Sunday, February 10, 2008

The Archbishop of Sharia controversy

Adrian Morgan provides a useful overview of the present storm over the Archbishop of Canterbury's comments, and provides some background to recent developments in Britain.

Of course, despite Archbishop Rowan Williams' general political foolishness, and his unwittingly anti-Christian moral and cultural relativism, the Archbishop is at least correct that Sharia law already exists in some form in Britain as, for example,the reports of Muslim police and government officials helping families track down wives and daughters who have tried to escape to women's shelters testifies. When the state is helping to sustain a culture that still performs honour killings, the outrage over Archbishop Rowan William's testing of the Sharia waters is understandable. According to police, there are up to 17,000 women who are victims of honour crimes each year in Britain.

What is becoming more and more clear is that there is growing a very serious divide between the elites or the bureaucratic-academic-journalistic classes and the bulk of (increasingly internet-informed) public opinion in countries like Britain on the questions of "multiculturalism" and Islam and their place in (British) society. This is a highly dangerous situation that could lead to great violence because it testifies to a collapse of a shared conception of what the national covenant of Britain is. If the elites, full of their vague and fundamentally incoherent half-ideas about cultural and moral relativism, "multiculturalism", "European Union", (anti-)nationalism and democracy, are unable to represent the nation and political citizenship in ways that can be used, exchanged, modified, by the large majority of people, under a national political constitution that provides a people the non-violent means to constitute and renew their political identities, it is only a matter of time before there will be serious disorder.

According to a recent report for one of the world's leading elite-liberal-post-nationalist organizations, Europeans think Islam is dangerous:
An “overwhelming majority” of Europeans believe immigration from Islamic countries is a threat to their traditional way of life, a survey revealed last night.

The poll, carried out across 21 countries, found “widespread anti-immigration sentiment”, but warned Europe’s Muslim population will treble in the next 17 years.

It reported “a severe deficit of trust is found between the Western and Muslim communities”, with most people wanting less interaction with the Muslim world.

Last night an MP warned it showed that political leaders in Britain who preach the benefits of unlimited immigration were dangerously out of touch with the public.

The study, whose authors include the former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey, was commissioned for leaders at the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Switzerland.
This divide between "leaders" and "citizens" is indeed frightening. The basis of all human order, the means by which we defer violent conflict, is through the exchange of signs or representations. These signs must emerge and be exchanged on shared scenes, a requirement that has led us in the West to develop shared national cultures, on the realization that multicultural empires have proven less capable of insuring the democratic exchange of signs. But this is a lesson we are always forgetting, due to the unhappy but inevitable history of conflict within and between nations, and due to the appeal of more simplistic Utopian ideas about imperial control and unified deferral to centralized signs of "multicultural", i.e. extra-cultural, rule. To speak of "extra-cultural" rule is to suggest that the "culture" ruling multicultural empires is parasitic on the subject cultures and does not provide a means for much cultural renewal in the long run. If "multicultural" "unity" comes at the cost of a loss to ordinary people's capacity to engage seriously in the renewal of the culture by which they are led, if unity means that politics becomes a game of horse-trading among demagoguing elites who stir up the mobs they presume to represent, focusing their resentment on the other demagogues and the other mobs-cultures of the multicultural empire, instead of engaging one's constituency in a serious exchange of signs, then it is not a unity that will last long the erosion that human resentment effects on any and every form of political order.

Multiculturalism, as a principle of rule, must be parasitic on all the cultures that constitute the political entity, for it cannot fully provide any one culture the freedom continually to renew the terms by which leaders and led will relate to each other. It robs any one culture of the degrees of freedom necessary to that essential human task. Whatever multicultural flourishing we (Canadians) should allow ourselves in the domestic, strictly (privately) religious, consumer, and economic spheres of life, when it comes to public politics, our ideal should be a universally shared national covenant. If multiculturalism means eating Chinese food, or becoming a Hindu, fine. But if it means that our political leaders speak primarily not to individual Canadians as free individuals, but to Chinese, Hindu, etc. "community leaders", then we are going down a road to a political culture that will rob ourselves of the necessary means for renewing our politics non-violently. Only a political order that has a constitution that allows the people the individual- (not group-)based freedoms to be variously involved in renewing their culture(s) can hope to survive long in history, especially at a time when our means of communications and resentment are so great.

Order is never primarily a question of brute force or power, but of shared opinion about the political and social lines that must be respected and defended. It is once that shared exchange of political representations is lost between putative leaders and led that the attraction of brute force to those seeking power and order becomes fantastically appealing.

But those who want to forestall the coming danger will not simply jump on the popular bandwagon of denouncing both Islam as a violent and supremacist cult, and the elites who insist it is a religion of peace. What Islam is or can be is not half as important as what Western nations understand themselves to be. Will Westerners, currently immersed in the religion of White Guilt, give up on renewing and championing their national cultures, both as the basis for a more transparent and effective inter-national mediation of conflict, and for maximizing our individual potential to live free and meaningful lives within the march of history?

The real leaders of society will take it upon themselves to sit down with their friends, neighbours, internet acquaintances - all fellow citizens of good faith - and start asking how we can start representing our nations in ways that can preserve and renew our traditions of individual freedom and self-ruling democracy. When I hear of covenant zones, or something like them, popping up in the UK, I will worry less that out-of-control street violence, or totalitarian government, is in the future of the land that gave Canada the basis of our constitutional freedoms.

Nigerian Archbishop Ben Kwashi responds to Rowan Williams:

Technorati Tags: , , , , , ,

No comments: