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Since my critics, Iain Benson and Nathalie Des Rosiers, are unable to marshal any substantive argument against my critique of multiculturalism they resort to the tactics of setting up straw men and with sound and fury strive to defend the clap-trap of multiculturalism. I heard them in person, and now I have read their written criticisms of my views on why multiculturalism is misconceived and should be discarded. Their written submissions are disappointing, yet predictable and pathetic.
Anyone who takes the trouble to read the paper I delivered in Toronto and Ottawa on the invitation of CIJA ― “Multiculturalism: What does it mean to be a Canadian in the 21st Century?” (title was provided by the organizers) ― and then reads the responses of Benson and Des Rosiers will note they do not contend with the substance of my argument from which follows why increasingly political leaders in the West, for instance, Chancellor Angela Merkel in Germany or Prime Minister David Cameron in Britain, in sensing the mood of people in their respective societies have begun to speak out in public for the need to roll back multiculturalism as an official policy, if not repeal it entirely. The reason they do not contend with my main argument of why I call multiculturalism a “delectable lie” is because they cannot refute it, or counter it, with any persuasive argument based on some first principle of political philosophy. Both my critics, it appears to me, are ideologues of multiculturalism as an official doctrine. They are vested in it; they are faithful members of the church of multiculturalism. They remind me of the party apparatchiks of the former Soviet Union, or of any existing doctrinaire anti-liberal state practising or leaning towards collectivist or totalitarian values; and what they have to say about multiculturalism is as tired, worn out and discredited as what those party apparatchiks once trumpeted in Moscow or in any of the capitals of the Warsaw Pact states of Eastern Europe in praise of Marxist-Leninist values.
Let me restate here ― and I will not go into any detail, since I have done this in my paper and at greater length in my book Delectable Lie: a liberal repudiation of multiculturalism (Mantua 2011) ― the fatal flaw in the ideology or doctrine of official multiculturalism. The Trudeaupian formulation of multiculturalism that became Canada’s official policy rests on the premise that all cultures are equal and deserving of equal treatment. This premise, as the first principle of multiculturalism, is indefensible and unsustainable; there is, moreover, no argument that may be found in political philosophy, anthropology, sociology, or any other sub-discipline of social or historical science in defence of this premise. It cannot be demonstrated in fact, and it is easily falsified. Cultures, it bears repeating, are not equal; and if by fiat it is to be deemed all cultures are equal, or perhaps at minimum some cultures are equal, then it needs to be shown on what basis such an assumption is made and conclusion drawn. Official multiculturalism as a doctrine simply makes the assertion that all cultures are equal without providing proof; and Benson and Des Rosiers believe in the official doctrine as a matter of faith and rise to its defence irrespective of how weak or platitudinous they sound.
The first principle of liberal democracy is that “all men are born equal.” This is a generic statement, and the premise is inclusive in that all individuals ― irrespective of their gender, colour, ethnicity, religion, class, caste, physical attribute, mental capacity and, in our age this would include sexual orientation ― are born equal and deserves to be treated equally in terms of opportunity available or provided for in society. Liberal democracy then on the basis of its first principle aims for an inclusive society, a society that values individual freedom and insists on the equality of all individuals.
As I noted in my paper, and described at some length in my book, that once “we assert individuals are free and equal irrespective of their ethnicity and beliefs, we then have arrived at the summit of political philosophy since Plato and Aristotle as to how society might arrange its legal and political order.” From this summit of political philosophy any idea espousing progress is an illusion, and a step forward means descending from the summit. This first principle of liberal democracy, or liberalism as political philosophy, is an axiomatic statement upon which rests the ideals of a free and open society (only free individuals can be equal, and in a society of free individuals equality of individuals is the norm). It is incumbent upon my critics either to disprove this first principle of liberalism or, in failing to do this, concede to the argument that liberalism as an ideal cannot be improved upon. For how can one improve upon the geometry of a circle? One can move from some uneven drawing of a circle to a closer approximation of a circle described as a curve (or the region enclosed by such a curve) or a set of points on a plane, every point of which is a fixed/equal distance or radius from a fixed point as the centre of the circle. Similarly, how does one improve upon the axiom of liberal democracy? A people may strive to approximate the ideal embedded in the axiom, or may reject it as Marxists do; but only those demagogues posing as liberal democrats can engage in platitudes in defending a system, such as multiculturalism, as improvement upon the norm of liberal democracy.
The norm of liberal democracy may be viewed as an ideal, and a people affirming this ideal as their goal in the making of their respective society as liberal democracy may be assessed as to how close or far they are in approaching this ideal. The effort expended in the construction of liberal democracy by any people can be studied, and the historical record of such efforts are as varied as the circumstances under which the efforts were made by different people at different times in different places. One might go further and observe that the ideal liberal democracy yet remains to be fully realized. It is in keeping with the axiom of liberalism, or liberal democracy, however, that freedom and equality, for instance, in the United States have been advanced since its founding. The Civil War together with the emancipation of slaves was the second act in the founding of the United States as a republic on the grounds of liberalism, followed by subsequent acts of women gaining equal rights and the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It could be said that there is still some distance to go in terms of freedom and equality of people as individuals in the United States, but it is only in a liberal democracy such distance may be assessed and the path mapped to approximate the ideal. Even affirmative action as remedy for past wrongs illustrate the vitality of liberal democracy as a political order devised by free people to secure and protect their freedom.
But for my critics multiculturalism is an improvement upon liberal democracy, and the deficiencies in Canada as a liberal democracy required, nay demanded, multiculturalism as remedy. Let me quote here Des Rosiers, “Group rights, and the consideration of the community context in which individuals live, are advances of modern constitutional theories that ought not to be disregarded.” Then she states “Canadian multiculturalism is still a better vehicle for equality than the alternative of ‘monoculturalism’ that risks a return to the racist and anti-Semitic cultural superiority policies of the past.” Why is this so, and Des Rosiers explains, “multiculturalism protects the right to be different from the mainstream culture and to be connected to something else.”
To read Des Rosiers is to learn how suffocating the ideal of liberal democracy is, how respect and advancement of individual freedom is constrictive for group rights, how liberalism in being stiflingly “monocultural” impedes equality, how in protecting individual rights liberal democracy constrains individuals wanting to be in whatever way different and be connected differently. The Confederates in the United States wanted to protect their group rights and to be different, and given Des Rosiers waxing defence of group rights over the universal claim of individual freedom that liberalism advances, I imagine, my critic would be very much at home among them as she seems to be comfortable with, or accepting of, those immigrants in Canada who insist on group rights based on multiculturalism which run counter to the value of individual freedom and gender equality. It is by such platitudes and false arguments Des Rosiers defends multiculturalism, and suggests wrongs in society that predates the making of liberal democracy would not and could not be remedied except by adopting the doctrine of official multiculturalism. She then conflates the argument for defending rights of indigenous people in liberal democracies such as Canada, or Australia, with group rights of immigrants bringing their cultural baggage from non-liberal societies to a liberal society based on individual rights and freedoms.
Des Rosiers’s paper is confusing and displays a misunderstanding of liberalism (or classical liberalism to distinguish it from the politics of big-L Liberalism of big government politics) and what is implied by individual freedom. For her all the past wrongs in Canada ― from “the residential schools and a racist attitude toward anything native” to the “Chinese Head Tax” and “the refusal to open doors to immigrants from South East Asia” ― are to be blamed on the sort of Canadian liberal democracy that existed prior to the introduction of multiculturalism. This history of Canada, Des Rosiers writes, “was rooted in a desire to preserve a certain Canadian identity, mostly as white, anglo-saxon and protestant.” So there it is, Canada’s past is to be derided and condemned, and with it goes the idea that such wrongs were part and parcel of Canadian liberal democracy before the benevolent hands of multiculturalism and its practitioners got around to remedy the situation through recognition of group rights and cultural equality. This is the preferred narrative of the apparatchiks of official multiculturalism, of painting Canada as a bigoted and racist society and that it would have remained mostly unchanged without multiculturalism. Such argument by necessity has to be in denial of the history of liberal democratic societies and to obscure the fact that changes in terms of advancing freedom and equality may occur peacefully only within a liberal democracy, and Canadian experience is a confirmation of and not an exception to this rule.
Similarly, Benson does not offer, nor can, a refutation of my main argument of why multiculturalism is a flawed ideology based on a false premise that all cultures are equal. Instead he engages in setting up straw men, to misrepresent what I write while claiming he has read my book and found it wanting for not citing authors he has read, and to wrongly suggest that “he [Mansur] establishes a kind of multiculturalism that is hateful, negative and divisive.” He does this without providing any evidence. Let me quote Benson again on this matter. “Professor Mansur doesn’t respect difference. He would prefer that everyone endorsed his version of liberalism. But this version of liberalism tends towards illiberalism.” I look in vain to my writings to learn that I am the same Mansur he paints as disrespectful of differences, or that my liberalism is so distorted that it is more or less illiberal.
Benson’s response to me is titled “The Right Kind of Multiculturalism Furthers the Right Kind of Liberalism.” Isn’t this wonderful? Benson knows, like party apparatchiks in former Soviet Union did, what the “right kind” of anything that his party approves of happens to be, and what is needed is the sagacity of party bosses to apply the right dosage of the party’s formula at hand to get the right result. We have seen this before. Since Benson cannot defend the flawed premise of multiculturalism by demonstrating with logic how I happen to be wrong, he takes recourse to the sort of argument collectivists from time immemorial have made against those seeking individual freedom that there is a right sort of collectivism supportive of freedom in contrast to the wrong sort when, in fact, for any sort of collectivist ideology ― Maoism, Islamism, Hindu casteism, Castroism, etc. ― individual freedom is anathema. Multiculturalism is about group rights, and when group rights are in collision with individual rights then the latter is required to give way to the former. Accordingly, Benson indicts me as follows, “a major difficulty with Professor Mansur’s approach – it fails to respect the importance of group identity and membership and association to human freedom itself.” Again the indictment is with no evidence, but it is simply consistent with the operative method of party apparatchiks when they are in the accusative mood.
Benson claims he has read my book Delectable Lie, and his criticisms of my view follow from his apparently close reading of this book. So before I take recourse to quoting myself from the book to illustrate how Benson misconstrues what I write to wrongfully indict me for what I have not written, or proposed, or defended, or for not citing authors that Benson believes I should have read as he did, ― and in not having read them I have misconstrued liberalism as he understands and that correction of my misunderstanding requires a little dosage of the “right kind” of multiculturalism, which he then is ready to dispense for the “right kind” of liberalism to presumably save me from my errors ― I feel here the need to instruct him ever so slightly with some small bit of hope that this might help him find some little bit of humility.
Benson needs to learn that any piece of work in science or in art, in philosophy, mathematics, legal or political theory, or in any other form of writing that is non-fiction, by definition is incomplete if the work is to remain logical and internally consistent. This follows the logic or proof provided in the ingenious work of the mathematician, Kurt Gödel, known as “Gödel’s Incompleteness theorems.” Gödel showed (see Rebecca Goldstein’s enthralling intellectual biography of the mathematician Incompleteness: The Proof and the Paradox of Kurt Gödel) “a complete and consistent set of axioms for all mathematics is impossible” (Wikipedia). In other words, striving for completeness will result in internal inconsistencies, and the reverse is striving for consistency results in incompleteness. Benson’s remark that I have missed citing authors is simply the fact that my work, or any such work, will remain by logic incomplete in terms of covering all that there is to read on any subject being discussed if one is to remain logically consistent when discussing it. If Benson understood this he would then be cautious on how he reads books, essays, papers, etc., and instead of misrepresenting me grasp the fact that no one can be at once both complete and consistent (unless an individual happens to be in his self-assessment supra-natural) in whatever he happens to be working on.
In Delectable Lie I discussed how the ideology of official multiculturalism introduced by the Liberal government of Prime Minister Trudeau was flawed and based on a false premise. I then described how this flawed ideology insidiously, and not so insidiously, subverts liberalism and liberal democracy. Neither Benson, nor Des Rosiers, has shown how, and on what basis, my repudiation of multiculturalism happens to be flawed; or in demonstrating the premise of my book is wrong ergo disproven and repudiated my argument. If they could have done this then they would have done a service in the cause of multiculturalism, and they would have enlightened me and those of my persuasion whose voices are increasingly being heard, and among them is the voice of the political philosopher Roger Scruton who happens to be, as we are informed, Benson’s acquaintance or friend.
Benson claims that I misunderstand, or misread, Scruton. But I never made the spurious claim of having read just about everything Scruton has written, and he has written much. So what Scruton has written at one time possibly he might have contradicted the same, or stated it somewhat differently, at another time, and he might have done this for good reasons. Benson takes umbrage, however, of my citing Scruton and rebukes me. He writes, “Prof. Mansur makes reference throughout his book to the work of Roger Scruton and Prof. Scruton is, in fact, very committed to the importance of religion to culture. I happen to know Prof. Scruton…and it is inappropriate to use Prof. Scruton’s insights in some areas of his [Mansur’s] book without realizing that Prof. Scruton’s commitment to his own Christian faith undergirds his entire conception of politics on a deeper level.” Whew! Benson is in full flight here making accusations of wrongful reading on my part of his acquaintance’s work, of damning me without having to show how I misread Scruton, or where and how I have made reference throughout my book to Scruton that happens to be wrong, and in what manner I misrepresented Scruton’s Christian faith that “undergirds” his entire work.
I cited Scruton only twice in a relatively short book of 182 pages, including references. My references to Scruton appear in the last chapter of the book towards the end, on pages 160 and 161. Both quotes were relevant to and supportive of my argument. In the first instance, I cited Scruton in reference to secularism and its evolution in the West as a result of developments in science and philosophy known as Enlightenment. Scruton pointed out, as I quote him, that under the influence of Enlightenment “God retreated from the world to the far reaches of infinite space, where only vertiginous thoughts could capture him. Daily life is of little concern to such a God, who demands no form of obedience except to the universal precepts of morality. To worship him is to bow in private towards the unknowable.” This relative retreat of God from the world made space for secularism as separation of religion and politics, and Benson’s quarrel or umbrage with my citing Scruton is the display of a man with no substantive counter-argument flaying at his opponent to show indignation as evidence of an argument.
My second quote of Scruton is in support of the observation the concept of citizenship in Europe evolved as a result of Enlightenment and the accompanying revolutions in the shaping of the modern world. “Membership,” I wrote, “is the prerequisite of every society, giving an identity to the individuals who belong to it; in this sense, such an identity is pre-political, and the culture it produces becomes instrumental in the making of political institutions and politics of that society.” This means that different cultures have different basis of membership in society for individuals, and the membership in liberal democracy is different on the basis of identity such a society provides than is membership in a non-liberal society. Scruton not only agrees with my observation, he elaborates the same so well that I quoted him at length. It was a quote from an address he gave in Brussels in June 2006 on immigration and multiculturalism at the invitation of the Belgian political party Vlaams Belang with support for it among the Flemish population of Belgium. [This address was published by The Brussels Journal in its on-line edition.] But since Vlaams Belang has been accused of racism by the church of multiculturalism in Europe then Benson, I imagine, would take umbrage at Scruton if he knew his friend or acquaintance was keeping wrong company and speaking to the wrong crowd.
Here are the two sentences at the end of my long quote from Scruton: “Communities founded on a national rather than a religious conception of membership are inherently open to newcomers, in the way that religious communities are not. An immigrant to a religious community must be prepared to convert; an immigrant to a national community need only obey the law” (italics added). Did Benson read me? He claims he did, and if he did then he fails to provide any reason for flaying at me on quoting Scruton.
Since Benson claims personal acquaintance with Roger Scruton, let me quote again from the same address given by the good professor to the Vlaams Belang audience in Brussels. Scruton said, “the official policy of ‘multiculturalism’ was a mistake, and that the future of Britain depends not on encouraging immigrants to live apart in cultural ghettoes, but on integrating them into a common culture of nationhood” (emphasis added). And here is another of Scruton’s quote from the same address, “For a long time now the European political class has been in denial about the problems posed by the large-scale immigration of people who do not enter into our European way of life.” I devoted a chapter on immigration and citizenship in my book, and in discussing the problems of immigration when no distinction is made between an immigrant and a migrant worker in the age of globalization and wide-body jetliners I indicated how such open immigration working in tandem with multiculturalism undermines liberal democracy. Benson has no answer to such problems, neither does Des Rosiers, and this comes as no surprise since apparently they live in their own make belief world and in denial of the real world, as party apparatchiks are wont to do.
Benson’s beef against me is that I lack “respect for diversity,” that I am not sensitive to the “nuances” of multiculturalism in terms of identity politics, that my conception of liberalism does disservice “to the richest conception of liberalism – one that is not individualistic but that sees persons in relation.” He does not need to back any of this with any evidence from my writing, except make the broad sweep that since I repudiate multiculturalism it follows I have “thrown out the baby of personal and associational accommodation with the bathwater of a certain kind of multiculturalism.” I have a whole chapter on the “New Politics of Identity,” but it was it seems too much for Benson to read this chapter with diligence as this would fly in the face of his pathetic and empty criticism of my views. I pointed out in this chapter, and cited the wonderful writings of Amin Maalouf, Amartya Sen, Salman Rushdie among others of how we as individuals carry layers of different identities in terms of who we are, what we believe in, our relationships, our professions, our associations, and that we constantly juggle these identities in real life. The politics of identity in part stems from the need for recognition, as Charles Taylor among others has discussed. What identity an individual chooses to be recognized by in public is in itself a matter of choice, and of individual freedom. And it is only in a liberal democracy an individual without fear can find his preferred identity protected and respected. Contrary to Benson’s misreading of my view on this matter, this is what I wrote:
Identity politics is also about freedom, of expanding the boundaries of freedom in society for an individual to be recognized for who he is or who he wants to be, and for including groups denied freedom. As I noted, the United States as an example of liberal democracy has demonstrated the capacity for self-correction when it abolished slavery and granted women equal rights as men to vote. Hence, theoretically speaking, no liberal democracy will impede, or persist in impeding, extending recognition to individuals affirming their dignity as full and equal members of society. Any impediment within a liberal democracy denying the equal worth and dignity of individuals can only be the persistence of anti-democratic prejudices that once exposed to public scrutiny should crumble.
Furthermore, I wrote, it is “liberal sensibility at work when recognition is extended to individuals that the same is also extended to groups, or when in expanding the boundary of freedom for individuals the same argument for group freedom is also made. It was this sensibility at work that contributed in large measure, if not entirely, to the relatively swift end of European empires in Asia and Africa and the success of nationalist movements there. This is because the liberal argument for recognition and freedom, as Martin Luther King, Jr. understood well, is not divisible or selective.” Sir Isaiah Berlin wrote persuasively on this subject, and I quoted him since he showed the paradoxical nature of this sensibility at work. National independence from European colonial powers did not bring about in these newly independent nations of Asia and Africa a change for the better in society in terms of individual freedom; indeed, for instance, in much of the Arab-Muslim world independence from European powers resulted in the gradual loss of individual freedom or the promise of gender equality as traditional Islamic culture once again took precedence over any effort of those Muslims who sought to embrace modern liberal culture. Multiculturalism, as pushed by Benson and Des Rosiers, is averse to recognizing the simple fact that Islamic culture based on Sharia, as I have discussed at length in my book, is incompatible with the values of liberal democracy.
But Benson is at a loss in contending with my basic argument repudiating multiculturalism. He engages instead to compound his misrepresentation of my argument. He writes I do not understand, nor recognize, the place of religion in society and that religions “provide a very necessary and important binding agent culturally in themselves and in their inter-faith dimension” (italics provided).
I have taken space in Delectable Lie to focus on Islamism since this is the most severe threat to freedom and liberal values in our world today. I have drawn a distinction between Islam and Islamism, a distinction that some people might consider inconsequential. I maintain my faith as a Muslim is personal; again some might disagree with me on whether Islam can be a private faith of individuals. I have pointed out that it is only in liberal democracy people can practice their religion according to how they want to live true to their beliefs so long they are also respectful of secular values in public life. As an example, I quoted the Jewish thinker Rabbi Jacob Neusner. He has written that “to be a Jew and to be truly free means to live in the United States of America or in other nations that meets its high standard of freedom.” In other words, religion can and does flourish best in a liberal society. For Benson to take seriously what I write would be to recognize how wrong he is in accusing me of insensitivity towards religions and religious associations.
But let me, to dispel Benson’s false argument that rejecting multiculturalism on my part amounts to being disrespectful of religions, quote some words of Jonathan Sacks, Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth based in the United Kingdom. Rabbi Sacks writing in the Times of February 7, 2011 stated,
Multiculturalism is part of the wider European phenomenon of moral relativism, a doctrine that became influential as a response to the Holocaust. It was argued that taking a stand on moral issues was a sign of an “authoritarian personality”. Moral judgment was seen as the first step down the road to fanaticism. But moral relativism is the deathknell of a civilization. In a relativist culture, there is no moral consensus, only a clash of conflicting views in which the loudest voice wins (emphasis added).
Multiculturalism, entered into for the noblest of reasons, has suffered from the law of unintended consequences. By dissolving national identity it makes it impossible for groups to integrate because there is nothing to integrate into, and by failing to offer people pride in being British, it forces them to find sources of pride elsewhere.
I suppose for Benson people of faith, such as Rabbis Neusner and Sacks, are lacking in respect for religions and religious associations when they distinguish between liberal democracy and multiculturalism, and repudiate the latter as does Rabbi Sacks. It is astonishing on the part of Benson to suggest that questioning, or repudiating, multiculturalism is indicative of the lack of respect for religions. Multiculturalism, as I pointed out in my book, is cultural relativism and Rabbi Sacks states the same. Cultural relativism is tantamount to denigrating the culture of liberal democracy, or worse to deny that such a culture exists in which the value of individual freedom is the core value to advance and protect.
But Benson and Des Rosiers, it appears, are ashamed of the culture of liberal democracy and, as Des Rosiers does, find this culture oppressive, bigoted and racist. Rabbi Sacks has such people in his sight. Let me quote him again at length from his Times article in which he writes,
My parents lived those values and taught them to us. They became the first Jews in their families for perhaps a thousand years not to teach their children Yiddish because they wanted us to be English and identify with the wider society.
They were not naive. They remembered vividly when Mosley and the British Union of Fascists marched through London’s East End. They knew the genteel anti-Semitism that was almost ubiquitous in certain literary and social circles. They knew that England was a class bound society with many faults.
But they admired the British for their tolerance and decency, their sense of fair play and their understated but indomitable courage. They were proud to be English because the English were proud to be English. Indeed in the absence of pride there can be no identity at all. They integrated and encouraged us to go further because there was something to integrate into.
At some time that pride disintegrated, to be replaced by what Kate Fox amusingly calls “one-downmanship.” The British started seeing their own history as an irredeemable narrative of class, snobbery, imperialism, racism and social exclusion. It was in this atmosphere that, in the 1970s, multiculturalism was born. It said: there is no need to integrate.
Similarly, Roger Scruton expressed himself in his Brussels address to members of Vlaams Belang. Scruton said,
Members of our liberal élite may be immune to xenophobia, but there is an equal fault which they exhibit in abundance, which is the repudiation of, and aversion to, home. Each country exhibits this vice in its own domestic version. Nobody brought up in post-war England can fail to be aware of the educated derision that has been directed at our national loyalty by those whose freedom to criticize would have been extinguished years ago, had the English not been prepared to die for their country. The loyalty that people need in their daily lives, and which they affirm in their unconsidered and spontaneous social actions, is now habitually ridiculed or even demonized by the dominant media and the education system. National history is taught as a tale of shame and degradation. The art, literature and religion of our nation have been more or less excised from the curriculum, and folkways, local traditions and national ceremonies are routinely rubbished.
This repudiation of the national idea is the result of a peculiar frame of mind that has arisen throughout the Western world since the Second World War, and which is particularly prevalent among the intellectual and political elites. No adequate word exists for this attitude, though its symptoms are instantly recognized: namely, the disposition, in any conflict, to side with ‘them’ against ‘us’, and the felt need to denigrate the customs, culture and institutions that are identifiably ‘ours’.
The liberal elite Scruton refers to are also our high-minded advocates of multiculturalism. They speak of citizenship, but they see nothing wrong with dual and multiple citizenships which multiculturalism supports in terms of its skewered notion of identity politics. The result is immigrants in the West, in liberal democracies such as Canada, from non-liberal societies of the third world (Asia, Africa and South America) are neither encouraged to integrate and assimilate into the culture of liberal democracy, nor are they required to jettison their cultural baggage at odds with the values of liberalism.
I quote in my book Afsun Qureshi-Smith, a child of immigrants from South Asia and raised in Canada, who describes what happens in immigrant homes. She writes,
I can only speak from experience, and here it is. As a child my parents had no specific interest in the Canadian culture and were deeply entrenched in their own insular world: Indo/Pakistani friends, food, music, etc. There were – briefly – a couple of white friends, one even Jewish, but in a short time they let these people go for a myriad of reasons (they required alcohol, they didn’t speak the language, they didn’t like our food). After that, the people who came into our household were all friends in the community or relatives – Sunnis, and all Indian/Pakistanis.
Growing up, I may as well have been in Hyderabad or Karachi. I asked my parents all the time – why did you immigrate? Why didn’t you go back? I usually got some grumbling about the heat and the filth, and the great medical treatment here.
And that is what irks me. My parents came to the Western world and led a better life, but they didn’t integrate or ever aspire to. They were the poster immigrants for the Trudeau era, except that their community didn’t slot itself in the mosaic as Trudeau so ardently wanted. In fact, looking back, my parents probably should have just gone back home.
Trudeau, as I pointed out in my paper and in my book, expressed late in his life disappointment with the policy of multiculturalism he introduced. In the last book he co-authored with Tom Axworthy, Towards a just society: the Trudeau years (1990), he made only one passing mention of multiculturalism and offered no discussion of the subject. Instead, he viewed his legacy in terms of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms he enacted, and wrote of the Charter as analogous, in terms of spirit and substance to protect individuals against tyranny, to the “grand tradition of the 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen and the 1791 Bill of Rights of the United States of America.” And so I wrote, “Trudeau understood, as his own life and living illustrated, that the ultimate minority in any society is the individual standing alone against the rest in asserting his freedom to think, to speak, to believe, to earn his livelihood and protect his property, and in a good or just society free individuals come together to establish a system of government that is protective of individual liberty.” This is not individualism, crass or otherwise, ― Benson accuses me that “throughout the book he [Mansur] is at pains to develop a kind of liberalism that is highly individualistic” ― this is, instead, the rich tradition of liberalism, the foundation upon which rests liberal democracy and why the culture of liberal democracy is distinct from other cultures.
Benson and Des Rosiers are both silent over my references to Trudeau. Their silence reflects their inability to construct a substantive argument based on logic, reason and history in rebutting my critique of multiculturalism. I concluded Delectable Lie with the following words:
A liberal democracy, such as Canada, is inherently open and accepting of the other, and whenever and wherever there is an impediment to such acceptance it can be met with and overcome through reasoning and dialogue. There is, moreover, in a liberal democracy no basis for ethnocentric prejudice by the majority population to reject the cultural norms of ethnic minorities. But when any such aspect of cultural norms collides with the core values of a liberal democracy, then that aspect needs to be reformed or rejected accordingly. In order for this to occur, for any reasonable accommodation to work in an ethnically diverse Canada, there needs to be a clear understanding without any ambiguity among all Canadians, irrespective of their ethnicity, that there is a unifying Canadian culture deeply embedded in the values of the West and shaped by the Enlightenment. This Canadian culture is open and inclusive, embracing of others, tolerant and generous, and deserving of the unapologetic support of all who cherish freedom as God’s most precious gift.
In speaking about myself, I wrote, “I arrived in Toronto a few years after the centennial year as an immigrant/refugee from war torn South Asia. I witnessed a civil war and genocide as Pakistan tore itself apart in 1971, and was lucky to escape in the midst of the killings with my mother and younger siblings from what is now Bangladesh for shelter in my grandparents’ home in my native city of Calcutta, India. My parents’ generation had been uprooted by the great partition of India in 1947, and within a generation my family was again thrown into the maelstrom of ethnically driven politics.” Unlike Benson and Des Rosiers raised in relatively secure environment of a liberal democracy, my life was shaped by the circumstances of ethnic and religious bigotry, sectarian conflict and war; and, unlike them, I know from lived experience, from my travels, from my extended family connections through marriage, of the terrible price paid by individuals, of lives suffocated and destroyed, as a result of being born into cultures that are dismissive of individual freedom and intolerant of minorities. The result is unlike Benson and Des Rosiers I understand at first hand the uniqueness of the culture of liberal democracy, and that this culture is not equal but superior to the cultures of non-liberal societies. It is the peculiarity of individuals born in liberal culture who then turn to disparage the same as Rabbi Sacks and Roger Scruton have pointed out.
I have written against the notion of hyphenated Canadian, and against dual/multiple citizenships. In my view “dual and multiple citizenships make a mockery of patriotic sentiments and reduce the principle of citizenship with its rights and obligations to a matter of convenience.” Multiculturalism erodes the value of attachment to a single country, hence citizenship and the sense of belonging and membership in a liberal democracy. In his Brussels address Roger Scruton observed,
Belgian citizenship is not rooted in a shared national loyalty, and has become a purely legal privilege, which can be bought or sold with the passport. This buying and selling of citizenship, often to people who think of it purely as a right and never as a duty, is common throughout Europe. The political élite sees nothing wrong in people collecting passports as they might collect memberships of clubs.
So what is of value in multiculturalism? All that may be touted as good, beneficial, or the list of goods that Des Rosiers provides as desirable, are, as I stated in my paper, “to be found, acquired, accommodated, enriched, enhanced, shared, celebrated and protected only in a liberal democracy.” Multiculturalism adds nothing of value to the culture inherent in a liberal democracy; but it certainly detracts, subverts, undermine liberal democracy by touting the need for recognition of group rights, of pushing collective identity on the false claims of all cultures being equal and deserving of equal treatment.
The idea of multiculturalism, despite Benson and Des Rosiers and what they write in response to me, has gone stale, has gone long past its expiry date, as did Marxism. And just like the party apparatchiks in the former Soviet Union they sound quaint and pathetic, for the world has moved on and only those dwindling number of true-believers in the church of multiculturalism believe in the sort of passionate cry and false alarm, the sort Des Rosiers sounds in her “Cri de Coeur,” that abandoning multiculturalism will return Canada to a past filled with bigotry and racism. These are all these stalwarts of multiculturalism are left with ― these alchemists of an ideology who believe that simply by invoking the premise all cultures are equal will make the culture, for instance, of the Talibans in Afghanistan equal to the culture of liberal democracy, and Afghans in Canada with Taliban mentality deserving of equal treatment with the majority of Canadians who value individual rights and freedoms ― to raise false alarm, to misrepresent those who disagree with them, and to insist their ideology based on a false premise is the nostrum for whatever passing social ailment that can always be found in a vibrant liberal democracy.