Multiculturalism as a defensible concept seems to be standing on its last few legs. Recently, both German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister David Cameron have declared multiculturalism to have “failed” and France’s National Front leader Marine Le Pen says she senses an “evolution” in Europe’s support for multicultural policies. It would seem that promoting multiculturalism as a national goal is both wrongheaded and simply does not work.
The idea that all cultures are equal has its roots in a mixture of tolerance and relativism. Tolerance is fine, but relativism is suicidal. One does not have to make the jump of tolerating a cultural practice to declaring it equally valuable to society. I am not talking about minor cultural differences such as food, dress, or language (as bad as Finnish cuisine may be), but cultural differences which violate natural rights and liberties. For example, female circumcision is an extremely painful, barbaric practice, which removes a woman’s ability to enjoy sex, and is still performed in modern Africa. This disgusting violation of basic female rights is not just different, but morally wrong.
Furthermore, the United Nations as an organization holds to the view that the natural rights of mankind are not cultural but universal. The UN Commision on Human Rights runs on the very assumption that human rights are a birthright; otherwise, they are accomplishing nothing more than imposing their subjective values onto North Korea when they give Kim Jong Il a very poor grade on his human rights report. Starvation and slave labor camps have been an integral part of North Korean culture for decades. If all cultures are equal, by judging South Korea to be a better place than its neighbor to the North is nothing more than the expression of a subjective opinion, merely personal preference.
How then can democratic nations continue to worship at the altar of multiculturalism, declaring all cultures equal, while simultaneously be active members of the U.N.? The U.N is supposed to promote universal human rights, but human rights and cultural practices can often conflict. Perhaps cultural relativism was never supposed to make sense, but only make people feel good.
People don’t want to hear that some cultural practices are detestable, it feels much better to put the blinders on and pretend that no one culture is really better than the other, only different. Like individuals however, all cultures are special, but some are downright vicious.
Evils such as slavery and the abuse of women are commonplace in many cultures around the world, but the naïve promoters of cultural relativism conveniently forget the more brutal practices.
Currently, the failures of multiculturalism have not yet been as apparent at home as they have in Europe. Muslim immigrants in particular have been slow to integrate and European governments are beginning to see the need to change strategy.
Prime Minister of the U.K. David Cameron has been quick to denounce the impotent policy of the British government in promoting the cultural relativism disaster. “A passively tolerant society… stands neutral between different values. A genuinely liberal country does much more. It believes in certain values and actively promotes them.” This has been a problem specifically for young Muslim men living in the U.K who, according to Cameron, are trapped between a militant Islamist worldview quite confident in its cultural superiority, and a national government which has failed to promote its identity as anything other than relativism.
The policy of multiculturalism in the U.K., far from integrating Muslims into British culture, has promoted an increase in Islamism by failing to give the youth a strong sense of national identity. People want something to believe in and relativism provides nothing but meaninglessness to life. If all views, even contradictory ones, are equally valid, then it is the same as saying nothing is valid at all.
Canadian author Mark Steyn argues along the same line as Prime Minister Cameron in reference to why the West is having difficulty in winning the war against Islamic terrorists. He believes we don’t really have a sound ideology that we can have any confidence in, if at all. “Insofar as we have an ideology it’s a belief in the virtues of “multiculturalism,” “tolerance,” “celebrate diversity” – a bumper-sticker ideology that is, in effect, an anti-ideology which explicitly rejects the very idea of drawing distinctions between your beliefs and anybody else’s.”
As long as the West continues to castrate itself with the morally bankrupt view of cultural relativism, we can have no confidence in our culture. And if we have no confidence in our own culture, how can we expect others to? In order to have a chance of winning the ideological war with militant Islam, we must promote human rights as not merely a Western convention, but as a universal birthright for all peoples.