It takes all sorts to make a world and all shades of opinion to make a good discussion or even a good argument. There is, however, as Chesterton reminds us, a world of difference between an argument and a quarrel. The former is animated by charity and a genuine desire to arrive at the truth; the latter is animated by animus and an apparent desire to allow one’s irritation with an opponent to get the better of one. I am mindful of this crucial difference as I prepare to respond to Mr. Masty’s recent riposte to my earlier piece, “The Arabic Writing on the Wall.”
There is no doubt that Mr. Masty finds my articles irritating, as his response to my recent pieces on distributism and modern art make apparent. In order to avoid the possibility of our differences descending to the lamentable level of the quarrel I do not intend to respond directly to Mr. Masty’s article, except to say that there is much in it with which I agree and some aspects of his criticism that I accept.
The aspect of my own article which I most regret is its shrillness and its tendency to over-simplify the problem of Islamic immigration to Europe. During the recent World Cup the English expatriates with whom I gathered to watch my country’s deplorable performances in the competition included many Englishmen of Indian, Pakistani or Bangladeshi descent. I do not know whether they were raised as Muslims or Sikhs or Hindus because it did not seem polite to ask. I do suspect, however, that most of them were now practicing no religion, unless we choose to raise secular relativism to the level of religious faith. The sad fact is that to assimilate into English culture means to abandon the faith of one’s fathers for the faithlessness of secularism, in which all that really matters is panem et circenses, which in English terms means beer and football.
Is football better than faith? Should we rejoice whenever a Muslim abandons his faith and raises a glass to Mammon and Manchester United? Such questions represent part of the conundrum at the very heart of multiculturalism. Do we genuinely respect the minority cultures and religions in our midst and actively encourage their flourishing or do we expect minorities to adopt and adapt to the culture that is hosting them? This was addressed with characteristic adroitness by Chesterton when he discussed “the great American experiment” of multiculturalism, “the experiment of a democracy of diverse races which has been compared to a melting-pot.” Chesterton asserted that the experiment required a strong sense of national identity, which was the unifying force that allowed the many races to meld into the one nation. The metaphor of the melting pot “implies that the pot itself is of a certain shape and a certain substance; a pretty solid substance. The melting-pot must not melt.” The paradox to which Chesterton points is that the very diversity necessitates unity. The pot must be solid enough and strong enough to withstand the heat caused by the multicultural experiment. If the pot melts, America, as we know it, or England and Europe, as we know them, will cease to exist.
But what if the experiment causes such an ethnophobic reaction that the pot will melt unless it is made of totalitarium, that most terrible of modern metals? If the melting-pot is reforged in this particularly mean and Machiavellian metal the land of the free soon becomes the home of the slave. Take, for instance, Britain’s Race Relations Act, which makes it a serious offense, punishable with imprisonment, to publish material considered likely to incite racial hatred. Is such a law necessary in a multicultural society? Perhaps it is. But a society in which free speech is circumscribed in this way has become less free than it was before such an act was passed into law. And once the precedent of creating “hate crimes” has thus been established it is a short step, already taken in many European countries, to make it illegal to call homosexual practices a sin. And so we can see how, via a circuitous but seemingly inexorable route, “hate crimes” against ethnic groups have led to Christian clergyman being arrested for preaching and teaching traditional sexual morality.
Similarly the efforts in parts of Europe to eradicate radical Islam by forcing Muslims to adopt western dress and abandon the burqa is not only an infringement of the religious liberties of Muslims but threatens the religious liberties of Christians also. In order to seem non-discriminatory, the banning of the burqa is usually accompanied by the banning of the wearing of crosses or crucifixes in public places. It is in this context that the violence and hatred reigning in many multicultural societies pose a real threat to freedom because, as Oscar Wilde reminds us, anarchy is freedom’s own Judas.
And yet is all such talk merely alarmist scaremongering? Are things really as bad as all that in England and elsewhere?
Mr. Masty appears to think that such talk is indeed alarmist and he cites statistics to imply that everything is fine in England and that the vast majority of Muslims in the United Kingdom are proud to be British. This may or may not be so. I do not know. I do, however, share Mark Twain’s healthy skepticism about statistics even though I must confess, rather shamefully, that I sometimes stoop to using them in order to buttress my own arguments.
I would agree with Mr. Masty that the most extreme predictions about multicultural meltdown, such as that predicted by Enoch Powell in his famous or infamous “Rivers of Blood” speech in 1968, given incidentally and ironically on Hitler’s birthday (April 20), have not materialized. And yet few in 1968 could have predicted, even in their most lurid dreams, the extent to which the multiculturalist dream has turned into an ethnophobic nightmare.
Even as I write, England is being rocked by news of the horrific and systematic sexual abuse of at least 1,400 children by racist Muslim gangs in just one city in Yorkshire. I use the word “racist” advisedly because these Muslim gangs targeted white girls for their attacks and abused their victims racially (e.g., “white bitch”) as they abused them sexually. The abuse, including numerous gang rapes of children and teenage girls, was ignored by the local council in Rotherham because it was thought that tackling the problem would harm “community cohesion”. Incidentally the same council had earlier removed children from the care of foster parents whose “crime” was their political support for the UK Independence Party, on the presumption that anyone who voted for the ethnocentric UKIP was ipso facto incapable of raising children in the appropriate multiculturally “correct” fashion. The local police in Rotherham, in the interest of “community relations”, acted against some of the men who attempted to rescue their abducted daughters from the Muslim gangs, rather than acting against the abusers. Here is a slice of the reporting of this multicultural horror story from the UK’s Daily Telegraph, published on September 3:
In Rotherham … the hundreds of young girls horrifically abused by Pakistani perpetrators had so little faith in the police and social services that many of the victims and their families did not even bother to report grooming and rape. So disempowered were the communities who suffered that they assumed, with ample cause, the authorities would be heedless of their plight and blind to children’s pain. Labour’s suspension yesterday of four councillors and its intention (as yet unannounced) to abolish all police commissioners will not compensate for the evil consequences of a total severance of trust.
In a very different illustration of the curse of disempowerment, young British men, many of them university-educated, have turned to jihadism for reasons that politicians cannot fathom. While there are no excuses for those who torture and kill, it is safe to assume that only the deeply estranged would choose such a pathological route to asserting their own power.
It would of course be wrong, indeed scandalous, to tar all Muslims with the same brush. Any vaguely civilized person of whatever religious faith would be horrified and sickened by this racist manifestation of sexual abuse or by the acts of terrorism carried out by fanatical Islamists in the Middle East. Yet it simply will not do to ignore the ugly reality in the interests of papering over the cracks in England’s collapsing multicultural society.
The Telegraph’s reference to university-educated British Muslims, “deeply estranged” from the indigenous culture and turning to Islamic fundamentalism, reminds me of a real-life incident which it saddened me deeply to recall in my autobiography, Race with the Devil. I spoke of a friend of mine in high school, a child of Pakistani immigrants, who appeared to be thoroughly integrated into the niceties of British culture, manifest in my memory by his predilection for pornographic magazines. About thirty years later, I met him again. We were now middle-aged men but the shared memories of our teenage friendship fused a brief renewal of the old bond between us. At this point, however, the conversation took a bizarre and unsettlingly surreal turn. My friend espoused to me his anti-Zionism and his hatred of Israel. He had become a radical Islamist. Here is how I deal with this alarming metamorphosis in Race with the Devil:
This conversion of my old friend from adolescent hedonism to Islamic radicalism has caused a good deal of soul searching on my part. It shows the radicalizing of the Muslim community in the past thirty years and the consequent balkanization of British culture into warring sub-cultures. This is tragic. But is it more tragic than the triumph of hedonism? Would my Pakistani friend be happier, or a better person, if he had spent a life of self-gratification, addicted to the demands of his lower passions? Is pornography, prostitution and abortion a better and more liberating option than Islam? Should I be sad for my friend that he has become so embittered, or pleased that he has rejected the meretricious zeitgeist? In an ideal world I would have liked to have discussed religion and not politics with him. I would have liked to have discussed my conversion to Catholicism and to have asked him to explain his path from hedonism to religious conversion. Unfortunately we do not live in an ideal world and I suspect that such a discussion would have led to us departing in enmity not in friendship.
In much the same manner, I desire to end this tempered response to Mr. Masty in friendship and not in enmity. For me, and in spite of the less than temperate tone of my earlier piece, the worship of Mohammed is certainly no worse than the worship of Mammon. Islamic fundamentalism is evil but so is secular fundamentalism, the latter of which in its Nazi, Marxist and abortionist manifestations has killed far more people than Islam. I am tempted indeed to end with the plaintive cry of Shakespeare’s Mercutio that a plague be on both their houses. Instead I would like to conclude with a kiss and not a curse. I speak of the kiss of peace that can only come from the Heart of Christ and from those who carry His Heart in theirs. I wish peace to Mr. Masty and peace to all Muslims; the peace that comes from Jesus and not from jihad.
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Editor’s Note: Comments on this essay have been closed.
1. G. K. Chesterton, Collected Works, Volume XXI, San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1990, p. 42
2. Joseph Pearce, Race with the Devil: My Journey from Racial Hatred to Rational Love, Charlotte, North Carolina, 2013, pp. 51-2