"We … take our form-freedom balance in government for granted as though it were natural. There is form in acknowledging the obligations in society, and there is freedom in acknowledging the rights of the individual…. There is a balance here which we have come to take as natural in the world. It is not natural in the world. We are utterly foolish if we look at the long span of history and read the daily newspapers giving today's history and do not understand that the form-freedom balance in government which we have had in Northern Europe since the Reformation and in the countries extended from it is unique in the world, past and present."
--Francis Schaeffer, "The Abolition of Truth and Morality"
German Chancellor Angela Merkel set the tongues of pundits wagging this week when she declared that multiculturalism has "utterly failed" in Germany. Multiculturalism is, of course, one of the sacraments Secularism. It is the idea that people from dramatically different cultures can peacefully coexist as a unified society within a state or nation notwithstanding that they order themselves very differently within society and cling to radically different-and often conflicting-world views. Multiculturalism is the fruit of "cultural relativism" which maintains that all cultures are equally valid, no one being better than another. Cultural relativism, in turn, is the outgrowth of "relativism," which asserts that there is no such thing as universal truth and that all ideas are equally valid and depend on the circumstances in which they are applied.
Not surprisingy, the political correctness police went into high dudgeon in the aftermath of Ms. Merkel's speech, suggesting that her comments represented some kind of ominous foreshadowing of a German nationalist resurgence (allusions to Hitler's Third Reich are perfectly permissible rhetorical tools for liberals, though off limits to conservatives). Their goal was to squelch any thoughtful debate of the premise advanced by the Chancellor. If they could demonize her position, that would have a chilling effect on the willingness of anyone else to embrace it or, perhaps, even to discuss it. In the western world of the 21st century it is no longer fashionable to take pride in one's national heritage, and patriotism is equated with parochialism.
A recent article by George Friedman, founder of Stratfor (www.stratfor.com), provides us with some historical perspective and points out that Germany's current integration problems may be traced back to the aftermath of WWII, when immigration was encouraged as a means to compensate for a post-war shortage of workers:
"Labor recruitment led to a massive influx of "Gastarbeiter," German for "guest workers," into German society. The Germans did not see this as something that would change German society: They regarded the migrants as temporary labor, not as immigrants in any sense. As the term implied, the workers were guests and would return to their countries of origin when they were no longer needed (many Spaniards, Italians and Portuguese did just this). This did not particularly trouble the Germans, who were primarily interested in labor. The Germans simply didn't expect this to be a long-term issue."
Decades later, it's clear that Germany's utilitarian approach to immigration in the 1950s and 1960s has become a long term issue, one that poses significant challenges to the social and political stability of the country. Chancellor Merkel is only saying aloud what many Germans - and French, for that matter - have believed for some time now: The Muslim culture (which is inextricably bound up within the Muslim religion) does not comport with western Europe's liberal democratic tradition. They have concluded that while multiculturalism sounds good in theory, in practice it increasingly appears unworkable.
Fox News personality Bill O'Reilly recently encountered the stifling effects of multicultural political correctness when he appeared as a guest on ABC's The View. His opinion about the inappropriateness of the Ground Zero mosque project coupled with the statement that "Muslims killed us on 9/11″ so enraged hosts Whoopi Goldberg and Joy Behar that they walked off the set in protest. Days later, O'Reilly addressed the controversy on his program:
"There's no question that there is a Muslim problem in the world, and if "The View" ladies will not acknowledge that, that's their problem, because most Americans well understand the danger coming out of the Muslim world…. Right now the nations of Russia, China, the Philippines, many nations in Africa, and Thailand are all fighting Muslim insurrections. The Muslim threat to the world is not isolated, it's huge, it involves nations and millions of people. Yet the Left in America will not face that fact…. In Germany, however, Chancellor Angela Merkel is getting tough…. Ms. Merkel has an enormous problem with five million Muslims who are not assimilating into German society. In France, the Parliament there has outlawed burqas after that country endured rioting in Muslim areas that the police could not control…. There is a clash of civilizations in play."
Kudos to Mr. O'Reilly for saying what few on this side of the Atlantic seem willing to say. There is, indeed, a clash of civilizations in play, and it is only a matter of time before the problems plaguing Germany and France manifest themselves in cities and towns across America.
The fact of the matter is that the culture of individual liberty and the rule of law that characterizes the American way stems from a particular worldview: the Judeo-Christian worldview. The form-freedom balance referred to by Francis Schaeffer is the unique product of a religious tradition that views each and every person as equal and precious in the eyes of God, and endowed by that God with inalienable rights. The government exists to protect those rights and our laws are designed to ensure that no one group usurps the rights and liberties of any other. All are equally free to exercise their rights within the limits of the law, and all are equally accountable before the law for their actions.
It should come as no surprise that Muslim immigration to the liberal democratic nations of the West has caused tension and strife. There are several crucial areas in which the civil and cultural traditions of Islam do not align themselves with those of the Judeo-Christian tradition. One need only compare the laws of a country like Saudi Arabia or Iran to understand this point. Stonings, acid attacks, honor killings, state-sanctioned persecution… these are everyday occurrences in Muslim nations where women are still considered the property of their male relatives and where free exercise of speech and religion are considered crimes against the state and against Allah. By refusing to address these differences, and by refusing to insist that immigrants to our shores subscribe wholeheartedly to American democratic values, we run the risk of a "balkanization" of our Muslim population similar to that which is already occurring in western Europe.
Western liberals, like the ladies of The View, like to think that American society has evolved past the primitive sentiments of patriotism, that we've become so enlightened that we should be able to celebrate all cultures equally within the framework of western liberal democracy, and that everyone shares their values of inclusiveness. The fact is, however, that some ideas are better than other others and some cultural traditions are superior to others. America has always prided itself on being a true "melting pot" of races, ethnicities, religions, and cultures, and our strength has always come from our collective belief in the values of liberty and equality embodied in our Constitution. Historically, immigrants have come to these shores with the intention of embracing democratic ideals, not supplanting them. Without these ideals, we would cease to be America. If we are unwilling to defend the foundations of our liberty, we must realize that we are at great risk of losing it.
For heaven's sake, let's have a robust discussion about whether the tenets of Islam are compatible with the tenets of democracy. The loss of our liberty is too high a price to pay for the sake of political correctness.
Ken Connor is an attorney and co-author of Sinful Silence: When Christians Neglect Their Civic Duty. He is also Chairman of the Center for a Just Society.
Publication date: November 8, 2010