Anyone who has been keeping up with British opinion since the July 7 bombings will have noticed that "multiculturalism" is under sharp attack.
Multiculturalism preaches that we should allow and encourage immigrants and their children to maintain and celebrate their own culture apart from the national culture. Society should be not a melting pot but, in the phrase of former New York Mayor David Dinkins, "a gorgeous mosaic." That mosaic, of course, looks less gorgeous as people surveyed the work of the British-born-and-raised bombers.
In the past, Tony Blair has spoken favorably about multiculturalism. But on July 7, he struck a different note. "It is important, however, that the terrorists realize our determination to defend our values and our way of life is greater than their determination to cause the death and destruction of innocent people and impose their extremism on the world."
Sadly, the muticulturalist policies of Blair's Labor government and its Conservative predecessors gave refuge to preachers of Islamist hate in what some have called "Londonistan."
Even before the bombings that prompted second thoughts, the chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality said, "We need to assert that there is a core of Britishness," and the home secretary introduced English language tests for citizenship. Now, the Blair government has moved to expel Muslim clerics who preach hatred and terrorism, and the left-wing Guardian fired a writer who was a member of Hizb Ut Tahrir, a radical group that advocates a "clash of civilization" and urges Muslims to kill Jews.
Writers in other tolerant countries have been noticing the blowback from multiculturalism. The Dutch novelist Leon de Winter wrote that as traditional Calvinist discipline frayed and Muslim immigrants rejected Dutch tolerance, "the delicate mechanism of Holland's traditional tolerant society gradually lost its balance."
In The Age of Melbourne, Australia, Pamela Bone wrote, "Perhaps it is time to say, you are welcome, but this is the way it is here." The Age's Tony Parkinson quoted the French writer Jean Francois Revel's Cold War comment, "A civilization that feels guilty for everything it is and does will lack the energy and conviction to defend itself." Tolerating intolerance, goodhearted people are beginning to see, does not necessarily produce tolerance in turn.