Them and Us

by Mark Steyn

I always enjoy reading Brendan O’Neill, and am grateful for his robust defense of free speech against the pro-censorship left, but I think this is a wee bit unfair:

Now, as it happens, I disagree with pretty much everything Sarrazin says about the problems afflicting modern Europe. The key problem with the arguments made by him, Steyn, Phillips and others, all of whom say in a roundabout way that once Enlightened Europe is now capitulating to the demands of seriously separatist Muslim immigrants and their representatives, is that it presents an internal crisis of European culture as an external assault on the European citadel by the beard-and-burqa lobby. Their narrow critique of multiculturalism fails to understand that the origins of Europe’s profound crisis of identity lie in an inner moral malaise, in a loss of faith in Enlightenment values in London, Paris and Berlin, rather than in the antics of any external army of foreigners.

I can’t speak for anybody else, but I’ve never said the problem is “an external assault” by “the beard-and-burqa lobby.” Quite the opposite, in fact:

My book, supposedly Islamaphobic, isn’t even really about Islam. The single most important line in it is the profound observation, by historian Arnold Toynbee, that “Civilizations die from suicide, not murder.” One manifestation of that suicidal urge is illiberal notions harnessed in the cause of liberalism. In calling for the introduction of Sharia, the Archbishop of Canterbury joins a long list of Western appeasers, including a Dutch cabinet minister who said if the country were to vote to introduce Islamic law that would be fine by him, and the Swedish cabinet minister who said we should be nice to Muslims now so that Muslims will be nice to us when they’re in the majority.

Ultimately, our crisis is not about Islam. It’s not about fire-breathing Imams or polygamists whooping it up on welfare. It’s not about them. It’s about us.

That’s been my position for years: In fact, almost exactly half a decade ago, I was in Sydney giving a speech called “It’s Not Them, It’s Us.”