Friday, December 08, 2006
Prince Charles has said that when crowned he will declare himself the "defender of faith," rather than "the Defender of the Faith." Tony Blair seems to have recognized that Charles, along with most of Britain's chattering classes, has imbibed too much multi-culti Kool-Aid. Indeed, Prime Minister Blair seems to have decided that integration is preferable to disintegration, even if it means standing by one culture at the putative expense of another:
Tony Blair formally declared Britain's multiculturalist experiment over today as he told immigrants they had "a duty" to integrate with the mainstream of society.
'No culture or religion supercedes our duty to be part of the UK'
In a speech that overturned more than three decades of Labour support for the idea, he set out a series of requirements that were now expected from ethnic minority groups if they wished to call themselves British.
These included "equality of respect" - especially better treatment of women by Muslim men - allegiance to the rule of law and a command of English. If outsiders wishing to settle in Britain were not prepared to conform to the virtues of tolerance then they should stay away.
He added: "Conform to it; or don't come here. We don't want the hate-mongers, whatever their race, religion or creed.
"If you come here lawfully, we welcome you. If you are permitted to stay here permanently, you become an equal member of our community and become one of us.
"The right to be different. The duty to integrate. That is what being British means."
Mr Blair's volte face - just eight years ago he was a multiculturalist champion - was the culmination of a long Labour retreat from a cause it once enthusiastically embraced. In recent weeks, Jack Straw, Ruth Kelly, John Reid and Gordon Brown have all played their part in a concerted revision of the Cabinet's stand which began in earnest after the July 7 bombs in London last year.
Mr Reid, in an interview to be broadcast on Sunday on GMTV, said he was "sick and tired" of the sort of the "mad political correctness" that led to Christmas being devalued. "I think most people just find this completely over the top and I would rather have a bit of what I call PCS - Plain Common Sense - than PC - Political Correctness," the Home Secretary added.
Then there is this from the Times (London):
Plans to withhold grants to religious and racial groups were announced by the Prime Minister today as part of a programme to ensure Muslims and other minorities intergrate into British society....
In a speech on multi-culturism Mr Blair said he also wanted to curb discrimination against women in mosques. He emphasised that he did not want to dilute religious identity but said that all British citizens had a duty to integrate.
He set out a series of proposals designed to strike the "right balance" between integration and diversity, some of which are likely to cause controversy among minority groups.
First the Prime Minister said, all future grants to ethnic and religious groups will be assessed against a test of promoting cohesion and integration.
"In a sense, very good intentions got the better of us. We wanted to be hospitable to new groups. We wanted, rightly, to extend a welcome and did so by offering public money to entrench their cultural presence. Money was too often freely awarded to groups that were tightly bonded around religious, racial or ethnic identities," said Mr Blair.
Speaking in Downing Street, Mr Blair said one of the most common complaints he heard from Muslim women was that they were barred from even entering certain mosques.
He said: "Those (mosques) that exclude the voice of women need to look again at their practices." This would not involve changing the law but the Equal Opportunities Commission had been asked to produce a report by next spring on how it could address the problem of discrimination in mosques.
New British citizens already have to pass a language test but from April the 150,000 to 170,000 people who seek permanent residency in the UK each year will also have to pass an English test before residency is granted.
And visiting preachers would have to have a proper command of English as well as facing the existing test that the Home Secretary can ban them from the UK if their presence is judged not to be in the public good.
The Prime Minister said: "If you come here lawfully, we welcome you. If you are permitted to stay here permanently, you become an equal member of our community and become one of us. Then you, and all of us, who want to, can worship God in our own way, take pride in our different cultures after our own fashion, respect our distinctive histories according to our own traditions; but do so within a shared space of shared values in which we take no less pride and show no less respect.
"The right to be different. The duty to integrate. That is what being British means. And neither racists nor extremists should be allowed to destroy it."
The question is whether this reversal is following a trend or whether political multiculturalism is so embedded in the schools, universities, and media that no politician can do more than shout in the wind. It is encouraging, I suppose, that this reversal comes from the Labour Party, the putative left wing, but the British have an enormous deprogramming task ahead of them. For starters, Blair should send every bureaucrat, journalist, professor and school teacher a copy of Melanie Phillips' Londonistan.
I don't know. This seems a lot like a restriction on legitimate speech, and no one should ever support that. Multiculturalism has serious issues, but they are issues that must be addressed culturally, not legally.
Speech can be restricted using time.place, and manner rules. Barring women from mosques is not speech. If a mosque is a "public accommodation," then it is probably not OK to restrict entry, If it is just a men's club, however...
Blair doesn't seem to be trying to restrict the time, place or manner of speech here, at least not in any legitimate ways. He's saying, essentially, that extremism and racism won't be tolerated in the UK, and that's an awful thing to hear.
To mandate that a religious group accept everyone into their place of worship is ridiculous. If Islam doesn't want women in its mosques, then there should be nothing the UK or any other government can do about it. Admittedly, this particular restriction isn't a speech issue so much as it is a freedom of religion issue, but the two rights are on equal footing in my book.
In all of this extravaganza, I'd think we'd do better to remember what exactly we're trying to protect here so that we don't end up eliminating essential freedoms in an ill-guided attempt to save them. At the end of the day, it doesn't matter if it's an English Prime Minister or an Arab Imam who's dictating your speech and religious practices.
No difference, except that an English PM asks you to choose between sharing citizenship in the greater whole or leave, and an Arab Imam orders you to lose your head.
No difference at all. Allalu Akbar. All together now. And I mean it. Just like they chanted right before crashing into the WTC, way back when. Remember that?
Europe has a difficulty in that nations have tended to define themselves somewhat tribally. Even coalitions of tribes, such as the UK or Germany, had strong racial and genetic similarity. Thus the "idea" of Britishness was tightly bound with appearance and cultural habits, rather than ideals and principles.
The US, Australia, and to a lesser extent Canad and New Zealand, have national concepts which are tied more to ideas than appearance, and are better equipped to absorb people who might look and act different, if they share certain minimum values.
I fear some of that may be eroding.
Well, at least for now, you have the option of leaving the country where the Imam is and taking refuge in a state that still respects freedom of speech and religion. Guess the UK is off that list now, but I'm sure there are still some around.
Don't get me wrong, radical Islam is a problem that needs to be solved, and solving the problem necessarily means eliminating the ideology's credibility if not the ideology itself. The only caveat is that government cannot be the impetus for this, because the most fundamental thing we are trying to protect here is our freedom. We can fight radical Islam culturally without trampling on basic freedoms.