Heeding the Times from Harry Antonides' Desk

 Diversity; What Diversity?

January 2003

A recurring theme in the speeches of our Prime Minister, Jean Chretien, is that Canada is a multicultural society, where tolerance is proclaimed to be the highest virtue – at least by all right-thinking Canadians. Diversity is now affirmed and celebrated. But what happens when this modern shibboleth leaves us defenceless over against those who declare war on our way of life because they perceive it to be satanic? 

It is one thing to recognize that there is a great deal of diversity among people in a free and open society who must and can live together in peace. But it is something entirely different to advocate tolerance and diversity because there really is no yardstick by which we can judge one way to be better that another. 

To say that our Western, democratic society is superior to some others is now   held to be form of Western arrogance that must make way for the recognition that all values and cultures are equal. There is no one who can claim to have insight into what is true and best, and therefore also works best in practice. It all depends on your own preferences. 

Of course, in real life such a position of moral equivalence is absurd.  This has not become obvious to everyone since we have not yet been fully consistent in following relativism to its logical conclusion.  

We have not entirely run aground as a society because there are still surviving among us more traditional ideas of right and wrong that make it possible to consider something good as opposed to evil. But the outcome of the belief underlying the current notion of diversity (multiculturalism) is complete moral chaos. Ideas do have consequences. Evidence of this is all around us to those who have eyes to see. Let me cite one recent striking example. 

Most people in North America and Europe were horrified about the terrible evil perpetrated by those who deliberately killed thousands of innocent people in the attacks of September 11, 2001. But it did not take long before this horrendous deed was rationalized as the result of wrongs perpetrated by the U.S itself. Even our Prime Minister indulged in this kind of reverse blame fixing at the first anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. How could this be? There are a number of reasons, but the most important one is that the blame-America-first pundits refused to call evil evil because of their concept of right and wrong. 

What is especially galling is that these exonerators of evil do so by setting themselves up as more moral than the U.S. As they see it, America is causing the poverty and suffering in the Third World. That’s why Americans are hated and they themselves are responsible for creating the Bin Ladens of this world. But if evil depends on our own concept of evil that is grounded in nothing else that our opinions or preferences, then why should the moral indignation of some about American responsibility be any more valid than any one else’s opinion? It then becomes a matter of who can shout the loudest or is the most ruthless and murderous. 

All true dialogue and consensus then is impossible Then there is no longer any basis on which a civilized and free society can exist. That is why the declaration of war by Bin Laden against the West in the name of radical Islam has such ominous implications for us.  I am not thinking in the first place of the physical and murderous destruction these haters of the West have wreaked, or still may accomplish in the future. No, the real cause of concern lies in the spiritual, or if you will, the moral confusion within the West itself. We are no match against the brazen self-assurance of those who in the name of Allah want to impose Islamist rule (sharia) wherever they can. That’s why a recent exchange between the National Post columnist David Frum and a Muslim spokesman is worth reflecting on. 

Frum wrote in his November 30 column about the violent riot in the city of Kaduna in northern Nigeria that resulted in the murder of more than 200 people and the destruction of many churches and houses. This uprising was in protest to a remark by Isioma Daniel who wrote in the Nigerian paper This Day about the Miss World beauty contest scheduled in that country.  Muslims declared her remark about Muhammad’s appreciation of feminine beauty to be blasphemous that deserved the death penalty. 

Frum elaborates on this incident by recalling that Muhammad had at least 10 wives, including one whom he forced a divorce from her husband so that he could marry her. Frum concluded, “The West is not Nigeria. Yet even in the West, some radical Muslim groups are demanding the same power over speech and thought that their Nigerian counterparts now exercise….” 

As to prove his last point, Zulf M. Khalfan’s responded in the National Post

(December 3) by defending Muslims’ taking offence at the comments by the Nigerian columnist. He explained that Muslims are offended by any connection between Muhammad and a beauty contest.  Then he wrote that each faith, Buddhism, Christianity, and so on, must be respected and be free to make their own choices. (The bitter truth is that while Mr. Khalfan wants freedom of expression for himself and his fellow Muslims in this country, such freedom is totally absent wherever radical Islam holds sway) 

Khalfan concluded that since Frum “cites Salman Rushdie [still living under a death sentence because of the Islamic fatwa on his life], he should know by now the fatal consequences resulting from ignoring this fact.” 

When strongly condemned in a following letter to the editor for his veiled threat against Frum, Khalfan explained that his comments were not intended to threaten Frum with fatwa, but he only “referred to the innocent lives that were lost by Salman Rushdie’s irresponsibility.” He then proceeded to justify what he called the provocation of individuals “who cannot control their spiritual emotions and cause the death of innocent people – hence fatal consequences.” (N.P. December 5). 

When reading these exchanges I had expected (well, hoped) an outburst of all the usual defenders of freedom of the press in defense of human rights and in opposition to the so-called hate literature. As far as I could tell, there was no chorus of protest, only an occasional criticism. The task to put this episode in the right, distressing perspective was left to one whom those in the media mainstream love to hate. 

Mark Steyn, devastating skewer of all causes beloved by those who occupy the moral high ground, dissected Mr. Khaflan’s remarks in his National Post column of December 5, “A fatwa of one’s own.” He wrote: 

“Well, Mr. Khalfan has now ‘clarified’ his original letter on the page opposite. He does not want to kill David Frum. He just wants David to be aware of how easy it is to provoke other people into killing him.” 

Steyn then reviewed the Muslim case against Salman Rushdie, on whom the Iranian Ayatollah Khomeinie had pronounced the death sentence (fatwa) in 1989 for his book The Satanic Verses. Steyn poured contempt on the Western elite’s limp, cowardly responses to this exhibition of fanatical hatred. Muslim mobs marched in English cities demanding the death of Rushdie. Mohammed Siddiqui, a Muslim spokesman wrote in defence of the fatwa against Rushdie in The Independent. He quoted the Koran, Sura 5 verses 33, 34:  “The punishment of those who wage war against God and His Apostle, and strive with might and main for mischief through the land, is execution, or crucifixion, or the cutting off of hands and feet from opposite sides, or exile from the land….” 

Steyn had harsh words for the supporters of the fatwa on Rushdie, and for Mr. Khalfans ‘s defence of the murderous rioters in Nigeria: ”If that Nigerian mob are really no more than “pious Muslims,” then pious Muslims should be ashamed. Pious Muslims can follow the murder-inciters of Bradford, the suicide-bombers of the West Bank and the depraved killers of northern Nigeria on their descent into barbarianism. Or they can wake up and save their religion. Mr. Khalfan’s sophistry won’t cut it.” 

This is what public debate in Canada has now come to. What has happened that diversity is now being throttled by religious zealots who do not shrink back from issuing not so veiled threats and justifying murder and violence - also right in our own country.  No one would have believed only a few years ago that any such thing would happen here. 

The brutal truth is that those who advocate a kind of multiculturalism based on the belief that there is no transcendent standard for right and wrong are rendering themselves defenceless. They will find their hands tied when faced with those who are driven by a fanatic conviction that they possess the truth of Allah and are entitled, yes duty bound, to impose their rule on everyone else. 

We should be grateful that the Frums and Steyns are still around. But where are all the other defenders of diversity and human rights now that we really need them?