Exactly how beneficial to a society is multiculturalism, this word that is so celebrated in the West?
First one must define the word: It is “the view that cultures, races, and ethnicities, particularly those of minority groups, deserve special acknowledgement of their differences within a dominant political culture.”
Note the immediate inaccuracies within this standard definition. “Races,” which indicate a people’s innate physical makeup, are conflated with “cultures” — which are neither innate nor physical, but learned and metaphysical.
This mix-up explains why for many in the West, the word “culture” often conjures at most physical, surface differences — “exotic” food or dress. In reality, cultures are nothing less than entire and distinct worldviews with their own unique sets of right and wrongs, often rooted in a religion or philosophy. Cultures bring much more than, say, the convenience of having Indian cuisine down the street.
As Anglo-French historian Hilaire Belloc once explained it:
Cultures spring from religions; ultimately the vital force which maintains any culture is its philosophy, its attitude toward the universe; the decay of a religion involves the decay of the culture corresponding to it — we see that most clearly in the breakdown of Christendom today.
Put differently, all values prized by the modern West — religious freedom, tolerance, humanism, gender equality, monogamy — did not develop in a vacuum but rather are inextricably rooted to Judeo-Christian principles which, over the course of some 2,000 years, have had a profound influence on Western epistemology, society and, of course, culture.
While they are now taken for granted and seen as “universal” virtues, it’s not for nothing that these values were born and nourished in Western — not Islamic, Buddhist, Hindu, Confucian, or pagan — nations.
All this is missed by those ignorant of the spiritual and intellectual roots of Western civilization. This is, incidentally, why growing numbers of Western people arrogantly see themselves as the culmination of all human history and culture — “enlightened” thinkers who have left all cultural and religious baggage behind — and are thus convinced that cultures offer only minor, or superficial differences (always to be “celebrated”). They embrace notions of relativism and multiculturalism, the idea that all religions and cultures are at most “skin deep,” or more subtly, that they are destined to develop like the West, which is no longer seen as a distinct culture but rather the end point of all cultures.
In other words, if the boons of Western civilization are not a distinct product of Judeo-Christian principles, then they must be standard for and appreciable to all civilizations.
The folly of such thinking is especially on display in the context of Islam and Muslims, who in this new paradigm are seen as embryonic Westerners. Whatever a Muslim may say — calls for jihad, hate for infidels — surely deep down inside he values “secularism,” and appreciates the need to practice Islam privately, respect religious freedom, gender equality, and so on. Thus is he made “in our image” (except, of course, we forget the roots of “our image”).
Overlooked is that the Muslim has his own unique and ancient worldview and set of principles — his own culture — which in turn prompt behavior that is deemed “radical” by Western standards (falsely assumed to be “universal” standards).
Portraying what at root is a Christian paradigm as “universal,” and then applying it to an alien culture like Islam, is doomed to failure. The idea that Muslims can be true to their religion and yet naturally fit into Western society is false. The idea is built on an equally false premise: that Christianity somehow also had to moderate itself to fit into a secular society. In fact, Christian principles, which are so alien to Islam, were fundamental to the creation of the West.
Returning to the initial confusion, that cultures are often conflated with race, it bears stressing that being wary or critical of multiculturalism is in no way the same thing as being wary or critical of other races or ethnicities (that is, “racism”) but rather being wary of disunity. After all, racially homogenous but culturally heterogeneous nations are much more fractured than the reverse. One need look no further than to the United States, where “leftist” and “rightist” whites often abhor one another (as was on regular display during the last presidential election). Or look to the Middle East, where Muslims and Christians are racially, ethnically, and linguistically homogenous, but where the former are ruthlessly persecuting the latter, exclusively over religion.
In short, there’s nothing wrong and much to be celebrated if a nation’s citizenry is composed of every race and ethnicity — but only if they share the same worldview, the same priorities, the same ethics, the same rights and wrongs — in a word, the same culture. Then it will be a strong and healthy nation, perfectly capturing the meaning of E pluribus unum
Reprinted with author’s permission from Raymond Ibrahim