The Netherlands, Islam and Radio Open Source

Radio Open Source had a show about Islam & The Netherlands. They mention one of my comments in the last 5 minutes (the download should be up tomorrow). I have cut & pasted my first comment below.

And what better place for this flourishing multicultural paradise than the tolerant Netherlands of the Church-baiting Erasmus and the Portuguese-Jewish rationalist Spinoza?

Let me be frank, this makes great rhetoric, but the reality was far less peachy. The Calvinist confession dominated Dutch society and tolerated a level of dissent, it did not accept or celebrate it. Baruch Spinoza was expelled from the Jewish community in part because the Portuguese Jews were terrified that they were violating the agreemant they made with the Dutch powers to not make trouble or disrupt society. Spinoza certainly did that, and more, later bringing upon himself charges of atheism after publishing Tractatus Theologico-Politicus. I also dispute that the "Enlightenment dream" was about tolerant multiculturalism in a sense that we understand it today. It is true that the Enlightenment, in the aftermath of the Wars of Religion, forwarded religious pluralism, but its commanding heights also demanded a dampening of religious enthusiasm which is not a hallmark from what I can see in European multiculturalism, which has transformed a Muslim confession into a Muslim ethnos and fostered a religious revival. Moses Mendelsohn ushered in the Jewish Enlightenment, the Haskalah, by opening the door toward assimilation and accommodation with the ways of the gentile world. His last Jewish descendent died in the late 19th century (Felix Mendelssohn, his famous grandson, was a Christian). One Enlightenment creed was "As a nation the Jews must be denied everything; as individuals they must be granted everything!"

The best model for multiculturalism today, and especially in Europe, is the Ottoman millet system where each community organized itself and had its own representatives. So, you have Muslim "community leaders" who intercede on behalf of their community, who speak for their community, to the powers that be (Tony Blair, Jacques Chirac). What is happening in Europe is what Amartya Sen terms plural monoculturalism, as bureaucratic machines are generating manipulable blocks in which to assign individuals for their own administrative convenience, where community leaders are forcing and forging a constituency which they can turn to their own purposes, where people are left without choices in an economy that doesn't need them, and a welfare state which will give them unquestioning succor. Where cultural elites are telling them to be "authentic," and racists are telling them that they can never be real citizens.

can we look at the Netherlands now and see ourselves in five years, or ten, or two

No. No need for rhetoric, the numbers are plain

1) Muslims are 5% of The Netherlands population, and not ethnically diverse (Moroccan, Turkish, etc.) vs. Muslims are no more than 2%, and probably closer to 0.5% of America's population, and very ethnically diverse (large numbers of Arabs, Africans, black Americans, South Asians, as well as white converts)

2) In most of Europe Muslims are overly represented in the underclass (in places like Sweden they are part and parcel of the welfare class, except perhaps for exceptions like the Iranian emigres who left the shah) vs. in the USA where selective immigration means that Muslims are more well educated and affluent than the norm. Upward mobility correlates with spatial mobility, leads to desegregation, professional jobs mean that you have to socialize even with kufirs and humanizes the Other.

3) The USA is not ambivalent about absorbing immigrants, but many European countries are. Germans don't consider themselves a nation of immigrants, despite the Germanicization of the Sorbian minority in the East, or the fact the the Prussian state invited French Protestants to settle in Berlin until they were 25% of the population in Frederick the Great's time and influenced that dialect of German. Myths matter. Memories are short. Humans are capricious and narrow-minded. The fact that Americans revere their history and give due reverance to the Constitution means that those of us who came to this country from elsewhere can appeal to the founding documents to assert that we are entitled to the ground which we plow and work.

And, while we're asking naive questions, is there any way to bring back that sense of multicultural utopianism, a kind everyone can somehow believe in?

The sense of multicultural utopianism only exists in the absence of the hard reality that the world is filled with constraints. You can't idefinitely raise taxes and increase spending, unless that is you invade other countries and plunder them. Is that a solution? Similarly, you can't promote equal rights for women, sexual libertarian and acceptance of homosexuality as a banal and convential lifestyle with the understanding that minorities have Different Ways of Knowing, which include a pipeline to the Almighty who demands that pig-eaters be shunned that that homosexuals are dogs. Nozick was wrong, society isn't a collection of consenting adults engaged in capitalist transactions, it is not bounded simply by blind and just law, it is cemented by values and myths we hold dear together as one people. Fundamentally the Godly will always be at tension with a liberal secular society because they are a people set apart, and groups likes Orthodox Jews and shariah observing Muslims who demand orthopraxy, rituals and laws meant to keep them separate, can only be tolerated in small doses before they subborn the amity and fellow feeling necessary for a unitary society which can reach across the bounds of kin, ethnicity and gods.


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