There is nothing wrong with appreciating other cultures or with saluting various ethnic groups and subcultures. But multiculturalism as an ideology denies that a nation has a culture of its own and turns cultural differences into a pretext for moral relativism.
The ideology of multiculturalism permeates America's intellectual and educational establishments, but it has gone even further in other Western nations.
When a British schoolteacher in Sudan accepted a class vote to name a teddy bear Mohammed, she was arrested, tried, and imprisoned for the crime of insulting the prophet as angry Muslim mobs demanded the death penalty. Some Britons criticized her for being insensitive to Sudanese culture.
For members of the cultural left, multiculturalism often trumps even their own causes. The National Organization for Women refused to take a stand on the woman threatened in the teddy bear case.
Meanwhile, Western artists who usually pride themselves on the freedom of their expression are censoring themselves out of deference to Muslim sensibilities. England's cross-dressing, Turner Prize--winning artist Grayson Perry made a name for himself with works such as "Transvestite Brides of Christ" and an obscene portrait of the Virgin Mary. He admits, though, that he will not touch Islam. "I've censored myself," he told the London Times. "With other targets you've got a better idea of who they are but Islamism is very amorphous. You don't know what the threshold is. Even what seems an innocuous image might trigger off a really violent reaction so I just play safe all the time."
He says, "The reason I haven't gone all out attacking Islamism in my art is because I feel real fear that someone will slit my throat." Christians, of course, will not, so they remain fair game.
More broadly, Muslim immigrants are enforcing Islamic laws and traditions in defiance of national laws. Authorities in Europe, Canada, and the United States are having to deal with "honor killings," in which Muslim fathers with the help of other relatives kill their daughters. And yet multiculturalists in Canada, Sweden, and other countries want to give Islamic courts legal jurisdiction over Muslim families.
To cite a non-European, non-Muslim example, the draft constitution of Bolivia would allow for "communal justice" that could not be appealed by a court. Local tribes could punish malefactors as they see fit, which by custom means mob violence, lynchings, burnings, and burying people alive.
Thus, multicultural tolerance becomes intolerance. Multicultural freedom puts an end to freedom. Multiculturalism commits suicide. Relativists have no conceptual basis for opposing radical Islam; thus the weakness of nations that reject their own religious, moral, and cultural heritage.
Comments? Email Ed Veith at firstname.lastname@example.org.