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Inter-cultural respect vs the multicultural IDEOLOGY

Reader comment on item: [Breivik and] Norway's Terrorism in Context

Submitted by Ron Thompson (United States), Jul 30, 2011 at 21:43

The slaughter in Norway, and the shooter's manifesto, are a most challenging topic to address. If it were as easy to assassinate ideas as it is to shoot unarmed human beings, the response would be easy. For taken out of context, I find myself in complete agreement with the four paragraphs quoted by Daniel Pipes. Taken on their own, there is nothing murderous in them, only clear thoughts with which I agree. If somehow his actions had been metaphorical rather than all too bloodily real, I could have applauded the metaphor, sort of an updated version of "We're not going to take it anymore", from the 1976 movie.

What is difficult is that the actions can only be unambiguously condemned, and yet the thoughts not so easily dismissed. I'll try to speak to two bedrock confusions I see. First, the Western and humanly decent value of respect for other people and other cultures and religions is not the same thing at all as the ideology of Multiculturalism. I'm not sure I've ever seen this crucial difference well articulated. The first shows a presumptive and perhaps wary respect for the other person and his or her culture, until they show themselves unworthy of that respect and tolerance. The second is very different. It demands a rigid and a priori respect regardless of whether that respect and tolerance is reciprocated. Indeed, if and when such respect is not returned, multiculturalists not only remain blind, but much worse, rush to defend the intolerant individual and culture or religion rather than defending the decent and self-respecting values of their own culture or religion. Issues of self-hate and an inverse, upside-down, inside-out type of intolerance arise,blurring and muddying the question of how to deal with hostile outsiders who reject assimilation in any form. Breivik understands the ideology of multiculturalism, but his complete unawareness or rather, intolerant racist rejection of the first value, left him open to choosing his horrific violence. In light of this context, I do not think the assassin's actions, however deplorable, can be dismissed as a 'freakish exception'. Otherwise put, I don't think his mindset as quoted, as opposed to his actions, can be easily dismissed.

The second confusion involves Daniel Pipes' continued rejection of the idea of coldly evaluating whether Islam itself is the cause of Islamism - whether his related belief that "moderate" Islam is our only hope of survival survives the test of common sense, the lessons of 1400 years of history, and the contemporary behaviors of almost the whole spectrum of Moslem populations. What is so strange about this belief is its inconsistency with much else of his thought, including his own excellent piece of Europe's Stark Options cited in thisarticle. I wholly agree with all of the lines he self-quotes from that 2007 piece, but how on earth to square those comments with his continued refusal to consider whether there is, in fact, as so many of us (but not nearly enough so far) have concluded, something truly unfixable and untameable in the religion/political ideology itself? Indeed, it seems arguable that Breivik's actions are a deplorable extremist fulfillment of "a chafing among Europeans, less among elites than the masses, (who) loudly protest changes already underway." which Pipes presciently predicted 4 years ago.

So which is the real Pipes, the author who wrote the 2007 article analyzing a stark choice facing our civilization, or the Pipes who seems to believe that formidable challenge can be met by relying on a mysterious 'moderate' Islam - which belief would seem to place him uncomfortably close to multiculturalism?


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Daniel Pipes replies:

I have not changed since 2007. Then and now I distinguish between the barbarism of Islamism & the deep problems of contemporary Muslims on the one hand and the possibility of Islam moderating and modernizing on the other.

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