training, and current policies direct additional money to school districts with large numbers of pupils “in difficulty.” At the same time, the French state has provided free language classes to immigrants, assistance to groups seeking to build mosques, and practical accommodations to allow the preparation of halal meat in abattoirs. State support for and control of religious groups is, despite the rhetoric of strict state-religion separation, a long-term feature of French policy. More than a century after France’s 1905 law of church-state separation, the state pays for the upkeep of older religious buildings, gives tax breaks to religious groups, and hires teachers for private religious schools (most of them Catholic).

• • •

Blaming multiculturalism for social ills is a Dutch national sport. Yet, as the University of Amsterdam sociologist Jan Willem Duyvendak has written, the Netherlands has never pursued state multiculturalism or the preservation of minority cultures. Instead it has pursued two sets of policies, one aimed at maintaining the long-standing commitment to the political peace, the other at achieving the integration of minorities.

The long-standing Dutch preference for compromise is embodied in the polder model—a reference to working together to build dykes, a bit like Tocqueville’s American “barn-raising.” Historically this meant that people were loath to criticize unassimilated immigrants. Dutch cultural practices thereby favored the unofficial continuation of a multicultural social reality, where people were free to continue to speak their own languages, worship in their own ways, and so forth. This kind of “live and let live” social habit was the Dutch solution to religious conflicts during a period of relatively intense religious belief and practice in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It gave rise to a quasi-official model of “pillars”: religious networks and institutions within which each Dutch man or woman was presumed to remain.

For the Dutch right, attacking Islam is a psychologically useful way of reworking their own heritage.

This social conception of keeping the religious and political peace by separating people according to religion subtended policies of creating and financing religious schools. Although the pillar structure had come apart before major Muslim immigration was underway in the 1970s and ’80s, a psychological residue persisted, dictating that each religious group should ignore the particularities of the other. Far from accepting or recognizing the other’s validity, this attitude promoted bare tolerance, civic acceptance of the right to the existence of Catholics, Protestants, and for that matter, gays and pot-smokers. Condemnation was constrained to the home or the pulpit. So while Dutch policies and norms favored a diverse society, they took no part of what is today thought of as multiculturalism, with its efforts to reach beyond toleration toward appreciation.

At the same time, governments developed a series of policies aimed at promoting the advancement of minorities through provision of schoolteachers who spoke their languages (principally Arabic and Turkish), construction of local councils that would advise the government on how best to foster integration, and special funding to provide additional tutoring and support at schools heavily attended by the children of immigrants. By the end of the twentieth century these policies had been changed to focus more on skills training and teaching in Dutch, but the goal of state policy continued to be, as it had always been, that of promoting integration. In the Netherlands, as in France, financial aid was targeted to schools with many poor students, who happened to descend from recent immigrants.

The attack on these policies and attitudes has focused on values attributed to Muslims or to Islamic doctrine. In 1991 parliamentary opposition leader Frits Bolkestein criticized the government for failing to defend Western values of free speech and equality against Islamic views. He used the case of Islam to launch a broader attack against the political elite and their way of papering over differences (the polder model) rather than standing up for Enlightenment values against the Islam of the Ayatollahs. A rising class of populist politicians seconded this critique, among them the right-wing and openly gay Pim Fortuyn—killed in 2002 by an activist concerned about scapegoating Muslims—and the anti-Islam campaigners Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Geert Wilders. Their attacks on Islam were also political appeals against the elites in order to curry favor with the forgotten working classes. Polder politics, elite domination, and Islam were the common enemy, and the refusal of the leading classes to denounce non-Dutch and anti-Enlightenment Islamic values was the major evidence that things had gone wrong. As in France this admonition has been heard on the left and the right, from Social Democrats as well as from Wilders’s far-right Party for Freedom. It reflects a cultural nationalism that can appeal to the old-style populism of the right or to the universalism of the left.

In life and in death, Fortuyn focused the attack on multiculturalism even more narrowly as an attack on Islamic intolerance of sexual diversity, and in particular, of gay lifestyles. Fortuyn personified a secularist, sexually open, and “tolerant” Dutch identity, against which Islam and Muslims could easily be targeted as the pre-Enlightenment other. In no other country has the issue of tolerating gays become so central and so salient a part of the critique of Islam. This line of attack was powerful because it also was a critique of older Dutch ways of doing politics and thinking about sexuality. Throughout most of the twentieth century, most Dutch people held religious views about homosexuality and women’s rights that were not too different from those now ascribed to Muslims by their opponents. Attacking Islam was thus also a psychologically useful way of reworking one’s own heritage.

Ironically, the current focus on Islam per se—Wilders compared the Qur’an to Mein Kampfand seeks to have it banned in the Netherlands—has distracted the far right from policies about minority achievement and language learning. The focus now is on the acceptability in the Enlightenment West of the pre-Enlightenment Muslim. And yet the right continues to attack Dutch multiculturalism because it remains rhetorically useful to link the cultural critique of religion to a populist critique of past elites.

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Blaming multiculturalism, then, is useful because it is both vague and misdirected. It would be much harder for Cameron to acknowledge that British racism, immigration trajectories, foreign policy, and faith-based schools have made major contributions toward minority isolation than it is to say: we got it wrong, now let’s get it right, let’s all be British. Islam provides a soft target for aspiring cultural nationalists. It is easier for Sarkozy and Marine Le Pen of the right-wing French National Front to decry Muslims praying in the street than it is to make room for adequate mosques. And across Europe, it is easier to point to the irresponsible statement of a foreign imam and say that Islam is the problem than to figure out how Muslims, like practicing Catholics and Jews before them, might best construct the cultural and religious institutions they need to be at ease in their new (and not so new) countries.

One can, and should, refute these misdiagnoses and at the same time give due credit to policies promoting integration within each of these societies. Speaking the language of the country and gaining job skills are the keys to becoming a productive citizen. France made free French courses part of its “integration contract” in 2003; with its 2005 Immigration Act, Germany began providing free German lessons to people granted work visas. When most Islamic religious officials are recent immigrants, it makes good sense to offer them instruction in the language, law, and politics of their new country of residence. These are policies of integration rather than assimilation; they are perfectly consistent with the promotion of equal respect for all religions and cultures.

Blaming multiculturalism ties the package together: it discredits a foreign element—Islam—and it identifies the fifth column that let it in, those past proponents of multiculturalism. That it misreads history is beside the point. It makes for effective, albeit irresponsible, populist politics.