Steyn on multiculturalism (Update: Q&A added)

Actually, I’ve got three pieces on multiculturalism to link here, but putting Steyn in the title ensures the clickthroughs.

Just to frame the issue for you, here’s a photo taken yesterday in Somalia of a henchman for the new Islamist government making sure the trains run on time:


And here’s a report for Time magazine from a woman correspondent on the ground in Iran, describing with examples the country’s “steady creep toward Talibanism” over the last few months.

And here’s something from Newsbusters about the Palestinian answer to N Sync, whose chart-topper ends with these catchy lines: “I hope we can destroy your life and make you worry / Zionism and Zionists are the biggest poison in Arab land.”

With that as backdrop, New Sisyphus has the transcript of a speech on multiculturalism which Steyn delivered last week to an Aussie audience, as part of his speaking tour in the country. The Australian published his address on demography, but it fell to NS to type up the one on culture clash. Thanks to him for doing so, and thanks to SeeDub for bringing it to my attention.

The money quote:

[T]he dangerous argument is the lazy line pedalled by too many politicians that in an Australia or a Canada of evolving immigration patterns, an immigrant from Moldova or China or Brazil or Saudi Arabia can’t be expected to relate to the Queen, to the existing constitutional system. Now try this line the next time you’re in Saudi Arabia: if you immigrate to Saudi Arabia and say ‘hey man, I just can’t relate to the House of Saud, and what’s with this Wahhabism, can’t we get a couple of sports bars with wet t-shirt nights every Thursday’? The Saudis would have a grand old laugh about it and then behead you. So when we accept that argument, in essence we’re explicitly promoting the principle of reverse assimilation; that immigration imposes not the obligation that the immigrant assimilate to his new land, but that his new land assimilate to him. And thereby lies great peril, not for the Queen, she’ll get by, but for a whole bunch of the rest of us… [I]n the superb summation of the American writer James C. Bennett, ‘democracy, immigration multiculturalism … pick any two’.

Britain’s thinking hard about this subject right now, to the point where its secretary of state for communities and local government, Ruth Kelly, felt compelled to tackle it yesterday in a much-publicized speech of her own. It’s all very tactful and proper and bureau-friendly, but her point is plain enough:

It is … clear that our ideas and policies should not be based on special treatment for minority ethnic or faith communities. That would only exacerbate division rather than help build cohesion. And as a society we have to have the confidence to say no to certain suggestions from particular ethnic groups. But at the same time, to make sure everyone can be treated equally, there are some programmes that will need to treat groups differently. We must, again, be unafraid to say this plainly when it is plainly the pragmatic truth. Which is why the cross-Government race and cohesion strategy ‘Improving Opportunity, Strengthening Society’ is so critical.

And I also want to see a clear understanding that although fundamental rights must be equal for everyone, with rights come responsibilities. Even within a framework of mutual tolerance, I believe that there are non-negotiable rules, understood by all groups, both new and established. We must be clear and unafraid to say that we expect these will be shared and followed by all who live here.

I’ve saved the best for last, though. From a piece titled “If you want sharia law, you should go and live in Saudi” (which overstates his case somewhat) comes this pearl of wisdom:

Last Tuesday, after a 90-minute meeting with John Prescott, the deputy prime minister, to discuss the challenges of extremism and foreign policy, I emerged and was immediately asked by the media whether I agreed that what British Muslims needed were Islamic holidays and sharia (Islamic law). I thought I had walked into some parallel universe…

In Britain there are no laws that force Muslims to do something against sharia and Muslims enjoy the freedom to worship and follow their religion, as do all other faiths. Compare Muslim countries such as Saudi Arabia, a sharia regime where women are forbidden to drive; or Turkey, a secular country where women are forbidden to wear the hijab; or Tunisia, where civil servants are forbidden to wear a beard…

[O]ften Islamophobia is palpable. But my message is: whether you are white, Asian, black, Muslim, Christian or Jew, if you don’t like where you’re living you have two choices: either you live elsewhere, or you engage in the political process, attempt to create change and ultimately respect the will of the majority.

Click to see who wrote it. I’m sure Robert Spencer would have something to say about the compatibility of sharia with British law, but any news like this is good news.

Update: Many thanks to Niko, who found a transcript online not only of Steyn’s speech but the question and answer period that followed. Enjoy.