The Anti-Multiculturalism Movement–Part I

This Blog Post is the first of a two-part article on anti-multiculturalism in Europe and the United States.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to know that multiculturalism is under severe attack throughout many Western countries, including the United States.

UK's Prime Minister, David Cameron, gave an impassioned speech in Munich advocating what he called, “muscular liberalism.” It is a concept deeply troubling to minorities in England, particularly among Muslims.

Cameron's call for a kind of testosterone-driven toughness on foreigners to assimilate into a homogenized English culture speaks to the fears of many other Europeans that their Caucasian, secular, mono-language base will be diluted by non-Western cultures and values.

Germany's Chancellor, Angela Merkel, in a 2010 speech, claimed that the attempts at multiculturalism in Germany have, in her words, “utterly failed.” There is no doubt that she was aiming her comments at the 4 million Turkish and Kurdish Muslims in Germany.

France's President, Nicholas Sarkozy, has also joined the anti-multiculturalism bandwagon, calling multiculturalism a “failure.” And France's banning of the niqab (the veil) and the burqa (the head-to-toe garment) has added to the country's confrontation with Islam.

Although he has since toned down his anti-Islamic rhetoric and even apologized for having insulted Islam, Italy's Premier, Silvio Berlusconi, at one time, fed into the “clash of civilizations” argument by stating “the West must have the consciousness of the superiority of its culture.”

In 2009, a Swiss referendum banning the new construction of minarets passed in 22 of the 26 cantons by a wide margin of 57.5%. The referendum, on many levels, appeared to be overreaction given the fact that out of the 150 mosques or prayer rooms in Switzerland, there are only 4 that have minarets, and none of those minarets are used to call worshipers to prayers.

With the exception of the ongoing battles between Spain and the Basques, most of the European backlashes against multiculturalism appear to be niched against the Muslim communities, directly or indirectly, or by the various governments' failures to target inclusion programs as the Spanish have done with the Roma (Gypsies).

The increasing Islamaphobia in Europe can be seen in the recent rampage killing of over 70 people at a youth division summer camp of the ruling Norwegian Ruling Labour Party. The lone-killer had strong connections to right-wing groups, groups which support a mono-cultural form of nationalism and are fiercely anti-Muslim.

If these killings tell us anything, they are a potential lesson in how right-wing groups often broaden the base of their targets to include any groups or political parties perceived to be sympathetic to any form of tolerance of the Muslim religion. Norway's Labour Party was part of that expanded hit list.

The United States has also entered into the backlash against multiculturalism. However, the niched group under attack, particularly in the Southwest and now the South, is the Latino community.

Arizona, Alabama, and Georgia have now passed their own state-specific immigration laws in reaction to what many perceive as the out-of-control number of undocumented Latinos in their states (the most recent figures put the number of undocumented Hispanics at around 12 million).

Arizona has gone even further in its attempts to stem the tide of multiculturalism by banning K-12 courses designed specifically “for” an ethnic group.

Multiculturalism is a multi-pronged phenomenon. It is not just about immigration, secure borders, or strains on a country's social-services and educational systems. Unfortunately, because of some Islamic extremists and because of the economic crises in the United States and the EU, multiculturalism appears to be under a severe threat throughout many of the Western countries.

Adding to the problem is the drug demand in the United States that has been drawing more and more violence on the border towns between Mexico and the United States. And the drug-related violence has only exacerbated the unemployment problems on both sides of the borders.

When a culture begins to feel threatened because of conflicting values, language barriers, or economic hard times, there is a natural tendency to close ranks. And it is not unusual for those threatened societies to become more nationalistic, exclusive, and legalistic.

In the United States, conservatives appear to have become the spokespersons of those groups threatened by multiculturalism. They often start wanting to “return” to a golden past, a perceived monolithic time when everyone spoke the same language and shared the same values.

These same conservatives start talking about “law and order,” they become proactive trying to pass English-only laws, they encourage, and often require local police to actively pursue anyone who might be undocumented. (I think it is safe to say that the pursuit of undocumented Latinos is a direct result of the high unemployment in the United States and a carry-over from the traumas of 9/11.)

By and large, Americans are not threatened by foreign cultures if those cultures keep it light—ethnic-food restaurants, a yearly ethnic festival, an occasional ethnic holiday, or a segregated ethnic community that has tourist appeal. In many ways, these activities tend to relieve the consciences of Americans who feel they have done their duty to be tolerant of other cultures.

Once another culture may appear to be demographically tipping the scales (the increasing Latino population in California, Texas, and Arizona, for example), or once the non-English speaking culture starts to show up in official bi-lingual documents, or more Hispanic-speaking students start dominating elementary and high schools, the tolerance level of many Americans begins to max out.

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