Europe’s Pressing Problem
“Tolerance of intolerance is cowardice.” – Ayaan Hirsi Ali
“Political correctness, in the extreme versions worthy of the name, is antithetical to almost all surprising advances in thought.” – Daniel Dennett
“Whenever I watch a riot over cartoons or meet another Muslim dissident forced to write under a pseudonym, I wonder, where are the Western secular liberals? Why do they shrink from defending freedom of conscience for all? Thanks to Austin Dacey, I now have an answer. As his piercing analysis shows, liberals have lost their grip on the real meaning of freedom. Only with a restored commitment to conscience as an objective moral ideal can they face down fundamentalists while constructively engaging with reformers of the faith.” – Ibn Warraq, author, Defending the West
It is utterly shameful that Western Europe’s liberal establishment is losing in a war of ideas against far-right politicians, who are the ones speaking the most sensibly about dealing with the creeping threat of Islamist extremism. This should not be happening because most liberals advocate tolerance and reason. They are especially knowledgeable about the threats that religious literalism poses. They should be leading the way on these issues with ease, but they are not. They seem so willing to seem tolerant that they would dismantle Western culture to submit to the insane demands of Muslim extremists who hate everything the West stands for. Unfortunately, writing this would be interpreted as xenophobia when actually it is standing up to barbarism. The situation in Europe is much different than in the United States.
In Europe, many Muslims live in slums outside the cities. Some of the mosques are undoubtedly the platforms from which fundamentalism is spread to the disaffected Muslims living in these desolate communities. Sometimes this extremism finds its ways to white-collar Muslims. Another problem is that in countries such as the Netherlands, one can make more of a living off welfare than working for minimum wage. This gives no incentive to go out to get a job, make friends, socialize, and integrate into modern Western European culture. The results of not adequately addressing immigrant unemployment and assimilation are the London and Madrid tragedies and the Danish cartoon fiasco.
Benighted by the dogmas of political correctness and cultural relativism, Europe’s liberals are following a course just as troubling as the one Christian extremists and fascists are advocating. Silenced by deeply-entrenched taboos, and refusing to acknowledge the tribalism, backwardness, and fundamentalism that some immigrants bring with them, liberalism in Europe is in danger of being annihilated in a war of ideas. This is a war in which religious extremism can be found on both sides – with Christian fascists on one side, and Muslim extremists on the other.
No incident more clearly illustrates this than the publishing of those infamous Danish cartoons a few years ago. Violent riots spread, embassies burned, and people were killed and threatened with death over cartoon images that happened to violate medieval Muslim laws. Both the far-right and extremist Muslims jumped on this opportunity to justify their aspiring tyranny over the institutions and liberties of civil society. All of this illustrates that neither of these groups knows how to behave in an open society, nor belongs in one. Author Sam Harris writes, “It is as though a portal in time has opened, and the Christians of the 14th century are pouring into our world.”
Anyone who thinks that respecting sanctimonious taboos should have taken precedence over the exercising of rights constitutive of a free society is not as moderate as they should be. In modern liberal republics, freedom of speech and of the press needs to take precedence over offending people (whoever they are). People who think otherwise need to become citizens of the 21st century. It is regrettable that Europe’s liberals will probably fail to wake up to reality, and become increasingly irrelevant as they indulge in their hidebound political correctness. If European liberals do not realize their blindness, they risk the future of Western civilization.