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Multiculturalism: A Failed Policy

Are all cultures equal? Yes, according to multiculturalism.

Numerous heads of state including Nicolas Sarkozy (France), Angela Merkel (Germany), and David Cameron (UK) have recently proclaimed that multiculturalism has been an utter failure (see here). Many people are baffled by this position as they confuse multiculturalism as a political normative philosophy with the colloquial use of the term meant to represent cultural, religious, and ethnic heterogeneity (or pluralism). The latter meaning is a very laudable objective to pursue as such diversity creates a richer social tapestry. On the other hand, Multiculturalism (hereafter capitalized) in the first sense of the term is more than merely a failed political philosophy. It is a central cause of the slow erosion of Western civilization. For an in-depth critique of this political philosophy, see Salim Mansur’s book Delectable Lie: A Liberal Repudiation of Multiculturalism.

One of the defining features of Multiculturalism is the tenet that all cultures are equally valuable, good, and worthy of respect, if not outright celebration. This in part stems from a hodgepodge of postmodernism (“There are no objective truths”) and moral/cultural relativism (“Who are we to judge the moral and/or cultural precepts of another people?”). For a discussion of these misguided principles, see my earlier posts here and here. A consequence of Multiculturalism is the notion that host nations/cultures should not expect that new immigrants internalize the defining ethos of the host nation. Rather, it is assumed that each cultural group will maintain its distinct identity irrespective of whether its foundational cultural values are contrary to those of the host nation. Lack of integration and assimilation are not necessarily poor outcomes according to Multiculturalism, as such isolationism is viewed as an instantiation of cultural pride.

Let me first address the supposed equality of cultures. Nothing could be further from the truth. Cultures that ensure the legal equality of the sexes, that protect the rights of religious minorities and homosexuals, that provide legal protection for freedom of conscience, freedom of speech (see my earlier posts regarding this fundamental freedom here and here), freedom of religion, and freedom of association, that institutionalize a separation of state and church, are infinitely superior to those that do not. There is nothing shameful, arrogant, or jingoistic in stating so. Millions of people seek to enter the United States and Canada from around the world but few people line up to emigrate to Cuba, North Korea, and Saudi Arabia. The yearly patterns of global immigration for the past 100 years speak to that trivially obvious fact. In the same manner that a psychologically healthy person is one who is not riddled with suicidal self-loathing, a healthy civilization cannot be shackled with endless self-hatred (a too frequent reality amongst Western intelligentsia; see my earlier post on this issue here). Of all ways by which societies might be organized, Western liberal democracies constitute the optimal one. This does not mean that the West has created perfect societies bereft of social ills. Rather, it implies that the flourishing of individuals in all of its forms is best guaranteed by societies that are rooted in individual freedoms, as enshrined in the American Bill of Rights and American Constitution.

Western nations are perfectly within their sovereign rights to dictate the civilizational conditions to which new immigrants must adhere. This is the minimal price to pay for being granted the privilege of starting a new life in a welcoming society. This means that new immigrants must accept and assimilate within the defining ethos of liberal democracies. Not a single inch of our foundational liberal traditions should ever be conceded under the guise of Multiculturalism (and all of its nonsensical and misguided tenets such as moral and cultural relativism). This does not mean that people should not take great pride in their cultural, religious, and ethnic heritages. To the contrary, most culture-specific elements (e.g., language, music, culinary traditions) should be celebrated in creating a multicultural (not capitalized) society, as long as these do not clash with the tenets of liberal democracies. We are all enriched by our respective and unique cultural backgrounds. However, if your culture contains elements that seek to overthrow and/or irrevocably alter our existing social order then you do not have the right to promote if not live by such values.

My family moved from Lebanon to Canada in the mid-1970s to escape the horrors of the Lebanese civil war, which was rooted in the most violent religious strife and hatred that one might imagine. I am forever grateful to Canada for having granted my family the opportunity to start a new life in a free and peaceful society. While I cherish my cultural, linguistic, and ethnic heritage, I unabashedly recognize that the liberal tenets of Canada are superior to those from which I escaped many years ago. Being Canadian of Lebanese heritage means that I can retain the innocuous and enriching elements of my culture of birth (Arabic language, culture of hospitality, rich culinary tradition) whilst fully rejecting those components that are antithetical to a truly free society. Liberal democracies are profoundly enriched by our cultural differences, as long as none of these differences are rooted in a desire to alter if not suppress our individual freedoms.