There is good and bad multiculturalism. The good kind aims for diversity amidst unity. That is, it seeks for common social values, and encourages newcomers to assimilate, integrate and affirm the core values of the host country. The bad kind is when separatism, division and ghetto-isation takes place.
The latter has by and large been the European experience, especially with its huge Muslim immigrant population. Post-War Europe needed workers to help rebuild, and they came in the millions especially from North Africa and the Middle-East.
While Europe eventually got back on its feet, it came at a price. Large segments of Europe are now effectively no-go zones for Europeans. Muslim populations have set up their own enclaves, and instead of blending in to the surrounding culture, they have defiantly insisted on the superiority of their own.
Instead of a harmonious multicultural Europe we instead have a deeply divided and polarised Europe, with resentment, antagonism, and societies being torn apart. Of course no culture can long last unless there are some core values which everyone agrees to and promotes.
But when competing ideologies, philosophies and values are being fought over in the same society, social cohesion becomes impossible. And the trouble is, many of those who originally advocated multiculturalism did not sufficiently think through what they were trying to achieve.
Some voices warned about potential trouble if this was not handled carefully. But usually these voices were drowned out and repudiated. But now with over half a century of European multiculturalism, even some national leaders are beginning to admit that this has been one big mistake.
Consider the recent words of German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Germany is a nation of 82 million people, including around 4 million Muslims, mostly from Turkey. The trouble is, for the most part they never did integrate very well. Indeed, many did not want to. And trouble has been brewing there for quite some time.
Thus Merkel declared on the weekend that multiculturalism has been one monumental failure. This is how the newsagency Reuters covered the story: “Germany’s attempt to create a multicultural society has ‘utterly failed,’ Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Saturday, adding fuel to a debate over immigration and Islam polarising her conservative camp.
“Speaking to a meeting of young members of her Christian Democrats (CDU), Merkel said allowing people of different cultural backgrounds to live side by side without integrating had not worked in a country that is home to some four million Muslims. ‘This (multicultural) approach has failed, utterly failed,’ Merkel told the meeting in Potsdam, south of Berlin.
“Merkel faces pressure from within her CDU to take a tougher line on immigrants who don’t show a willingness to adapt to German society and her comments appeared intended to pacify her critics. She said too little had been required of immigrants in the past and repeated her usual line that they should learn German in order to get by in school and have opportunities on the labour market….
“Merkel has tried to accommodate both sides of the debate, talking tough on integration but also telling Germans that they must accept that mosques have become part of their landscape. She said on Saturday that the education of unemployed Germans should take priority over recruiting workers from abroad, while noting Germany could not get by without skilled foreign workers.”
What is true of Germany is pretty much the case in many other parts of Europe. Muslim immigration has been a mixed bag. While some have blended in and adopted the values and customs of the host nation, many have not. Indeed, some studies have found that second-generation Muslims born in Europe are even more radicalised and resistant to integration than their parents.
Cultural diversity is certainly a good thing – under the right circumstances – but when warring factions within a nation are resistant to cooperation and unity, then a society is bound for trouble. The big question here is whether core Islamic values and beliefs are in any way compatible with core Western goods, such as freedom, democracy, and a proper separation of church and state.
Many authorities have answered this question in the negative. They argue that what we have are two competing ideologies and worldviews which are mutually incompatible and inconsistent with each other. But all societies need some cohesive underlying set of values.
In a situation where there are two warring worldviews, one will ultimately have to predominate. As Andrew McCarthy writes in his new book, The Grand Jihad (Encounter Books, 2010), “It is simply a fact that Islam and the West are different civilizations.”
Although he writes about the situation in America, his advice is appropriate for Europe as well: “Defending ourselves will require flushing out the Islamists: identifying them and imposing on them the burden of defending their totalitarian ideology against the positive case for liberty and human reason.
“Doing so will undeniably burden true moderate Muslims as well: Given the prevalence of anti-Constitutional beliefs in Islam, foreign Muslims should not be permitted to reside in America unless they can demonstrate their acceptance of American constitutional principles.”
It may be too late for many European nations to implement such advice. Undoubtedly many Muslims living in Europe do embrace European values and freedoms. But it is up to them to make this clear: to speak out and renounce the Islamists in their midst.
Until they do this loudly and clearly, the consternation as expressed by Merkel, Geert Wilders, and others will only increase in Europe. Whether it is too late to turn things around is a moot point. But surely the first step in turning things around is to acknowledge our past mistakes, and not keep repeating them.