If you no longer know what you stand for, how can you know what you stand against?
Chirpiness that’ll be the death of us
If you no longer know what you stand for, how can you know what you stand against?
A couple of years ago, an Australian reader wrote to say he was beginning to feel as Robert Frost did in “A Minor Bird”: I have wished a bird would fly away And not sing by my house all day.
My correspondent’s unceasingly cheeping bird was Islam. He was fed up waking every morning and reading of the latest offence taken by the more excitable Muhammadans. If memory serves, this exhaustion was prompted by a Muslim protest outside Westminster Cathedral demanding the execution of the Pope. It was organized by a fellow called Anjem Choudhary, who argued that “whoever insults the message of Muhammad is going to be subject to capital punishment.” But then again it might have been some other provocation entirely—say, the chocolate swirl on the top of a Burger King dessert carton that an aggrieved customer complained bore too close a resemblance to the Arabic script for “Allah” (the offending menu item was subsequently withdrawn). If you’re that eager to take offence, it’s not difficult to find it. Or as President Bush said to me around the same time: “If it’s not the Crusades, it’s the cartoons.”
Which would make a great bumper sticker. It encapsulates perfectly not only the inability of the perpetually aggrieved to move on, millennium-in millennium-out, but also the utter lack of proportion.
Anyway, my New York Times bestseller (and Canadian hate crime) America Alone: The End Of The World As We Know It is released in paperback across the Dominion’s bookstores this week, and, if a mere excerpt in
Maclean’s was enough to generate two “human rights” prosecutions, the softcover edition should be good for a full-blown show trial followed by a last cigarette and firing squad— although, this being Canada, there’ll be no last cigarette. (To mark the paperback launch, I’ll be in Toronto at the Bay and Bloor branch of Indigo on Wednesday May 7 with my old pal Heather Reisman. So do come along if you’re interested in hearing what the book’s about, or if you’re an Ontario “Human Rights” commissar and you’d like to arrest me.) In any event, with a new round of promotional interviews looming, several readers wrote to ask if I ever felt like my Australian pal: don’t you wish the Islamic bird would just fly away? Wouldn’t it be nice not to be up to your neck in this issue 24/7?
I’m using “up to your neck” metaphorically, but a lot of chaps are more literal. Naeem Muhammad Khan, the unemployed Torontonian whose website urges that the “apostasy” of Maclean’s contributor Tarek Fatah and other Muslim moderates be punished by death, says of one of his targets: “Behead her!!! And make a nice video and post it on YouTube.” There is no point wishing Mr. Khan would fly away and not sing by our house all day. He’s here to stay, and anyone who advocated, say, his deportation would find himself assailed by moderate reasonable Canadians horrified at such a betrayal of our multicultural values.
Which is the point. For as Robert Frost’s poem continues:
The fault must partly have been in me.
The bird was not to blame for his key.
And of course there must be something wrong
In wanting to silence any song.
In the case of an enfeebled West at twilight,
the fault is wholly in us. After Sept. 11,2001, many agonized progressives looked at America and its allies’ relations with the Muslim world and argued that we need to ask ourselves: why do they hate us? As Brian Dunn, a Michigan blogger, put it, a more relevant question is: why do we hate us? After all, if all our institutions, from grade school to public broadcasting to Hollywood movies to Canadian “human rights” commissars, operate from the basic assumption that Western civilization is the font of racism, imperialism, oppression, exploitation and all the other ills of the world, why be surprised that the rest of humanity takes us at our word?
“Multiculturalism” is a unicultural phenomenon. It exists only as a Western fetish, and we don’t believe in it, not really. Most people, given the choice, want to live in an advanced Western society. That’s why even impeccably PC lefties refer carelessly to other cultures as “developing nations”: the phrase assumes they’re “developing” into something closer to ours, because that’s the direction of progress. Even hard-core multiculturalists only want to live in a Western society. For one thing, that’s the only place you can make a living as a multiculturalist. The general thinking was summed up in an email I got the other day from a reader arguing that there was no point getting irked by the Archbishop of Canterbury’s call for the introduction of sharia in the United Kingdom. We are, said my correspondent, “rich enough to afford to be stupid.”
I wonder if it’s quite that simple. We are encouraging of certain forms of assertiveness: I am woman, hear me roar! Say it loud, I’m black and proud! We’re here, we’re queer, get used to it! But the one identity we’re enjoined not to trumpet is the one that enables us to trumpet all the others: our identity as citizens of a very specific kind of society with a very
particular inheritance, built on the rule of law, property rights, and freedom of speech. Heaven forbid we should assert any of that: I am Western, hear me apologize! Say it loud, I’m Dutch and cowed! We’re Brits, we’re s-ts, awf’lly sorry about that!
If you no longer know what you stand for, how can you know what you stand against? That’s why Swedish cabinet ministers say we should be nice to Muslims now so that when they’re in the majority they’ll be nice to us, and Dutch cabinet ministers say they’d have no objection to sharia as long as a majority of Dutch electors voted for it, and Canadian prime ministers say things like: “I believe that once you are a Canadian citizen, you have the right to your own views and to disagree.”
That was Paul Martin, and he was reacting to the news that the youngest Khadr boy and his mom had landed at Pearson to renew their OHIP cards. Junior had been paralyzed in the shootout with Pakistani forces that killed his dad, the highest-ranking Canuck in alQaeda (at least until Osama’s Canadian passport turns up in the back of the cave). And, not fancying a prison hospital in Peshawar, the kid and his mom flew “home” to enjoy the benefits of Ontario health care. Would it have killed Mr. Martin to express mild distaste at the idea of your tax dollars paying for the treatment of a man whose Canadian citizenship is no more than a flag of convenience but unfortunately that’s the law, blah blah blah? Apparently so. Instead, his reflex instinct was to proclaim this as a wholehearted demonstration of the virtues of a multicultural state so boundlessly tolerant it even lets you choose what side of the Afghan war you’re on: when the draft card arrives, just check “home team” or “enemy” according to taste. We’ll still be congratulating ourselves on our boundless tolerance even as the forces of intolerance consume us.
Which is more likely? That the Ontario Human Rights Commission will investigate Naeem Muhammad Khan for his explicit incitement to murder? Or that it will rebuke
Maclean’s for being so “racist” and “Islamophobic” as to quote such chaps? Well, they’ve already done the latter. So have Her Majesty’s constabulary in England. After Channel 4 broadcast an undercover report showing imams in British mosques urging the murder of gays and apostates and whatnot, the West Midlands Police launched an investigation... into the TV network for its insensitive “Islamophobia.” As Bruce Bawer, a gay American who lives in Scandinavia, writes in the current CityJournal: “Those who, if given the power, would subjugate infidels, oppress women, and execute apostates and homosexuals are ‘moderate’ (a moderate, these days, apparently being anybody who doesn’t have explosives strapped to his body), while those who dare to call a spade a spade are ‘Islamophobes.’ ”
“Islam is a fighting creed,” writes John Buchan, Canada’s former governor general (incredible as that seems), “and the mullah still stands in the pulpit with the Koran in one hand and a drawn sword in the other.” That’s from his novel Greenmantle, which the BBC had commissioned a new dramatization of, only to cancel it in the wake of the London Tube bombings. But just because the novels of the man who gave us the Governor General’s Literary Awards are beyond the pale in these sensitive times doesn’t mean Buchan’s wrong: Islam is a fighting creed, in the sense that it knows what it believes and it’s prepared to stand up for it. But it doesn’t need to be much of a fighter up against a creed so turned on by self-flagellation.
To cite Bruce Bawer again on what he calls “the anatomy of surrender”:
“The key question for Westerners is: do we love our freedoms as much as they hate them? Many free people, alas, have become so accustomed to freedom, and to the comfortable position of not having to stand up for it, that they’re incapable of defending it when it’s imperilled—or even, in many cases, of recognizing that it is imperilled.” Indeed. As I always say, my book isn’t about “them,” it’s about “us.” The bird that needs
to fly the coop is the one that’s been chirruping away with the Song of Civilizational Suicide for two generations now. To quote another landmark of ornithological versifying: “Spread your tiny wings and fly away.” M
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