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Thursday, July 2, 2009


Multiculturalism and the Case of the Unwanted Hello

by David J. Rusin • Jun 30, 2009 at 11:58 pm

The Islamist campaign to undermine and ultimately supplant Western norms is waged on some of the most mundane battlefields. For example, a recent essay by Matthew Coutts describes a fascinating and instructive clash that arose in a residential hallway:

When the landlady of my Toronto apartment building said an outraged neighbor had filed a complaint about me over an apparently inappropriate hallway interaction with his wife, my mind raced through the countless conversations I've had with fellow tenants, none of which seemed a possible source of offense.

It turns out, it wasn't a salacious transaction that had caused the complaint, but rather a neighborly and — to me — entirely forgettable greeting, little more than a brief "good morning" as I passed my neighbors on the way to work.

Still, it was enough of an affront for the man — once a doctor somewhere in the Middle East, my landlady clarified — to feel I had broken a cultural taboo. The incident started an awkward feud which has involved warnings not to repeat my indiscretion and one face-to-face shouting match, which included allusions to my impending death.

This episode illuminates several aspects of radical Islam's growing foothold in the West, such as the treatment of women as property and the eagerness to surrender to Islamist demands. (Coutts writes that his landlady advised him to "turn my back to the couple as they pass, never make eye contact, and never hold the elevator for them, no matter what.")

The collision between Coutts' "prairie upbringing" and his neighbors' "Muslim upbringing" also highlights a broader but closely related struggle over whether it is the individual or the group that should serve as the central building block of society. Coutts embodies the former view; by instinct, he sees the woman in the hallway as just another human being worthy of acknowledgment, no different than anyone else. In contrast, to Islamists and many of their multicultural allies, the author's first steps should have been to ascertain the race, religion, etc. of the couple and then modify his behavior according to presumed sensitivities.

This mindset is a recipe for discord, however, as it has a way of swelling localized disputes into wider, intergroup friction. Furthermore, few have the energy to keep track of the myriad, often contradictory rules that, we are told, must govern our interactions with the various groups we might encounter in the hallways of our lives. Indeed, Coutts just as easily could have raised Islamist hackles if he had started off by ignoring the woman; after all, CAIR lists "exclusion of Muslims from mainstream political or social process" as evidence of Islamophobia — and no "social process" is more mainstream than greeting one's neighbors.

In the end, Coutts decided to keep saying hello to others, determined not to let an Islamist's objections change the way he deals with the world. Western leaders could learn a lot from him.

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