Tuesday, February 28, 2006

More Fukuyama

This is a selection from Franics Fukuyama's Europe vs. Radical Islam in yesterday's Slate.
There is no question that what has come to be called "Eurabia" constitutes a major problem for democracy there, a problem that European elites have been inexcusably slow to recognize and address. They operated for too long under a false understanding that liberal pluralism meant respecting the rights of communities rather than individuals, and they were not willing to step in when, for example, a Moroccan family forced their daughter into a marriage or shipped her back to Morocco against her will. Trendy multiculturalism dovetailed with traditional European corporatism and left Muslim communities in isolated ghettos, which then became fertile grounds for the growth of a highly intolerant version of Islam.

Yet the deeper source of Europe's failure to integrate Muslim immigrants, as Bawer recognizes, is not trendy multiculturalist ideas embraced by the left, but precisely Buchanan's blood-and-soil understanding of identity—a mind-set that until five years ago prevented a German-speaking third-generation Turk from acquiring citizenship because he didn't have a German mother. According to Bawer, "Europeans … will allow immigrants into their country; they'll pay high taxes so that their government can dole out (forever, if necessary) rent support, child benefits. … But they won't really think of them as being Norwegian or Dutch. And they'll rebel mightily against the idea of immigrants living among them as respected, fully equal professionals." American identity, by contrast, has from the beginning been more creedal and political than based on religion or ethnicity. Newly naturalized Guatemalans or Koreans in America can proudly say they are Americans. Pat Buchanan may not like it, but that is precisely what rescues us from the trap the Europeans are in.
His answer to Europe is simple in theory yet ridiculously difficult in practice (although I happen to agree with it).
The problem that most Europeans face today is that they don't have a vision of the kinds of positive cultural values their societies stand for and should promote, other than endless tolerance and moral relativism. What each European society needs is to invent an open form of national identity similar to the American creed, an identity that is accessible to newcomers regardless of ethnicity or religion. This was the idea behind Bassam Tibi's concept of Leitkultur (guiding or reference culture), the notion that the European Enlightenment gave rise to a distinct and positive universalist culture based on the dignity of the individual. Muslims coming to Europe would be minimally expected to accept this perspective as their own. The German Christian Democrats timidly endorsed a version of this five years ago, only to retreat in the face of charges of racism and anti-immigrant prejudice from the left...Time is getting short to address these questions. Europeans should have started a discussion about how to integrate their Muslim minorities a generation ago, before the winds of radical Islamism had started to blow. The cartoon controversy, while beginning with a commendable European desire to assert basic liberal values, may constitute a Rubicon that will be very hard to re-cross. We should be alarmed at the scope of the problem, but prudent in responding to it, since escalating cultural conflict throughout the Continent will bring us closer to a showdown between Islamists and secularists that will increasingly look like a clash of civilizations.
Indeed, time is short, and anyone of good will and a modicum of international solidarity should start thinking hard about these problems -- especially the ridiculous reactionism of the European Left -- before Huntington's Clash of Civilizations thesis comes true.