If politicians are unable to think beyond the next election, it is not surprising that even their best intentions often produce unintended consequences. And, more often than not, those consequences serve only to exacerbate the problem.
Nowhere is the phenomenon more evident than in the massive influx of migrants – often from former colonies – to fuel Europe’s burgeoning postwar economies. Greater ethnic and religious diversity carried the seeds of conflict. So how did European politicans defuse the potentially explosive rifts?
Simple, they invented a new wrinkle on the social compact: Multiculturalism. In its European manifestation, they decreed all cultures and customs, religions and traditions to be of equal value and they encouraged the various migrant groups to continue practising whatever it was they practised back home, while demanding that the indigenous population “celebrate diversity” and strive for “community cohesion”.
Not so simple. These two concepts are incompatible.
Multiculturalism, as practiced in Europe, [and in contrast to Australia, Ed.] is looking uncomfortably like Apartheid’s dream of separate development. And while it is driving communities apart, it is tearing Europe to pieces. Major cities are becoming increasingly fragmented patchworks of exclusivity, with ethnic and faith communities not only insisting on living together, but also apart from others.
The European policy of multiculturalism, which demands no over-arching allegiance to the state and identification with its values, let alone any serious attempt at integration, initially found a relatively receptive audience among indigenous Europeans.
But the upsurge of aggressive Islamism has changed the terms of the debate. Most Muslim migrants – and their European-born offspring – are not conflicted about issues of identity and belief. They are super-confident in their own skins.
So confident, in fact, that they regard their dithering European hosts with open contempt. Now, many are not only opting out of Western lifestyles, but also demanding that Europe start adopting Islamic ways.
Last month, two new fronts opened in Britain. One demanded that the muezzins’ calls to prayer should be heard throughout Britain’s major cities. After all, argue the Muslim advocates, if church bells are allowed to ring in multicultural Britain, why should the muezzin not call the faithful to prayer?
A prominent supporter of the Muslim case is the Bishop of Oxford, John Pritchard, who denied that such a development would lead either to “Muslim ghettos” or give Britain a Muslim character. He declared himself to be “personally very happy for the mosque to call the faithful to prayer”.
At the same time, but on the opposite side of the fence, another senior cleric stuck his dog-collar out when he warned that Islamic extremists had created “no-go” areas throughout the country where it was too dangerous for non-Muslims to enter.
Non-Muslims who live or work in neighbourhoods dominated by a radical Muslim ideology risk physical attack, declared the Pakistan-born Bishop of Rochester, Michael Nazir-Ali, himself the descendent of Muslim parents.
But Nazir-Ali’s concern goes further. Muslim demands for separate living and working arrangements, he says, is driving Christianity to the margins and causing irreparable damage to its heritage as Britain’s established religion.
This concern was supported by the Evangelical Alliance’s Don Horrocks, who said, “it’s increasingly difficult for non-Muslims to live in areas of high Muslim density, especially if they are practising Christians.”
When John Reid, the former British Home Secretary, visited the predominantly Muslim district of Leytonstowe to address the local community, he found himself in hostile territory. At one point, a prominent Muslim leader confronted him with a straightforward question: “How dare you come to a Muslim area?”
Trevor Phillips, Chairman of the Commission for Equalities and Human Rights – and himself a convert to the perils of the European model of multiculturalism – has warned that Britain is “sleepwalking into segregation”.
What was intended as a liberal policy of live-and-let-live has, as practiced, provided a license for full-blown segregation. And the advent of the digital age has fed this appetite. Some Muslims not only inhabit geographically segregated areas, but also live in a strictly Islamic cyberspace and watch strictly Islamic satellite television channels. The Muslim world, in the name of multiculturalism, is militantly monocultural.
The Muslim community, of course, is not a monolithic bloc, and voices of dissent are emerging. One has come from Dr. Tahir Abbas, director of the Birmingham-based Centre for the Study of Ethnicity and Culture. He warns that segregation is suffocating young Muslims by divorcing them from Britain’s cultural heritage and mainstream life.
Another alarm has been sounded by Manzoor Moghal, chairman of the Leicester-based Muslim Forum. “We have a cultural and social apartheid which fundamentalists thrive off.”
That refusal to engage with anything or anyone outside the confines of their own community is breeding a powerful sense of alienation and grievance. Such an atmosphere offers fertile ground for the purveyors of Islamic extremism, including terrorism, to hawk their wares.
Those unintended consequences of multiculturalism as applied in Europe are coming back to haunt not only the politicians and religious leaders, but also the security and intelligence agencies.