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Monday, February 14, 2011

MULTICULTURALISM: A LESSON FROM EUROPE

The interface between politics and social policy, both domestic and international, gained new prominence recently when the leaders of two important Western European nations pronounced that multiculturalism in their countries "has failed." British Prime Minister David Cameron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel violated political correctness in favor of reality and took stands for reform of their respective nation's immigration laws and domestic policies towards immigrant groups.

Britain, Germany, as well as France, Holland, and several other Western European states have been struggling with the social tensions and economic hardships related to significant movements of Islamic peoples from Pakistan, India and the Middle East in Britain's case, and Turkey in the case of Germany. These migrations were stimulated by the liberal immigration policies of these countries and the "freedom of movement" policies of the European Union. The result has been the growth of internal communities of individuals who are essentially economic immigrants with little incentive to learn the national languages of their host countries, little inclination to adopt the local cultures and little loyalty to the states themselves. In short, assimilation did not occur and indeed was for most, resisted.

This has created several serious problems. The lack of language skills has made employment above basic manual labor difficult and has resulted in significant pressure on the generous national welfare systems. Religious based resistance to local cultural traditions and legal codes has caused tension and resentment with the larger national populations and stimulated anti-immigrant political movements. Then there is the problem of Islamic extremism finding a home among the socially and economically isolated immigrant populations.

Stratfor, the respected international private intelligence organization has identified London as the organizational center of international Islamic terrorism. Radical anti-West imams operating out of close to 1,800 mosques that serve England's estimated 1.7 million Muslims were the target of an undercover investigation in 2007, as reported in the liberal Guardian newspaper. Video obtained showed Muslim preachers urging followers to "prepare for jihad; to "hit girls for not wearing the hijab" and to "create a state within a state." Other preachers in "some of Britain's most moderate" mosques urged followers to reject British law and adopt Islamic law. "Muslims cannot accept the rule of non-Muslims. We have to rule ourselves and we have to rule others." was the message.

Enormously misguided government officials driven by political correctness, adopted a kind of cultural relativism which according to Douglas Murray, Director of the Center for Social Cohesion in London "judged that the state should not 'impose' rules and values on new-comers. Rather it should bend over backwards to accommodate the demands of immigrants."

Prime Minister Cameron's remarks, were met by the usual charges of "racism" and claims that "most Muslims" in Britain are "moderate and peace loving". This tiresome refrain, repeated across Western Europe and the U.S., while true, is intellectually dishonest because it does not address the problem and chooses to dismiss the fact that the radical and hostile "minority" is both large in number and poses a real danger. The 2005 London subway and bus bombings were carried out by radicalized Muslim British citizens, as was the 2007 bombing of the Glasgow airport in Scotland.

The Western European multicultural problem has implications for the United States. While the issue of Islamic immigration is not as pronounced here because of America’s much larger population and in relative terms, smaller Muslim population, it is still a major concern. Recently, the Obama Administration’s national security team testified before Congress and identified “home grown terrorism” as a real and growing threat. With over 2000 mosques in the U.S., the possibility of British style radicalization cannot be ignored. Again, the vast majority of American Muslims live their lives in conformity with U.S. laws and disdain radicalism. But as in Britain and Germany, the problems that are inherent in the practice of multiculturalism pose genuine threats and have already stimulated a popular political backlash.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the New York City Police Dept. intelligence division has warned that “jihadist ideology is proliferating in Western democracies at a logarithmic rate.” Indeed, in the eighteen months prior to July, 2010, 34 American Muslims were charged with having ties to international terrorists. Prominent examples are Major Nidal Malik Hasan charged with the Ft. Hood shootings; Faisal Shazad, the so called “Times Square bomber”, and David Headley, formerly Daood Sayed Gilani, who was linked with Pakistani terrorist organization Lashkar-e-Taiba in the 2008 Mumbai, India massacre.

Minnesota is home to the largest Somali Muslim population in the U.S. with some estimates are as high as 80,000, others in the 30-40,000 range. The FBI is currently investigating the apparent recruitment of young men from this population to terrorist groups in Somalia. While the first Somalis started arriving in the U.S. in the mid-1990s assimilation has not been easy if it has worked at all. The Hennipin County Medical Center in Minneapolis spends a reported $3 million a year for interpreters to make treatment for immigrants possible and an all female obstetrics staff had to be created because Somali women objected to male doctors delivering their babies.

The handmaiden of multiculturalism is political correctness and the idea that all cultures have equal moral and historical value in all social and national contexts. Multiculturalism is not “diversity”. The concept of diversity in the U.S. is an extension of the widely accepted “melting pot” analogy. Thus people representing different cultures would, like the different spices in a soup, enrich the whole. Diversity as it is practiced however, has been overextended to simply include people with different skin colors, ethnically identifiable last names, and even gender and gender preference. But multiculturalism rejects the concept and value of the “whole” along with its underlying commonality represented by national core values and cultural identifiers, or what has been called a “common theme”. Multiculturalism thus changes the “melting pot” soup into a stew with individual lumps of distinct, unchangeable, and unfortunately often incompatible ingredients, each with its own set of identifiers. In the social and political context this creates divisions and isolation that inevitably result in competition for status and resources as well as claims of victimization, as the core values of the national community are no longer shared. In the U.S. the core values are its history, language, national mythologies, sense of patriotism, and the acceptance of the constitutional precepts of individual liberty, the rule of law, and First Amendment rights. These values create the American identity and are the glue that binds the nation together.

Perhaps nowhere has the issue of multiculturalism been more prominent in the U.S. than in the case of Hispanic immigration, both legal and illegal. American schools celebrate Cinco De Mayo and crown “Miss Hispanic” this and that. Home improvement stores label their inventories in both English and Spanish. The country's universities celebrate their own commitment to "multiculturalism" almost like a new civic religion. As the University of Western Michigan says in it's webpage offering a "Diversity and Multiculturalism Scholarship, "Multiculturalism goes beyond the recognition of diversity."

Illegal immigration, an issue that should have been treated as a legal issue has become a cultural issue as Hispanic groups of U.S. citizens and legal residents have identified with and victimized the 14 million or so illegal Hispanics currently living in the U.S. and the half a million more who are apprehended at the border each year trying to enter illegally. Attempts to deal with the problem on both the state and federal level have brought the usual charges of racism and nativism. Again, while the vast majority of American citizens of Hispanic decent and those with legal residency are law abiding and productive participants in the American economy, there are elements and impulses in that "community" that imply a rejection of the “common American theme” and a resistance to “melting pot” assimilation.

Arizona once again became the focus of Hispanic and liberal ire when the Governor signed legislation that could deny funding for "any school district that offers classes designed primarily for students of particular ethnic groups, advocates ethnic solidarity or promotes resentment of a race or class of people." The proximate target of this legislation was the city of Tucson's ethnic (Hispanic) studies program which the State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne (now AZ Attorney General) had been fighting for years because he believed that; "They are teaching a radical ideology in Raza (race) including that Arizona and other states were stolen from Mexico and should be given back."

Without attending several of these classes, which Mr. Horne has not done, it is difficult to gauge the specific nature of the courses’ message but the exact wording of the legislation which knee-jerk liberals and Hispanic activists find so objectionable is neither controversial nor hard to defend.

"A. A SCHOOL DISTRICT OR CHARTER SCHOOL IN THIS STATE SHALL NOT INCLUDE IN ITS PROGRAM OF INSTRUCTION ANY COURSES OR CLASSES THAT INCLUDE ANY OF THE FOLLOWING:

1. PROMOTE THE OVERTHROW OF THE UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT.
2. PROMOTE RESENTMENT TOWARD A RACE OR CLASS OF PEOPLE.
3. ARE DESIGNED PRIMARILY FOR PUPILS OF A PARTICULAR ETHNIC GROUP.
4. ADVOCATE ETHNIC SOLIDARITY INSTEAD OF THE TREATMENT OF PUPILS AS INDIVIDUALS."


It is difficult to see how these conditions could represent a threat to any academic program unless they are indeed engaging in the specific activities described which their supporters deny. Still, there are those in the Tucson schools and administration that actively oppose the legislation and some have even called for defiance and the continued teaching of the offending curriculums. It's fair to ask if such courses which seem to be teaching "ethnic solidarity" and victimization based on the response of the course's advocates to the new law, actually result in troublesome attitudes and activities on the part of the students.

A partial answer is the demonstrable truth that some high school students like these in Arizona and California, go on to become members in a nation-wide Hispanic college student organization with a much more strident and decidedly anti-assimilation agenda.

The Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan (Chicano Student Movement of Aztlan or MEChA) can best be described by this statement by the University of Oregon MEChA website:

"Chicano is our identity; it defines who we are as a people. It rejects the notion that we. . should assimilate into the Anglo-American melting pot. . .Aztlan [CA, CO, TX, AZ, UT, NM, OR and part of WA] was the legendary homeland of the Aztecas. . . It became synonymous with the vast territories of the Southwest, brutally stolen from a Mexican people marginalized and betrayed by the hostile custodians of the Manifest Destiny."

According to Miguel Perez of the U. of CA Northridge MEChA chapter:

"The ultimate ideology is the liberation of Aztlan. Communism would be closest (in ideology). Once Aztlan is established, ethnic cleansing would commence: Non-Chicanos would have to be expelled-opposition groups would be quashed because you have to keep power."

Is it any surprise then that in response to the passage of Arizona’s tough anti-illegal immigrant law, Americans of all backgrounds witnessed thousands of Hispanics legal and illegal, in the streets of Los Angeles and New York City waving Mexican flags and claiming that U.S. immigration laws violated their “rights”.

It is easy to dismiss the problems in Europe and America as “a few Islamic extremists” who are not representative of the larger Muslim communities or connected to the issue of multiculturalism; or to dismiss the resistance of a “few thousand Somali war refugees” to the basic first step in assimilation, learning the language of their new country, as a temporary issue. It is also easy to rationalize the rantings of “few” overzealous college students as just acting out another form of campus radicalism. But the lessons of the European experience are stark and should demand the attention of legislators, educators and community leaders. Nothing good is to be achieved by the continued fragmentation of American society and the abandonment of the responsibility to assimilate which fosters a critical sense of national unity within which the “spices” of diversity are still welcome.

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