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News and views on Israel, Zionism and the war on terrorism.

February 25, 2003

Can good Muslims be good multiculturalists?

An article by Mark Steyn examines the demographics of Europe and the huge surge in Muslims immigration. The writer also indicates the problems a liberal view may be that forgives many transgressions because of "newness" to Western values, transgressions that would not be allowed non-Muslims. His concern is not in badmouthing Muslims but rather in questioning how multicultrualism can be made more effective. This choice extract indicates that it is all too easy to badmouth another country rather than focusing on problems at home
[...]These are a few straws in the wind, birds on the lake. They're on the periphery of our vision right now, but they won't stay there. You may have heard the statistics -- in Amsterdam the most popular name for newborn boys is Mohammed, etc. You may be aware that some waggish Western Muslims refer to the Continent as "Eurabia." The great issue of our time is whether Islam -- the fastest growing religion in Europe and North America -- is compatible with the multicultural, super-diverse, boundlessly tolerant society of Western liberals. This is the paradox of multiculturalism: Is it illiberal to force liberalism on others? Is it liberal to accommodate illiberalism? I don't personally care if Germany waives its regulations on animal cruelty to permit Muslims to have the source of their meat slaughtered in accordance with Islamic practice. But then I'm not a member of PETA. And, if I were a feminist or a gay or an "artist," I wouldn't be reassured by these early birds winging their way from Norwegian courts and Midwestern playhouses.

Meanwhile, those of us who talk of reforming Iraq are assured by our opponents that it's preposterous to think that Arabs can ever be functioning citizens of a democratic state. If that's so, isn't that an issue, given current immigration patterns, not for Iraq tomorrow but for Britain, France, Belgium and Holland right now? And shouldn't we at least try to understand why Muslims in, say, Kazakhstan have been able to reconcile the contradictions between Church and state?

Given Europe's birthrates, the survival of the West depends on conversion -- on ensuring that the unprecedently high numbers of immigrants to the Continent embrace Western pluralism. Some of us think it would be easier to do this if the countries from which they emigrate are themselves democratic and pluralist. But to say there's no problem here except Texan cowboy fundamentalist paranoia is to blind yourself to reality, to march to suicide as surely as Ayat al-Akhras did