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Urgently Reconsidering the Doctrine of Multiculturalism

An October 9th demonstration in Sydney, Australia (AAP Image/Dean Lewins via REUTERS)

As is sadly often the case, it is only when an issue becomes overwhelmingly acute or when it is too late to correct course, that those once derided as alarmists are dutifully acknowledged to have been correct all along.”

In 2013, when I was just beginning my work in journalism, I wrote critically of the efforts in Sweden and in other parts of Europe to either encourage or tolerate significant immigration from the Middle East, North Africa, and other places outside of the European Union, the fulfillment of the ideology of multiculturalism that had been percolating for decades in many circles, academic and otherwise. (1) It seemed obvious—at least to me—that policies inspired by the doctrine of multiculturalism were unlikely to turn out as their rosy-eyed proponents expected. I was skeptical of the assumption that the West had indeed reached a post-historical era in which ethnicity, religion, and cultural customs would melt away in favor of a utopian, global community where a common set of values were to be agreed upon and then maintained. And, perhaps most fundamentally, I doubted if the objectives of multiculturalism were even, in any way, desirable, given that their fulfillment would entail, among other things, the erosion of particularism throughout the world, the loss of the characteristics that made England England, Sweden Sweden, or Italy Italy. 

I wrote this piece prior to co-founding Merion West or serving as a recurring contributor at any publication, and, as those of us who started as freelancers know, cold pitches often remain unanswered, but that piece on multiculturalism does have the distinction of being the only op-ed I can recall ever having written that could never find an outlet willing to run it. (2) For years, as the rather radical experimentation of multiculturalism was being carried out, particularly throughout and after the 2015 European migrant crisis during the Libyan Civil War, which was of course marked also by North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) intervention, multiculturalism’s critics were seldom given the opportunity to criticize it. Typically, anyone even daring to notice the dramatic demographic changes underway or the unprecedented degree of immigration was dismissed as a conspiracy theorist, accused of racial prejudice or Islamophobia, relieved of his post, including as a media commentator, or simply not engaged with whatsoever by policymakers or members of the press. Even to argue for assimilation for said large quantities of immigrants, a position distinct from outright opposing their entrance into Western nations, was considered taboo and culturally insensitive, and political figures who have tried to protect their populations from endless immigration, often from the Middle East, have been labeled as tyrants or fascists and been accused constantly of “democratic backsliding.” 

Israel, as we all sadly now know, fell victim to a brutal terrorist attack, the likes of which the nation had never known in its 75-year history, a history already marked time and again by violence and strident opposition to its very existence from much of the Islamic world. Writers at Merion West such as Henry George, Catherine Perez-Shakdam, Tony D. Senatore, and Gerfried Ambrosch have strongly condemned these attacks, and I share their outrage and horror at the extent of the barbarism. As some of these writers have also pointed out, it is an event such as this that must finally require the West, particularly the Democratic Party in the United States, much of the British political establishment, and Brussels, to reckon honestly with whether their zeal for significant immigration from non-Western countries was misguided. (3) Now, even former United States Secretary of State Henry Kissinger has joined the rest of us long concerned about how this dramatic clash of cultures would unfold within our respective homelands, calling Germany’s decision in recent years to welcome in so many immigrants, particularly “so many people of totally different culture and religion and concepts,” “a grave mistake.” (Now, 24.3% of the German population is comprised either of migrants or of children born to two people born outside of Germany, and, in Sweden, that share is also north of 20%.) As is sadly often the case, it is only when an issue becomes overwhelmingly acute or when it is too late to correct course, that those once derided as alarmists are dutifully acknowledged to have been correct all along.

From a theater in Dearborn, Michigan, to the steps of the Sydney Opera House, to London and Berlin, to shrill, rhyming chants emanating from university campuses in many parts of the United States, to French pro-Palestine protesters blatantly ignoring the French government’s suspension of such displays, to the “Day of Jihad” murder of French teacher Dominique Bernard, to a terroristic shooting in Brussels, to the fatal terror-related stabbing of a British retiree by a Moroccan asylum seeker on October 15th, it seems increasingly clear that the assumptions of those who promoted multiculturalism have turned out to be incorrect. As has become apparent, many of the recent arrivals from the Middle East (and their children) have been—in recent days—celebrating unspeakable acts of violence, disregarding their new countries’ policies on these types of displays and speech, and, in some cases, suggesting that Christians should also be targeted for violence alongside Jews. Celebrating the October 7th actions by Hamas on that very night is quite distinct from calling for a two-state solution, expressing concern about Israeli policies toward Palestinians within their borders, or fearing how Palestinians civilians might be harmed by the inevitable Israeli responses to the October 7th attacks. The latter points encompass raising legitimate geopolitical questions, while the former endorses or even hails the killing, in many cases brutally, of non-combatants. This is like cheering enthusiastically for al-Qaeda in the aftermath of the September 11th attacks and endorsing the deaths of cooks in Windows in the World, security guards at the World Trade Center, people going to work, “moms and dads, friends and neighbors,” believing that these people were somehow responsible for American foreign policy, whether in the Middle East or Latin America, or, as Osama bin Laden was fixated on, that the United States possessed military bases in Saudi Arabia, “the country of the Two Holy Places.”

In the case of the ongoing situation with Hamas, we know that a number of the civilians killed, wounded, or taken hostage were not even Israeli citizens and were Thai, Nepalese, or Filipino guest workers; Germans; Argentinians; Brazilians, Americans; Englishmen, and other nationals. Israeli Arabs were murdered too, as were individuals who spent their lives advocating for Palestinian interests. As I have argued passionately in the past, reprising a perennial debate, one that famously ended the friendship between Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus, I do not believe that violence, including the murder, rape, or maiming of non-combatants, including women, children, and the disabled, can ever be justified—no matter the cause or how much so-called freedom fighters demand it to end an occupation. Fyodor Dostoyevsky, taking it a step further, believed that to harm a single child even to bring about utopia on earth was morally untenable. In my view, this should be considered true in Algeria; in Haiti; anywhere else. I reject the dramatic oversimplification of reality in which there is always an oppressor and oppressed, and any actions on the part of said oppressed to liberate themselves from the alleged oppressor is justified, no matter their barbarism

Sadly, however, many more non-combatants will be killed: Israeli, Palestinian, Lebanese, and others. Some of them will be children. It appears that—on October 16th—United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken and others implored Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to act prudently and to minimize civilian casualties in Gaza, and certain Israeli approaches, I believe, have sought to do that. Regardless, many people living in Gaza will be harmed, many of whom had little to nothing to do with the grotesque attack of October 7th, and, as always, we hope that countermeasures target—as much as possible—those responsible rather than non-combatants. 

A debate is already underway in the United States and the West as to if an obligation should fall to Western nations to take in refugees caught in the midst of this conflict. While it is supremely unfortunate that various non-combatants are caught in the crossfire, the events of the past decade (or more) have made clear that such refugee resettlement programs are unlikely to benefit the people living in the communities where said refugees would come. It is also far from assured that would-be refugees would thrive in the West, and it is almost certainly preferable that they remain in Muslim-majority nations in the region. With that said, neighboring Arab states might reasonably argue that they have already collectively taken in millions of Palestinian refugees and that they do not wish to take any more and, furthermore, to do so would likely mean that they would never return to the land they believe is theirs. To this point, the King of Jordan, Abdullah II, has stated that any further Palestinian refugees entering Jordan or Egypt represents his “red line,” while the President of Egypt, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, has expressed his strong opposition to even a single Palestinian refugee entering his country, citing his concern that this could result in Islamic extremism and violence in Egypt, particularly in light of lethal Islamic fundamentalist activities that took place in Sinai over the past decade. It is perhaps not lost on both Abdullah II and President el-Sisi that a former King of Jordan and a former President of Egypt both died at the hands of assassins committed to Palestinian nationalism. 

The absolute refusal of neighboring Arab states to welcome refugees from Gaza, however, has done little to dull the enthusiasm for such a move on the part of certain political figures in the West, whether that be Scotland’s First Minister Humza Yousaf, Member of Parliament ​Stephen Flynn, Congressman Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.), and others, to call for their resettlement in the United States and Europe. Fortunately, many Republican presidential candidates, beginning with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and then joined by former President Donald Trump, Senator Tim Scott (R-S.C.), entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, and former South Carolina Governor and United States Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, have expressed their proactive opposition to any such proposals. Although Governor Ron DeSantis, who was challenged on this point by Face the Nation host Margaret Brennan, might be exaggerating somewhat when asserting that all Gazans are anti-Semitic, the reality is that many Palestinians have struggled to condemn Hamas’ actions on October 7th (and prior); a June, 2021 poll by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research indicated that a full 53% of Palestinians found Hamas to be “most deserving of representing and leading the Palestinian people”; and, as I discussed earlier in this piece, ecstatic celebrations throughout the West (and the Islamic world) make clear that many of these individuals are staunchly anti-Israel (or anti-Semitic), adamantly opposed to the West, or both. (Even in the days immediately following October 7th, according to Washington Institute polling, “57% of Gazans express at least a somewhat positive opinion of Hamas—along with similar percentages of Palestinians in the West Bank (52%) and East Jerusalem (64%).) And, on the question of Palestinian resettlement in particular, one set of findings being shared widely in recent days on social media cites data from the 321 Palestinian asylum seekers admitted to Denmark in 1992. In the time between 1992 and 2019, of those 321, “204 (64%) have received a serious fine or jail time for crime, with 71 of them being given jail time”; many ended up on government benefits; and 34% of their children were “convicted for serious crime.”

Furthermore, as we have seen repeatedly, many migrants from the Islamic world have behaved extremely inappropriately toward women in the countries to which they migrate such as was made abundantly clear when 1,200 women were sexually assaulted in Cologne, Germany during New Year’s Eve Celebrations welcoming in the year of 2016 or by the fact that “Sweden has the second-highest Muslim immigration rate and the second-highest sexual assault rate in Europe.” (4) As Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the author of the 2021 book Prey: Immigration, Islam, and the Erosion of Women’s Rights, and other commentators have noted, the Western media habitually fails to engage with (and often buries) the severity of this issue, whether the grooming gangs in the United Kingdom in which “thousands of young girls…were ‘groomed’ by men from mainly Pakistani communities for sexual abuse” or when an 11-year-old girl was recently raped at a Bemidji, Minnesota house where 11 illegal immigrants lived. Events such as these, as well as lessons from places such as Rotherham, Rochdale, and Telford, should make well-meaning people in the West, including those who reasonably empathize with people unfortunately caught in the conflict, reconsider whether bringing them into their countries is prudent, especially in an era in which assimilation is actively discouraged by the culturally-dominant activist class.  

Too frequently, however, many Western heads of state, from former German Chancellor Angela Merkel to former British Prime Minister Tony Blair to President Joe Biden, seem to have forgotten one of the most fundamental tenets of statesmanship: That one ought to act in the best interest of his or her own citizens rather than endlessly prioritizing the interests of foreign nationals. And I think this is true even in light of the frequently trod out arguments about mass immigration’s frequently positive impact on Gross Domestic Product (GDP). (As the economist Peter T. Bauer was fond of saying, in recognition of the fact that many of the oft-cited economic metrics do not tell the full story of the health of a nation, “the birth of a calf raises per capita gross domestic product (GDP), and the death of a child has the same effect.” And, furthermore, the consideration of pro-natal policies and the like ought not be perpetually sidelined in favor of considering mass immigration to be the only viable path forward.) These economic arguments were typically cited—at least partially—by earlier proponents of mass immigration such as during the New Labour government of Prime Minister Tony Blair during whose tenure as Prime Minister “more people settled in England…than had arrived between 1066 and 1950,” in a trend mirrored in the United States and in other parts of the West. However, today, those in favor of endless immigration seem to base their position less in economic arguments about increasing GDP but, rather, out of retribution toward the majority populations of these countries; for electoral advantage; or out of some sense that the alleged historical sins of these nations demand that the populations believed to have carried them out are no longer in the majority. President Joe Biden has embodied this latter approach to a tee, and should American voters be so unwise as to re-elect him, it is likely that millions more migrants from the Arab world, including ones likely to pose a national security risk, will arrive in the United States. This should be considered almost beyond question, despite Brennan’s protestations that “no one’s talking about getting Gaza and refugees here right now.” This administration’s approach to border security (on both the Northern and Southern border) has resulted in 5.8 million illegal crossings on the Southern Border since President Biden took office in January of 2021, equivalent roughly to the population of the state of Wisconsin. (5) The endless importation of people from the developing world is perhaps the primary objective of the Biden administration, even when this remains exceedingly unpopular among most Americans, people whose tax dollars (and the dollars of their ancestors) have kept the nation afloat for centuries, whose fathers and grandfathers fought and won both World Wars and brought down the Soviet Union, and who are uncomfortable with their nation becoming increasingly unrecognizable. (6)

There is no doubt that there are some benefits to be had from cultures coming into contact with one another, and, lest anyone misunderstand me, I appreciate aspects of Arab, Berber, and Persian culture; have enjoyed visiting nations such as Morocco and Jordan as a tourist; and I maintain active friendships with many who hail from across the Islamic world (though, interestingly enough, these individuals tend to be almost invariably critical of many aspects of these societies, as well as the religion in which they were raised.) Multiculturalism and immigration also have, of course, instances of being indisputably successful. But the current rates of migration—and the proposed future ones—are beyond the scope of the reasonable and threaten to make many countries and cities, particularly in Western Europe, absolutely unrecognizable. And that is not even to mention when radical Islam rears its head in the West, from Chautauqua, New York to Amsterdam to the Bataclan. We do not need a world that is everywhere the same and where diminished social trust reigns. Jordan can be Jordan; Holland can be Holland; and Istanbul can be Istanbul. That is true pluralism, by the way. 

In Sweden, the nation whose approach to immigration and multiculturalism I singled out in that 2013 article and whose streets I have walked in Malmö, arguably the multiculturalism capital of the world, much of the population there finally appears to be realizing the trajectory is untenable. The 2022 Swedish general election saw Jimmie Åkesson’s Sweden Democrats, a party critical of multiculturalism and Sweden’s immigration policies over the past couple of decades, become the party with the second most seats in the Riksdag. Even former Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson, who has generally been supportive of immigration, expressed her view last year that “we have parallel societies in Sweden. We live in the same country but in completely different realities.” This is, of course, the very reality that I precisely predicted in my unpublished 2013 op-ed. As of late and in response to the proliferation of “vulnerable areas,” where violence has reached a critical mass, along with surging gang violence, Sweden made its immigration policies much more restrictive. Time will tell as to if the Swedish government will join those such as German Minister of the Interior and Community Nancy Faeser, who have called for the deportation of those whose refusal to assimilate goes so far as to support Hamas openly. In either case, the reality is that in the scheme of European history, the multiculturalism experiment has taken place, borrowing from the logic of astronomer Carl Sagan’s “Cosmic Calendar,” for mere days. There should have already been numerous signs that this experiment was not turning out as many had hoped for, but the events of the past two weeks have indeed exposed this doctrine of multiculturalism to be flawed to the core, and one urgently hopes that it will be reconsidered.

Erich J. Prince is a co-founder of Merion West.

Endnotes

  1. I recall that my interest in the issue of multiculturalism, which I suppose was considered quaint by many of my classmates, even received mention in The Haverford School Index in June of 2013. 
  2. An opinion editor at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram was the only one to express an openness to running the piece though, for whatever reason, it never did make it to print. 
  3. When mentioning Brussels, I will note that unlike some other commentators, I have always been wary of outright calling for an end to the European Union or dismissing its existence as entirely a failure. Historically speaking, it is nothing short of extraordinary to consider the relative peace among European nations that has existed in the time since 1945, given the endless conflict that took place for millennia on the European “blood-soaked” continent. 
  4. Despite having been force fed statistics for years that, in the United States, immigrants commit fewer crimes, one doubts that is any longer the case, and, in Europe, the data is abundantly clear: Migrants from abroad overwhelmingly offend at higher rates than native-born citizens.
  5. I criticized at some length the border and immigration policies of President Joe Biden’s administration, with a particular focus on Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas, earlier this year. Secretary Mayorkas’s tenure has surely made an abject mockery of the phrase “Homeland Security.” As Senator John Thune (R-S.D.) noted on October 17th, “And in this last year, there have been 151 people on the terrorist watch list who have been apprehended at our southern border, which is more than the last six years—six years—combined.”
  6. When one thinks of canonical examples of a piece of legislation’s unintended consequences failing to be appreciated at the time, there are few examples more glaring than Senator Hiram Fong (R-Hawaii)’s assurances that the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 would never result in significant changes to the American “cultural pattern” or to the fundamental ethnic composition of the nation. 

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