The country that hates itself
A London writer describes the disastrous consequences of British multiculturalism – and provides a lesson for Canada
Melanie Phillips, National Post
Published: Friday, June 16, 2006
LONDON – The problem of Muslim radicalization has been on the agenda of all nations since 9/11. But Canada faces a unique dilemma because the doctrine of multiculturalism is seen as intrinsic to our national identity. The recent disruption of an alleged homegrown Islamist terror plot has caused many Canadians to ask: How can multiculturalism — which preaches tolerance above all else — be squared with a militant, intolerant creed that demonizes non-believers? This week, the National Post presents a week-long series of articles examining this question. In today's instalment, London-based writer Melanie Phillips describes the damage done by Britain's multicultural policies, and warns Canada not to follow her nation's example.
The sense of shock in Canada following the arrest of 17 Muslims charged with plotting acts of terror against their fellow Canadians rings a horribly familiar bell in Britain.
In the wake of the London bombings last July by young British Muslims, Britons have found it hard to accept that boys who had been born in Britain, who as often as not came from middle class homes, had been to mainstream schools and university and held down good jobs, could turn into human bombs. Britain's experience has much to teach Canada. Despite some differences between the two countries — Britain's Muslim population is larger than Canada's, for example — there are many points of similarity.
In particular, both Canada and Britain need to face the fact that multiculturalism, which for both countries is an article of faith, has brought havoc in its wake. This doctrine holds that all minority cultures must enjoy equal status with the majority, and that any attempt to impose the majority culture over those of minorities is by definition racist. It has helped create a cultural vacuum into which has roared militant Islamism — the interpretation of Islam that preaches holy war. Multiculturalism not only creates the environment in which this clerical fascism can flourish but — crucially — also undermines our ability to defend ourselves against it.
Like Canada, Britain prides itself on being a tolerant society committed to minority rights. Yet in the wake of the July bombings, the U.K. government estimated that 26% of Britain's 1.6 million Muslims felt no loyalty to Britain, 3,000 had passed through al-Qaeda camps and up to 16,000 were either actively engaged in or supported terrorist activity.
Although hundreds of thousands of British Muslims have no truck with either Islamist extremism or terror, these numbers were astounding. Britain had turned into “Londonistan” — the European hub of al-Qaeda.
In the wake of the London bombings, people came up with a litany of excuses — such as the war in Iraq, poverty or Islamophobia — to explain what had happened. There was a widespread determination to avoid discussion of the actual cause: religious fanaticism. The orthodoxy of minority rights means any criticism of minorities is deemed unsayable.
Multiculturalism has exacerbated the alienation that has left so many British Muslims vulnerable to the siren song of jihad. In addition, Britain has been unravelling its identity for decades, and multiculturalism has been the outcome. Since World War Two, Britain's elite has suffered from a collective collapse of cultural nerve. Many things contributed: postwar exhaustion, the collapse of the British Empire (and therefore of national purpose), and post-colonial flagellatory guilt of the kind that white western liberals have made their specialty.
This left the British establishment vulnerable to the revolutionary ideology of the New Left, at the core of which lay a hatred of western society. As a consequence, the British elite decided not only that the British nation was an embarrassment but also that the very idea of the nation was an anachronism. Britain had to be unravelled and a new world order constructed from principles untainted by the particulars of national culture.
So schools no longer transmitted the British national story and the country's bedrock values. Immigrant children were taught instead that their culture was the community they came from, and children were left in ignorance of British history and taught that their values were whatever they wanted them to be.
Instead of principles rooted in British law, religion and history, Britain subscribed to the doctrine of universalism expressed through human rights law, and placed its faith in transnational institutions such as the UN, International Criminal Court or European Court of Justice as the major sources of legitimacy. Only the universal and the nation-busting could be innocent of prejudice.
Far from promoting equality, however, this approach fashioned minority rights into a deadly weapon. For if all values have equal status, majority values get knocked off their pedestal. So the very idea of the nation as an overarching framework of shared and binding values and obligations is undermined.
This has had a number of calamitous consequences. Remaking the nation gave rise to a collapse of immigration controls. Illegal immigrants simply vanished into British society. The chaos resulting from this loss of border controls made security impossible, since the intelligence service didn't know who was in the country.
Anyone who questioned the desirability of such trends was vilified. Mass immigration was held to be an absolute good, not least because it destroyed Britain's white character. Multiculturalism became the driving force of British life, ruthlessly policed by an army of bureaucrats enforcing a doctrine of state-mandated virtue to promote racial, ethnic and cultural balkanization.
This left many Muslims and other minorities stranded. The doctrine was a complete break from the earlier pattern of assimilating immigrants. Now, minorities could no longer be integrated because there was no longer an overarching culture for them to integrate into.
By denying the validity of a common culture, multiculturalism reinforced those dangerous tendencies toward isolationism and hostility to western values expressed within Britain's Muslim community. How could Muslims be expected to sign up to a national project the very expression of which was now considered “racist”? When British Muslim youths turned themselves into human bombs, the attractions of multiculturalism suddenly seemed rather less obvious. Nevertheless, its grip upon the British psyche remained so strong that Britain was unable to condemn the mind-twisting excuses served up by spokesmen for the British Muslim community. Instead, it actually endorsed them.
Thus, it was agreed that what caused the bombers to strike was lack of integration, Islamophobia and rage over the war in Iraq. But the broad public didn't ask why so many British Muslims refused to integrate; and while the Iraq war was undoubtedly being used to whip up Muslim anger, Britain didn't question the implication that any attempt by the west to defend itself would be turned upside down and misrepresented as aggression against the innocent.
Here indeed was the multicultural rub, the mind-bending reasoning by which the doctrine locks Britain and Canada into the mother of all Catch-22s.
At the heart of multiculturalism lies a radical egalitarianism by which everyone's culture and lifestyle has equal validity and moral stature. The consequence is that people are increasingly unable to make moral distinctions based on behaviour. Instead, minorities of all kinds — ethnic, religious, sexual — are not held responsible for their misdeeds because they are perceived as a victim class. So the majority are held responsible instead.
The greatest exponents of this morally upside-down grievance culture are those Muslims for whose pathological inferiority complex it seems to be tailor-made. They represent their own aggression against the west as defence, because of their belief that the weakness of Islam relative to the west must be the result of a western conspiracy to destroy the religion. Since they therefore think that their culture is under attack, they believe it is legitimate to restore the former global power of the Islamic empire by aggressive attacks which they reconceptualize as defence.
Everything that follows is viewed through this prism. The Islamists' exaggerated notions of shame and honour mean that every slight turns into a major grievance, disadvantage morphs into paranoia and Islam itself is perceived to be under siege everywhere. The more the free world defends itself, the more the Islamists claim they are under attack. So the more atrocities there are against the west, the more the Islamists claim they are victims of Islamophobia. Truly, this is a dialogue of the demented.
It is impossible to overstate the importance to the global struggle against Islamist extremism of properly understanding and publicly challenging this moral, intellectual and philosophical inversion, which translates aggressor into victim and vice versa.
Only by doing so will the free world realize that it is not enough to thwart actual terrorist plots, crucial as that is. What must also be addressed is the fanatical hatred in people's heads that drives them to such inhuman acts, and which is itself fuelled by paranoid fantasies and lies about a conspiracy to destroy Islam by the west and its supposed puppet-masters, the Jews. It is impossible also to exaggerate the fuel that has been poured onto the fires of Islamist terror by the dupes and malcontents of the western intelligentsia who themselves echo precisely these prejudices.
If we are to defeat this terrible thing that threatens us, we have to grasp that while grievances such as Iraq or Israel are used as recruiting sergeants for terror, they are not its cause. That lies in the Islamist doctrine of religious conquest.
Canada, like all Western nations, should send a clear message that while Islam is respected like any minority faith, Muslims must play by the rules of the minority game. That means that our countries will not allow religion to be used to incite hatred and violence, and where this is taking place — in mosques or madrassahs, in prisons, youth clubs or on campus — it will be stopped.
But that can only happen if the shibboleth of multiculturalism is set aside. Otherwise our culture will continue sleepwalking into oblivion.
Londonistan by Melanie Phillips is published by Encounter. For information about the author, please visit www.melaniephillips.com.
National Post 2006