Is Multiculturalism good or bad? I think it is both good and bad and a case where an either or approach can be disastrous. It is a classic case where policy demands balance.

The still breaking story of the Canadian terrorist bust brought out a comment that I found to be the best short critique of multiculturalism I have ever read. The permalink to the story is here and the comment in question is the 5th.

Multiculturalism forces immigrants to identify themselves only within a spatial and temporal reality that is ‘negative’, i.e., ‘not here in this environment’, not here in this culture’ and ‘the way it used to be back in the old country’. In Canada and Europe, we promote this type of identification. We think we are being ‘accepting of them’ by this act. In reality, it works to alienate and isolate them as perennial Others.

It works to prevent youth from developing, by themselves, a new collaborative identity directly relevant to the new country – the new physical environment (Canada), the new economic environment (industrial, market)and develop a new cultural identity that is relevant, that collaboratively INCLUDES all immigrants and all current residents as part of this population and that acknowledges a modern economy.

This profound alienation, which ‘stops dead’ the development of any relevant modern identity and insists that they can only repeat the past (which is not relevant here) forces these youth into a search for another encompassing identity.

Remember, their old ways are not relevant in a modern economy; they are not permitted to develop a modern all-Canadian identity; they are locked into being clones of a particular culture that is kept as an isolate ghetto in Canada.

So, they are prime targets for Islamofascism, which nurtures a broader and deeply emotional inclusiveness, which moves them out of the ethnic ghettos multiculturalism has put them into.

The step to terrorism is almost inevitable, for they have no ties to the society in which they happen to live. No ties to the rest of the population, for we have set up each group as isolate and separate. No focus on collaboration with other groups to develop a shared identity relevant in N. America. This intellectual and emotional alienation sets up a ‘schizoid’ group and criminality and terrorism is the result.

Nothing, absolutely nothing to do with poverty. But, if you set up people in isolate ghettos, locked within an irrelevant culture, and prevent them from developing a shared culture – they’ll do it anyway. But, this shared culture happens to be Islamofascism rather than Canadian.
Posted by: ET at June 3, 2006 10:23 AM

This reaction is not just a reaction to an isolated case of terrorism but, I believe, an astute analysis of the difficulties one encounters when a policy is taken too far. What has just happened in Canada, along with the UK underground bombings and the French riots are all examples of a social intervention policy having unintended consequences, because multicultural policies have over corrected for unchecked policies of assimilation. (I think in France poverty and lack of opportunity had much more to do with the riots than with the terrorist plotting in Canada and that commenter ET is correct in the case of Canada.) The Postmodern theoretical underpinnings of Multiculturalism which assert that there is nothing higher than human culture and therefore it is impossible to say that one is superior to another have led to policies that marginalize immigrant groups in permanent ghettos and actually disadvantage them economically and socially. This has happened because this view grossly oversimplifies the relationship between the immigrant and host culture. Equivalent they may or may not be, but the context assigns them different roles. The whole point of moving to a different culture is to take advantage of the opportunities in the new place, not to recreate the old place. Initially, the reasons for immigration are often economic, but opportunity can be in any form that holds out a chance of greater self actualization for the immigrants and their children. To obtain those benefits they must integrate into the main culture They need not be forced to give up their culture of origin, but they should not be encouraged to live in ghettos as if they had not moved at all. The Australian Treasurer, Peter Costello, recently made the point well when he said that in Australia, Parliament makes the laws, and if immigrants wished to live under Sharia law they would not be happy here and should move to a country such as Saudi Arabia or Iran that was governed by Sharia law. While the host culture has a clear duty to defend and maintain itself and its institutions it also has a positive duty to give immigrants the tools – education, equality of opportunity etc. they need to integrate fully into the host culture. Done right, integration allows the immigrant culture to add its special qualities to the host culture and enrich it, not fragmenting the host country leading to insurrection and terrorism.

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