EUROPE’S TOLERANCE FINDS ITS LIMIT: DEATH OF MULTICULTURALISM

EUROPE’S TOLERANCE FINDS ITS LIMIT: DEATH OF MULTICULTURALISM

Peter Goodspeed

National Post, November 25, 2006 On the morning of Nov. 2, 2004, as Mr. van Gogh cycled to work in Amsterdam, the bearded young man in a long Middle-Eastern-style shirt fired at him with a handgun. The mortally wounded filmmaker tried to run for cover. But the killer chased him, shot him once more and slit his throat from ear to ear.  Then, he plunged two knives, one with a five-page letter attached, into the body. The note began: “This is my last word, riddled with bullets, baptized in blood…” It was filled with jihadist slogans and threats and contained a blood-curdling diatribe against Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Somali-born Dutch politician who had written the script of Mr. van Gogh’s last film, Submission. The 10-minute short about the abuse of Muslim women had upset some Muslims because it showed sacred Koranic texts superimposed on a semi-naked woman…   The savagery of the killing triggered revulsion across Europe. Today, the continent is attempting to cope with increasingly bitter racial and religious squabbles and is riven with doubts about its future.  Decades of open-door immigration policies have transformed Europe through the arrival of several million immigrants, mostly Muslims, from North Africa, Turkey and Southwest Asia.  But as the region became one of the most multicultural regions on Earth, its people have gradually turned against the policies that made it this way… [Last November], elections in the Netherlands seemed to reinforce the growing distrust between the native and immigrant populations when the Freedom Party, a previously insignificant far-right fringe group, won nine seats in parliament.  Led by Geert Wilders, a strident radical who goes out of his way to insult Muslims and warn that the Netherlands is about to be engulfed by an “Islamic tsunami,” the Freedom Party is now the fifth- largest in the Dutch parliament.  Mr. Wilders is the political heir of Pim Fortuyn, a populist politician who campaigned on immigration issues and was assassinated in 2002 just before elections… Similar far-right movements are flourishing, along with large Muslim immigrant populations, in Austria, Belgium, Germany and Italy.  In France, one citizen in five voted for right-wing extremist Jean-Marie Le Pen in the 2002 presidential election.  Now, Nicolas Sarkozy, the hardline Interior Minister who hopes to represent the centre-right in next April’s presidential contest, has begun to court the anti-immigrant vote…   But it’s not just the far right that is declaring the death of multiculturalism. Britain’s ruling Labour party has abandoned the laissez-faire pluralism of the past and introduced a U.S.-style citizenship ceremony, complete with declarations of loyalty. Naturalizing immigrants must also pass language and citizenship tests.  More recently, Jack Straw, a former foreign secretary, created a huge controversy when he declared he wanted Muslim women to abandon the veil… [Straw’s] comments caused many Muslims to insist they are being persecuted simply for being different.  “The implication is clear: niqab- or hijab-wearing women, and, through them, European Muslims are being asked to submit not to the law of the land, but to each country’s dominant way of life,” Naima Bouteldja, a French journalist, wrote in The Guardian newspaper… Still, in the wake of last summer’s suicide bombings on London’s transit system by home-grown terrorists, there are growing fears multiculturalism protects and preserves every culture—except the host culture.  The native-born terrorist has become a symbol of multiculturalism’s failure. Usually, these new extremists do not feel at home in the West but have only the most tenuous ties to their families’ original homelands. As a result, they are susceptible to arguments of religious certainty and promises of eternal glory. The cultural isolation encouraged by multiculturalism also lets Islamist activists find refuge and anonymity in Europe’s immigrant communities.  “The fruits of 30 years of state-endorsed multiculturalism have only increased inter-racial tension and inter-racial sectarianism,” analyst Patrick West wrote in a recent report for the British think-tank Civitas.  “The fact that the London suicide bombers of July 7 [2005] were born and bred in Britain—and encouraged by the state to be different—illustrates that hard multiculturalism has the capacity to be not only divisive but decidedly lethal…” …In such a globalized clash of cultures, multiculturalism seems doomed to be eclipsed by anger and fear.

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