Phi Beta Cons

The Right take on higher education.

Assimilation Not Happening, So Stop Pretending


I think the University of Michigan’s intention to install foot baths for Muslims in some of its restrooms is a way over-the-top accommodation of religion into a public university. What other religion demands this kind of accommodation? So each prayer time, which could be three or more times in a long college day, these public restrooms are going to be crowded with Muslims washing their feet? Religions have to privatize aspects of their rituals and customs in order to fit into modern society. That’s what is needed if we don’t want to become a country in which Muslims hold superior status. I believe there is privatization even in Muslim countries, so that people involved in activities where the rituals of prayer time would be too intrusive can substitute symbolic actions. This demand for foot baths may well have a political edge, just as the wearing of the headscarf does. We are already practicing dhimmitude.

In New York City, a public school centered on the Arabic language and Arab culture has opened. Former New York City Parks Commissioner Henry Stern remarks drily that when his parents wanted him to learn of his Jewish heritage, they sent him on their own dime to Hebrew school. A picture in the newspaper showed several girls, probably about ten or eleven, entering the school in full black head-to-toe Muslim dress.

Dan Henninger, in a Wall Street Journal article that George mentions below, discusses Robert Putnam’s recent devastating study of the negative effects of diversity on community life, but insists that a time-out on immigration is impossible. But why is that any more pie-in-the-sky than Henninger’s own solution, assimilation into the middle class? The Muslim students attending the University of Michigan are middle class, and one often hears that America’s Muslims are well off compared to their European counterparts. It isn’t a matter of economic class, it’s a matter of culture.

In fact, it was the immigration enthusiasts’ insistence that we as a country had no culture to speak of, that we were only an idea, and therefore that mass immigration from vastly different cultures could not harm us because everyone believes in the idea. It was this very insistence, repeated again and again in recent decades, often accompanied by accusations of racism, nativism, and xenophobia against anyone who disagreed, that has had the ironic effect of fostering multiculturalism.

Everyone believes in the idea, don’t they? Or do they? But if they did, would they be demanding accommodations like these? (By the way, what is the idea, and are we teaching it to young people? A civics curriculum created by the Center for Civic Education and empowered by the United States Senate and the Bicentennial Commission and authorized under the Goals 2000 and No Child Left Behind Acts says the Constitution is a document of the eighteenth century and that the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights is the latest thing.)

So people should stop invoking assimilation as if it were an easy, self-evident solution. America no longer has the cultural integrity to insist on it. Anyone invoking assimilation without addressing the obvious signs that it is not happening, or happening in reverse, is uttering an empty slogan.


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