When it’s not explicitly hostile, Western liberals’ attitude to Ayaan Hirsi Ali is deeply condescending. One thinks of Nicholas Kristof in the New York Times, pondering the author’s estrangement from her Somali relatives:
I couldn’t help thinking that perhaps Hirsi Ali’s family is dysfunctional simply because its members never learned to bite their tongues and just say to one another: “I love you.”
In Somalia, they don’t bite their tongues but they do puncture your clitoris. Miss Hirsi Ali was the victim of what Western hospitals already abbreviate to “FGM” (“female genital mutilation”) or, ever more fashionably, “FGC” (the less judgmental “female genital cutting”). Group hugs may work at the Times op-ed desk when the Pulitzer nominations fail to materialize, but Mr. Kristof is perhaps being a wee bit Upperwestsideocentric to assume their universality. Miss Hirsi Ali has been on the receiving end of both Islam and the squishy multiculti accommodation thereof. For seven years, she has been accompanied by bodyguards, because the men who killed the film director Theo van Gogh would also like to kill her.
She was speaking in Calgary the other day and, in the course of an interview with Canada’s National Post, made a sharp observation on where much of the world is headed. It’s not just fellows like Mohammed Bouyeri, the man who knifed, shot, and, for good measure, near decapitated van Gogh. She noted the mass murderer Anders Breivik, who killed dozens of his fellow Norwegians supposedly as a protest against the Islamization of Europe — if one is to believe a rambling manifesto that cited her, me, Jefferson, Churchill, Gandhi, Hans Christian Andersen, and many others. Much media commentary described Breivik as a “Christian.” But he had been raised by conventional Eurosecularists, and did not attend a church of any kind. On the other hand, he was very smitten by the Knights Templar.
“He’s not a worshiping Christian but he’s become a political Christian,” said Ayaan, “and so he’s reviving political Christianity as a counter to political Islam. That’s regression, because one of the greatest achievements of the West was to separate politics from religion.” Blame multiculturalism, she added, which is also regressive: In her neck of the Horn of Africa, “identity politics” is known as tribalism.
That’s a shrewd insight. We already accept “political Islam.” Indeed, we sentimentalize it — dignifying the victory of the Islamist Ennahda party in post–Ben Ali Tunisia, the restoration of full-bore polygamy in post-Qaddafi Libya, and the slaughter of Coptic Christians in post-Mubarak Egypt as an “Arab Spring.” On the very day Miss Hirsi Ali’s interview appeared, the mob caught up with the world’s longest-serving non-hereditary head of state. Colonel Qaddafi had enlivened the U.N. party circuit for many years with his lavish ball gowns, but, while he was the Arab League’s only literal transvestite, that shouldn’t obscure the fact that most of his fellow dictators are also playing dress-up. They may claim to be “pan-Arabists” or “Baathists,” but in the end they represent nothing and no one but themselves and their Swiss bank accounts. When their disgruntled subjects went looking for something real to counter the hollow kleptocracies, Islam was the first thing to hand. There is not much contemplation of the divine in your average mosque, but, as a political blueprint, Islam was waiting, and ready.
Multicultural Europe is not Mubarak’s Egypt, but, north of the Mediterranean as much as south, the official state ideology is insufficient. The Utopia of Diversity is already frantically trading land for peace, and unlikely to retain much of either. In the “Islamic Republic of Tower Hamlets” — the heart of London’s East End, where one sees more covered women than in Amman — police turn a blind eye to misogyny, Jew-hatred, and gay-bashing for fear of being damned as “racist.” Male infidel teachers of Muslim girls are routinely assaulted. Patrons of a local gay pub are abused, and beaten, and, in one case, left permanently paralyzed.
The hostelry that has so attracted the ire of the Muslim youth hangs a poignant shingle: The George and Dragon. It’s one of the oldest and most popular English pub names. The one just across the Thames on Borough High Street has been serving beer for at least half a millennium. But no one would so designate a public house today. The George and Dragon honors the patron saint of England, and it is the cross of Saint George — the flag of England — under which the Crusaders fought. They brought back the tale from their soldiering in the Holy Land: In what is now Libya, Saint George supposedly made the Sign of the Cross, slew the dragon, and rescued the damsel. Within living memory, every English schoolchild knew the tale, if not all the details — e.g., the dragon-slaying so impressed the locals that they converted to Christianity. But the multicultural establishment slew the dragon of England’s racist colonialist imperialist history, and today few schoolchildren have a clue about Saint George. So the pub turned gay and Britain celebrated diversity, and tolerance, and it never occurred to them that, when you tolerate the avowedly intolerant, it’s only an interim phase. There will not be infidel teachers in Tower Hamlets for much longer, nor gay bars.
The “multicultural society” was an unnecessary experiment. And, in a post-prosperity Europe, demographic transformation is an unlikely recipe for social tranquility. If Ayaan Hirsi Ali is right, more than a few Europeans cut off from their inheritance and adrift in lands largely alien to them will seek comfort in older identities. In the Crusaders’ day, the edge of the maps bore the legend “Here be dragons.” They’re a lot closer now.
– Mr. Steyn blogs at SteynOnline.