The Conflict at Home


Multiculturalists hold these truths to be self-evident: that all cultures are created equal and are endowed by their creators with equal and compatible virtues. There can thus be no fundamental conflict between cultures. The lion can truly lie down with the lamb, not at some unspecified time in the future, but here and now, in the gardens of the West.

The shallowness of this view should require no exposition: any more than the barfly’s oceanic feeling after a couple of drinks that all men are his brothers requires refutation. The fact that it does is not a sign of our broad-mindedness or generosity of spirit, but of our deliberate failure to make proper distinctions. This mental flabbiness is decadence, and at the same time a manifestation of the arrogant assumption that nothing can destroy us. Only those who feel themselves to be omnipotent are omni- tolerant.

The cowardly failure to recognize that cultural values may clash irreconcilably has allowed practices to flourish in our midst that would earn (and deservedly so) prison sentences were they practiced by natives of our society. Nowadays no surrender is too abject for our bureaucratic multiculturalists, whose sadomasochistic delight must have known no bounds when, for example, they subsidized from public funds the construction of a car park at the President Saddam Hussein Mosque, one of the two largest in the city in which I live.

One conflict between two liberal shibboleths — feminism, even of the mildest and most reasonable kind, and multiculturalism — has been passed over with a silence that can only be described as deafening. Liberals who mistake pieties for thought can keep their orthodoxies intact only by averting their gaze from the most elementary reality.

It is perfectly clear from my clinical experience in the hospital in which I work that large numbers of Muslim girls of Pakistani descent are being betrothed at or soon after birth to first cousins in villages back “home,” whom they are subsequently inveigled into marrying by psychological pressure, subterfuge, or outright force, including the credible threat of death.

The following story is typical: I hear it once a week, and have done so for the past ten years. A girl aged between 14 and 17 is told by her parents that she is going to Pakistan for a holiday. Once she arrives back in her ancestral village, she is told that she is to be married almost at once, to a young man whom she has never met, who speaks no English, has no skills or education, and has no conception of the world outside the village. Resistance, she knows, is either pointless or dangerous: I have never met such a girl who did not know of at least one case of someone in her position who was hanged by her parents, shot by them, or who fell fatally from a roof, after attempting to evade her parents’ marriage plans. Official investigation of such a death, never very vigorous, can be brought to an end by the payment of about five pounds.

After the marriage, the struggle begins to obtain the husband’s entry into Britain. When it is granted, he behaves himself for the probationary year during which his wife’s complaint against his conduct could lead to his deportation back to Pakistan: but the very day after he is granted permanent leave to stay, he exacts his revenge for having suffered the terrible humiliation of having had to treat his wife with reasonable respect for a full twelve months. The violence and degradation then begin and do not end.

True, I am made aware of this system only when it leads to misery and even disaster. No social system is without its casualties, and perhaps there are many thousands of infantine betrothals that result in blissful happiness. I have a numerator, but no denominator, a common problem in assessing the true significance of a social problem. There is nonetheless good reason for supposing that both the pattern and the misery this system engenders are widespread: because the girls, or young women, who complain to me accept that the root of their unhappiness is the culture in which they have been reared, but whose demands they do not, indeed cannot, accept. Their own fate, though tragic, does not strike them as being in the least unusual or unexpected. They accept it as perfectly normal because it is what they have always seen around them, in their peer group and among their older sisters.

Given the exquisite tenderness of feminists on such matters as the replacement of the word “chairman” by “chair,” one might have supposed that the existence of the customs I have mentioned would excite their ire, arouse their righteous indignation (in this case truly righteous), and fire their eloquence. On the contrary, such customs go almost completely unremarked and uncommented upon.

The silence is partly accounted for by the intensity of the feminists’ navel-gazing, which is itself typical of modern culture. But this is only a portion of the explanation. Most of the feminists are also multiculturalists, because they do not want to have to admit that Western society is so far the only large-scale society that has proved compatible with some, at least, of their demands. Thus feminism and multiculturalism go together — in the words of the song — like a horse and carriage (of love and marriage it is perhaps best no longer to speak). And the feminists are also good Wittgensteinians, at least of the Tractatus period: Whereof they cannot speak, thereof they must be silent.

The silence of the feminists is not the only example of inertia in such matters, however. The British educational inspectors present another fine example of pusillanimity in action.

Education in Britain is compulsory for children between the ages of 5 and 16 (whether it should be is another question). But untold numbers of Muslim parents withdraw their daughters from school at the age of 11 or 12 and keep them at home, without other instruction, which is against the law. Although I have met scores of young women to whom this has happened, I have yet to meet one who was returned to school by the threat of legal action against her parents by the educational authorities. By contrast, I have heard of many white parents who have been harried by the courts for much lesser infractions of the educational law. What is most definitely not sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

Lest I be accused of vulgar prejudice, let me point out that the Muslim girls in question are almost invariably better educated and intelligent in manner, though their formal training ceased five or six years earlier, than their white counterparts. These latter unfortunates nearly always turn into graceless, vulgar slatterns, thanks to the subculture (fast, alas, becoming the culture) they inhabit, and the entirely relativist education they receive.

But the uselessness — indeed harmfulness — of the education on offer is decidedly not the reason the educational authorities fail to prosecute the recalcitrant Muslim parents. The reason they fail to do so can be summed up in one word: fear.

I hasten to add that there are many practicing Muslims who are perfectly able and content to live at ease and in peace within a Western liberal democratic state. Even so, this should not blind us to the fact that many are not. After the attack on New York, it is up to our intelligence services to draw this distinction. There should be no more loose talk of nondiscrimination. Only a suicidal fool does not discriminate.

One is entitled to ask where the rejection, hatred, and contempt for the West comes from, even — or perhaps especially — among those who have had most contact with it. I think that it is fundamentally in vain to seek the cause in the conduct or culture of the West, unattractive in some respects as they have been and are. The thing that really wounds, and thus causes hatred, is the palpable inferiority of Islamic society in every important branch of human endeavor over the past three centuries at least. A hatred of a more powerful and technically advanced society, combined with a chippy insistence on spiritual superiority (as if advancement had no spiritual correlates of its own), is by no means unusual in history. The Chinese continued to regard Westerners as merely mechanically gifted barbarians for a very long time; the Russian Slavophiles despised the orderly bourgeois states of western Europe, regarding the muddy mess of the Russian village as spiritually superior; Latin American authors such as the Uruguayan José Enrique Rodó and the Nicaraguan modernist poet Rubén Darío felt the same with regard to Latin America vis — vis the United States-as, indeed, does Fidel Castro to the present day. Nor is this view totally and 100 percent without foundation: For me, at least, a Middle Eastern souk is a more inviting and human place than a modern shopping mall. But man does not live by haggling alone.

Some Muslims will inevitably feel their migration to the West as a personal and cultural defeat, as an implicit and painful acknowledgement of the inferiority of their own civilization, to which they are nevertheless still deeply attached, and which they believe to be closer to God’s will. Guilt and resentment are a potent brew, and we cannot make people love us who have drunk of it, even if we were to erase Israel from the map of the world. Multiculturalism, after all, has its limits.


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