Monday, 3 September 2007

Melting Pot versus Multiculturalism

All countries have their myth, and a powerful one is the ‘American Dream’ – the belief that, regardless of origins or class, every American citizen can rise from the humblest origins to the top. This was epitomised in the saying “From Log Cabin to White House”.

The original thirteen colonies which metamorphosed into the new-born United States of America were mostly inhabited by people of British stock and their descendants. All were pioneers; many had thankfully left Europe behind to escape political and religious persecution. They sought to live as they chose, and to worship God in their own ways [in the plural, because there has always been an abundance of Christian sects]. Early observers of the young Republic, from de Tocqueville, Captain Hall, Mrs Trollope, and Dickens, onwards, reported on a society already quite strange to European eyes – one which aspired to equality and success. There were, of course, blemishes – notably slavery – but the attraction America exerted drew increasing thousands of emigrants from Europe, especially in the half-century following the largely failed revolutions of 1848.

The thriving and expanding United States welcomed these “huddled masses yearning to breathe free” with open arms. In consequence, America became, as Zangwill memorably said, “God’s Crucible, the great Melting-Pot where all the races of Europe are melting and re-forming.”

Significantly, it was also Zangwill who said: “The law of dislike for the unlike will always prevail. And whereas the unlike is normally situated at a safe distance, the Jews bring the unlike into the heart of every milieu, and must therefore defend a frontier line as large as the world.”

Substitute “the Muslims” for “the Jews”, and his prophetic words portray the dilemma of not only America, but also of Europe today. As regards the Jews, Zangwill was only partly correct, as many if not most Jews in both the Old World and the New have striven to blend into the fabric of the societies they live in whilst at the same time preserving their distinctive religion and culture. Islam, however, does not seek to blend – it wishes to alter, and eventually to dominate. Muslims are not willing candidates for the Melting Pot.

This has become increasingly apparent over the past couple of decades. In Europe, immigration of non-Europeans in considerable numbers began in the 1970s, and was generally welcomed as a partial solution to labour shortages. Europe, and particularly Britain, has a long tradition of providing a refuge for those fleeing political and religious persecution; and this tradition is still strong. In nearly all cases, those who found asylum on our shores have repaid us by blending in with our traditions and way of life, whilst preserving their own distinctive cultural flavours. It is this successful blending of difference in a generally tolerant society which gave birth to the rosy notion of ‘multiculturalism’ as a seamless coat of many colours.

The arrival within the past two decades of large numbers of Muslims has however rent this cosy garment asunder. For Muslims are not interested in blending easily with our open, tolerant society – much less in assimilating. Their faith makes this impossible, because Islam knows no distinction between what it teaches is Allah’s law and the law of the land. They aspire to impose their own religious standards and shariah laws, not only upon members of their own community, but ultimately upon all the rest of us ‘infidels’. The contention of our mainstream political leaders and the preachers of multiculturalist orthodoxy that Islamist extremists are misguided fanatics perverting their own religious teachings is an ostrich position.

I may be wrong about this. I hope I am. But the deafening silence from the huge majority of ‘moderate’ Muslims who, we are assured, dissociate themselves from the extremists does not inspire confidence. I wait to hear from them, and would welcome doing so. Meanwhile, I fear that looking for the silent majority of moderate Muslims is as useful as hunting the Snark.


Richard W. Symonds said...

I believe there is a "silent majority of decent people" in England and Beyond (Christian/Muslim/Hindu/Humanist/Socialist/Capitalist et al)
who exert a huge, hidden influence.

This 'decency' is expressed in so many ways - especially when faced with extremism of any kind - political and/or religious.

There is a tolerance and decency - humanity - which is more powerful than any bully, bullet or bullshit.

anticant said...

That has always been the case, Richard, but it hasn't prevented religious and political enthusiasts down the ages from dragging the peaceable majority into senseless wars over meaningless differences.

The Religious Wars in Europe during the 16th and 17th centuries are a glaring example. Did it really MATTER whether people were Catholic or Protestant, or which version of Christianity was 'true'? Of course not - but thousands were slaughtered in the mistaken belief that it did.

What it really was about - and still is, in the case of Islam, Judaism, and 'born-again' Christianity - is the triumphalist conceit that 'We' are better than 'You' because our God has told us so.

Evil, malevolent rubbish!

Religion is the problem - not the answer.

Emmett said...

OR, Our Fuehrer...or, 'our' neo-con secret Zionists -- or, our Tee Vees. The 'deafening silence' among non-violent muslims /may/ in fact be a tad more 'positive' -- akin to a mainly-unperceived motive underlying perhaps the most of the indifference of a palpable majority of /both/ English & Americans, to the mistake in Iraq:

THE Really mature (in all quarters) may in fact know (!) that there is /nothing/ to be said or done; and, that 'girls just wanna have fun!' Government (now increasingly anachronistic) /is/ largely a branch of the entertainment-industry, for those people who cannot easily be by themselves & for personal reassurance need to order others around -- whereas, as we pass deeper into post-modernity, the nation-state & its present waning forms of 'governance' altogether become sheerly more, well, past expiry....

ONCE Again in culture, as we enter a new religious /aeon/, the really /avant garde/ styles for being an asshole (as well as kind & insightful & loving & benignant), and all of the best associated opportunities /across a more-fully human spectrum/, again increasingly lie ahead in -- and, FAR beyond! -- exoteric & fundamentalist religion.

SO What?

IN The name of any worthy concept of "affirmative action," how can /we/, self-styled liberals one-and-all, presume to deny /these/ crippled religious people /their/ day in the Sun? After all, we have ramps & powered doors & 'positive employment' for every other sort of debility!

SORRY -- I crack wise....

HOWEVER, Being gunned down by a sonofabitch /is/ being gunned down by a sonofabitch -- whether the sonofabitch in question is some mad Mahometan or some humanist official in the gulag makes little difference, certainly not to the palpable experience of /evil/.

THIS Is why religion re-enters culture & civilisation at this time:

FOR The present, we /have/ come as far as we can on the humanist side of things, with the problem of 'good' & Evil; and, now, other long-neglected (but objective & substantial) psychic factors must all 1) catch up, and 2) take human being on yet a step further -- in the next thousand years or whatever it may be. The long-rejected religious /archai/ indeed are surging with dynamic force (unike the pathetic unconscious imitation, in Baghdad!) & we are indeed confronted with a 'return of the repressed'.

I Am sorry to wax harsh betimes -- but, for good or ill, /I/ did not write the rulkes, /amin/.

anticant said...

Well,I hope you are right - especially as the builders are currently DOUBLING the size of our already large local mosque!

No contracts out yet for a cathedral in Ryadh, though - reciprocity isn't the name of the Islamic game.

Anonymous said...

Why? Is there a mosque in Vatican City?
There are churches in much of the Middle East, so I don't really get your last comment.

Emmett said...

THE Real 'blemish' on these US idiots' excutcheon was (and, in the american South, /is/!) the continuous chewing of tobacco & spitting on ther mat, and calling the cat a bastard! Compared to the post-modern & contemporary (contemptible?) Americano of Mississippi or East Texas, the mad mahometan mullahs of the Bombs & Infantile Rage persuastion objectively ARE the apotheoses of...civility! Love & mouth-raps, Grandpa

Emmett said...

ALSO, The bathetic yelps & wails of this decerebrated & terminally celtic country & wwestern 'music' /is/...pukesome!

Emmett said...

"Puke me up, Scotty!"