Monday, February 7, 2011

Multicultural Mayhem

Prime Minister David Cameron gave a significant speech this weekend at Munich's Security Conference, which has predictably generated more controversy than it deserves. The speech was almost perfect in pitch, with only a few glossings-over that I'll get to in a minute, but this portion is what made Cameron's speech so striking:
"What I am about to say is drawn from the British experience, but I believe there are general lessons for us all.  In the UK , some young men find it hard to identify with the traditional Islam practiced at home by their parents, whose customs can seem staid when transplanted to modern Western countries.  But these young men also find it hard to identify with Britain too, because we have allowed the weakening of our collective identity.  Under the doctrine of state multiculturalism, we have encouraged different cultures to live separate lives, apart from each other and apart from the mainstream.  We’ve failed to provide a vision of society to which they feel they want to belong.  We’ve even tolerated these segregated communities behaving in ways that run completely counter to our values. 
So, when a white person holds objectionable views, racist views for instance, we rightly condemn them.  But when equally unacceptable views or practices come from someone who isn’t white, we’ve been too cautious frankly – frankly, even fearful – to stand up to them.  The failure, for instance, of some to confront the horrors of forced marriage, the practice where some young girls are bullied and sometimes taken abroad to marry someone when they don’t want to, is a case in point.  This hands-off tolerance has only served to reinforce the sense that not enough is shared.  And this all leaves some young Muslims feeling rootless.  And the search for something to belong to and something to believe in can lead them to this extremist ideology.  Now for sure, they don’t turn into terrorists overnight, but what we see – and what we see in so many European countries – is a process of radicalization."
It should be said again and again, that it is not bigoted to criticize other cultures for practices that are frighteningly illiberal. What is bigoted is to look away from the face of injustice, when those who suffer under it are of a different hue. It is the double-standard which is bigoted. This is why we must have one secular law for all. This is the downfall of strong multiculturalism.

Cameron did stop just a little short in my opinion, because there is a delicate issue unique to Islam among the large religions that needs addressing: scripturally mandated literalism.

For instance, barring a reformation, there remains a legitimate pathway from text to terror, and the wall that Islamic scripture has built around itself is incredibly effective at prohibiting evolving interpretations of meaning like those that have taken place with respect to the Old Testament. This is a wall that needs demolishing if we are to live in a world with a truly modernized Islam (as 'modern' as an Abrahamic religion can be made) that doesn't take theological commandments to submission and conquest so seriously. 

So, yes, a violent interpretation may be a sick one, but it is one that can be logical given the complete acceptance of certain premises. This is not to tar Muslims, in the aggregate, with Islamism as commanded by scripture, but it is to admit that many of the undesirable behaviors we associate with Islamism, such as the subjugation of women, and the mistreatment of infidel minorities, apostates, and homosexuals are explicitly prescribed in the text, and can be legitimately justified by appealing solely to scripture.

Again, one can find many such immoralities in the Bible, but the Bible does not claim itself to be the final, perfect and unalterable dictation from God himself. We no longer see mainstream Christianity calling for state law to punish non-virgin brides with stoning at the doorsteps of their fathers. The Christian mainstream now applies a modern set of morals to their interpretation of the text. And thank God they do.

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