WASHINGTON -- Now the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, has joined the chorus. The other day he said, "My answer is clearly yes, it is a failure." The "it" was multiculturalism, and he was on French national television. In pronouncing multiculturalism defunct, the French president joins German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Australia's ex-prime minister John Howard, Spain's ex-premier Jose Maria Aznar, and, most recently, British Prime Minister David Cameron in heaving a failed policy into history's dustbin. The question is, what will replace it? Or actually another question: how did multiculturalism ever become a policy of these European countries anyway?
"If you come to France, you accept to melt into a single community, which is the national community, and if you do not want to accept that, you cannot be welcome in France," explained Sarkozy. "Of course," he explained, "we must all respect differences, but we do not want…a society where communities coexist side by side." Actually they have not existed side by side in recent years. Certain cultures were deferred to by the Europeans, namely Islam. Others were not. If your culture entertained cannibalism, you could not sit down to a nice leg of neighbor. Yet if your culture was Muslim, and you wanted to arrange a marriage for your daughter, authorities looked the other way. If you were the village atheist, you could not say God is a monstrosity and Allah is an impossibility. That would be a "hate crime," and you would be in hot water. On the other hand, you could say "Allah akbar," and no one was offended other than the village atheist.
Now the European leaders are giving this sort of tolerance of intolerance a second look. Prime Minister Cameron has called for a "more active, more muscular liberalism," one that requires the active promotion of democratic values, the rule of law, freedom of speech, and equal rights. In a recent speech in Munich he argued that, "under the doctrine of state multiculturalism, we have encouraged different cultures to live separate lives, apart from each other and the mainstream." The result is alienation and occasionally jihadism.
So how did the Europeans end up with multiculturalism, a multiculturalism that seems to favor Islam over other cultures? The Germans have outlawed Nazi culture. The Italians are not particularly hospitable to fascism, and as I have already pointed out the French are appalled at cannibalism and do not even have a good word for McDonald's or Kentucky Fried Chicken. I think it started with the way they teach their history. Militarism, colonialism, and racism are all prominent ingredients of European history books, particularly British history. For that matter, American history stresses these ingredients also. I have been reading American college history texts and they present an alarmingly ugly view of the Western past.
By presenting the West as repugnant and the other civilizations as our prey, particularly during colonial days but also in modern times, we encourage such social pathologies as jihadism. President Sarkozy says he is not going to tolerate the kind of fundamentalism in France that leads ultimately to jihadism. How is he going to achieve this without calling for a fundamental reform in how French history is taught?
Then there is another matter. All the aforementioned statesmen and women are democrats and espouse democratic values, but there are fashions of thought in the West that do not like democratic values. For want of a better term, they are fashions of thought that follow political correctness. The politically correct do not like free speech. For that matter, the adherents to political correctness do not like many of the values of the West. What are Mr. Sarkozy and Mr. Cameron going to do about them? They are going to be even trickier to deal with than the practitioners of jihad.