Cameron’s address is becoming known as the “multiculturalism has failed speech,” although he did not use those words. I propose instead that we think of it as the “muscular liberalism” speech, because the crux is in this passage:
Frankly, we need a lot less of the passive tolerance of recent years and much more active, muscular liberalism. A passively tolerant society says to its citizens: as long as you obey the law, we will leave you alone. It stands neutral between different values. A genuinely liberal country does much more. It believes in certain values and actively promotes them. Freedom of speech. Freedom of worship. Democracy. The rule of law. Equal rights regardless of race, sex or sexuality.
His speech followed German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s even harsher analysis last October: “Multiculturalism has failed utterly,” she said, adding, “We feel bound to the Christian image of humanity — that is what defines us. Those who do not accept this are in the wrong place here.” And French President Nicolas Sarkozy labeled multiculturalism a “failure,” saying:
Of course we must all respect differences, but we do not want … a society where communities coexist side by side. 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.
All of these leaders are at least taking the first rhetorical steps in response to a problem that isn’t deeply rooted in the U.S. — yet.
Segregated Muslim communities from Birmingham to Berlin operate by their own codes, breeding resentment, extremism, and, in some cases, terrorism. But those communities owe their intellectual legitimacy to an element that is as powerful in the U.S as it has been in Europe — the cringing, unproud, relativistic left, the “What right do we have to lecture anyone?” crowd. Former New York City Mayor David Dinkins explicitly rejected the melting pot metaphor in favor of the “gorgeous mosaic.”
How’s that working out? Last year, in Dearborn, Michigan, which has perhaps the most prominent Muslim presence of any U.S. city, four Christians believe they were arrested on a trumped-up charge of “breaching the peace” for proselytizing to Muslims at a festival, which is illegal under Sharia law but a cherished freedom under ours. Dearborn Mayor John B. O’Reilly replied that his city was “under attack” by the proselytizers, who were guilty of “aggressively engaging passers-by in confrontational debate.” Moreover, he said, there was a “free speech zone” at the festival for any nitpickers interested in the First Amendment. Last August, in Wichita (!), a pastor was arrested for “loitering and failing to disperse” (can one person disperse?) while handing out Christian materials outside the Islamic Society of Wichita.
Today these are isolated incidents, just as they would have been in Britain until recent years. Tolerantly, we open our arms to the intolerant, slipping from a culture of e pluribus unum to one of “Dude, you have no Koran,” in which a legal act (burning a Koran) is deplored but an illegal one (theft of same to prevent said burning) is celebrated. Tomorrow we may wake up to discover we’re Birmingham or Amsterdam or Marseille.