FACE TO FACE: Does multiculturalism still make sense after all these years?
Welcome to the world of everything and nothing. Welcome to the multicultural muddle that my relativistic debating partner so warmly embraces.
Here's the issue: He thinks that most critics of multiculturalism are closet racists, hiding behind pseudo-respectable language to mask xenophobic and hateful attitudes. To him, multiculturalism is essentially a celebration of the diversity of humankind and anyone who doesn't join the party is wrong-headed.
Where to start? First, let's consider that, in judging critics of multiculturalism so harshly, my partner is breaking the first rule of multiculturalism: Thou shalt not judge. For if multiculturalism stands for anything, it's that no single belief can be said to hold sway over another. All are equally valid and must not only be tolerated, but celebrated.
Of course, as evidenced by his most unsympathetic assessment of multiculturalism's critics, multiculturalists are in a constant war with themselves any time they criticize the beliefs of those with whom they disagree or, more broadly, draw lines on just how much they are willing to tolerate. Cultures that stone to death adulteresses, for example, seem to bring out the absolutist in even the most ardent cultural relativist.
It is, indeed, the practices of immigrant Muslims to Europe, including their widespread failure to embrace western, democratic values, that have recently led the leaders of Germany, France and Great Britain to say multiculturalism has failed. Does my debating partner consider Chancellor Andrea Merkel, President Nikolas Sarkozy and Prime Minister David Cameron all to be racists?
The issue was being stirred up again earlier this week in the U.S. because of the House Homeland Security Committee's decision to hold hearings into radical Islam and the threat posed by home-grown terrorists. Multiculturalists accused the chairman of the committee of scapegoating a religious community but, in doing so, avoided a crucial question: Is it a fact that a disproportionately high number of terrorists are emerging from the Muslim faith and, if so, what should be done about it?
I believe we should not be afraid to search for the truth, especially when our freedoms and beloved democratic institutions are at stake. After all, as a wise man once said, if you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything.
An award-winning journalist, a writer with Edmonton's Report Magazine and Toronto's Catholic Insight magazine, and co-host of RoadkillRadio.com, Face to Face columnist Terry O'Neill is a long-time Coquitlam resident who sits on the board of the Coquitlam Foundation and chairs the finance commitee of St. Joseph's Catholic parish.