Muslims, Assimilation, and Racism II
Jim Henley takes another crack at explaining why he believes Mark Steyn’s vision of Muslim immigration is essentially racist. The argument is detailed but its essence is this:
Steyn reduces “Europeans” and “Muslims” to breeding pairs – “demography is destiny” – and says their different rates of breeding alone mean a future of Sharia law. Steyn credits no Muslim with being other than demographic weight on the Islamist scale, a witting or unwitting accomplice in bringing post-Christian Europe under Muslim rule […] He grants no material variance in the constituent parts of the “remorseless” “Muslim demographic” no internal difference that makes a difference. They’re young; they have “will”; end of story. The birthrate is a given, amenable to linear projection. The welfare state that Steyn believes throttled Christian birth rates apparently won’t have any effect worth mentioning on Muslim birth rates.
While conceding my point that “racist” might be technically wrong here, he figures it’s close enough given the limits of language:
We lack a really good term for anti-Muslim bigotry, the way “Anti-Semitism” serves as a marker for the various flavors of anti-Jewish bigotry. But in my opinion, “racist” is a good enough term for Steyn’s comparative schema of European whites, “Anglosphere” whites and predominantly nonwhite and immigrant Muslims.
I am much closer to Henley than to Steyn on the “demography is destiny” argument. And I can see how one could come to think that Steyn’s vision is of a piece with anti-Semitism.
The problem, though, is that term, like “racism,” is bandied about so much as to not only be meaningless but to have a chilling effect on discussion of controversial issues. Indeed, that often seems to be the point. Calling an idea (or its advocate) “racist” or “anti-Semitic” poisons the well, diverting attention to the ad hominem rather than the argument’s merit.
We’ve seen it with the responses to even sober, reasoned works by distinguished scholars like Samuel Huntington (“The Hispanic Challenge“) or Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer (“The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy“). While I disagree with the substance of both those papers (see here and here, respectively), their authors are respectable and have earned a fair hearing. Indeed, even Huntington’s “Clash of Civilizations” thesis is “racist” if one applies the term in this manner.
It’s so unnecessary here. Because Henley provides the framework of a substantive, persuasive critique along with a defense of the labeling, the latter winds up being a distraction.
It’s also immaterial. Whether Steyn secretly believes people from predominately Muslim lands are inferior to whites is irrelevant to whether large scale Muslim immigration will fundamentally change the character of Western societies.
One can simultaneously believe, as I do, that immigration is a net good to the country, admire the immigrants themselves (figuring that the ones with the gumption to get up and leave for a better life elsewhere will be a net addition to our human capital), and yet worry about large immigrant enclaves overwhelming the local culture in the short term.
Goodness knows, those fears aren’t baseless. For a particularly bizarre example, see the takeover of Antelope, Oregon by the Rajneesh cult in 1984. Or, for that matter, the takeover of the Americas and Australia by white settlers.
This concern is mostly cultural. Indeed, we see it with the French resistance to the creeping influence of American culture or between English and French speaking Canadians. Or even among same-race groups within a society. For example, there’s a resentment among those living in southern Virginia of the massive growth in the D.C. suburbs of northern Virginia. Indeed, we see it with long-term residents of exurban NoVa against the new residents (the “slow growth” movement). People have a natural instinct to want to protect their way of life from rapid change imposed by newcomers.
Are Muslims “unmeltable” ethnics who can never be integrated into the “Anglosphere”? I don’t think so. There are plenty of Muslims who have acculturated here in the United States, certainly. Does that mean we should be indifferent to the opening of madrassahs funded by Salafists within our midst? Not at all.
It’s not “racist” or bigoted to welcome immigrants and yet insist that they learn our language and adopt the basic tenets of our secular creed. I suppose there’s a sort of bigotry, for the lack of a better word, in judging our mores preferable to some others; but so what?
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