The Cartoon Furore
Like most New Zealanders I'm bewildered by, and impatient with religious passion. In this country sectarian hatred between Protestants and Catholics flickered out in the 1930s. I struggle to understand the horror felt by Muslims at the publication of the notorious cartoons. And it's harder still to comprehend their demands for violent retribution. "Religious" protests such as the one in London where aggressive young men brandished placards wanting to "behead" those they believed had insulted Islam had Medieval overtones.
Closer to home is the problem with an Auckland Muslim who claimed to be so upset by the cartoons published here that he wrote to a newspaper in Dubai calling for people to boycott New Zealand goods. I grew up in a world where being able to migrate to a new country was a privilege. In the 1950s our Department of Internal Affairs assisted with classes for new citizens. They were instructed about the Kiwi way of life and the things their hosts valued, including the separation of church from state, and the rights of individuals. The underlying message was that being allowed to settle here was a contract. Once you got residence or citizenship, New Zealand had to come first.
Why has immigration policy changed? Why are most western countries dealing with migrants who think they have a right to punish their hosts if they dislike something they do? Sadly, the answer lies in the post war nonsense that all cultures are equal. Many westerners practise cultural cringe, debasing our heritage in the process. Human rights and race relations officials, not to mention otherworldly clerics, argue that everyone, everywhere, has a right to his or her cultural practices and religion, no matter the offence given their hosts. Some African Muslim practices such as female circumcision have been outlawed, but not the wearing of burkas, despite the clear symbolic intention behind them to repress women. The care given to the screening of migrants has slipped disastrously over recent years. The cross-questioning that was normal after World War Two is frowned upon now. Result? Five million Muslims now live in France and are most reluctant to acculturate. Remember the fury over head-scarves in French public schools? Other countries have big Muslim minorities who are similarly reluctant to "fit in". In Britain many take offence when anything critical of Islam occurs but show no sensitivity to the offence some Muslims' own behaviour causes.
What is sinister is that many Muslims in foreign countries appear to have become a fifth column for Islam. On cue from Teheran or Damascus a demo takes place in Copenhagen, Lebanon, Jakarta, London, even Auckland. While ours was peaceful, in other countries thugs and vandals rampaged, many of them the same people who danced in the streets after the World Trade Centre's destruction. They ritually burn others' flags, and effigies of western leaders. They pledge "blood to redeem the prophet". Amazing how sensitive some become when an instruction arrives from on high. Stalin's edicts had the same effect on Soviet fellow travellers. Ever since the ayatollahs grabbed power in Iran in 1979 they have waged "holy" war against the west. Most Muslim countries are undemocratic and corrupt. Their regimes are warming to foreign adventure to retain power. Nothing new in that tactic: domestic problems have caused many wars. Tsars and emperors; Hitler and Mussolini; Indonesia's Sukarno "confronting" Malaysia. Some Americans welcomed the Spanish-American war in 1898 on the grounds that it would "squeeze the pus out of American life". A decade ago, Iran looked to be edging towards democracy, but the ayatollah's hand-picked president now preaches religious jingoism, pointing the finger abroad, and urging the destruction of Israel, the west, and most of the things our forefathers fought world wars to uphold. Anything but contemplate freedom at home. He wants nuclear parity to assist his blackmail.
Hitler became adept at using German minorities in Europe to stir up internal strife in Austria, Czechoslovakia and elsewhere. It's time our leaders woke up to what Islam extremists are doing. After the cartoons there'll be another fight. From Nine Eleven to today there has been a string of atrocities perpetrated by fanatics in the name of the Prophet. Something akin to war has already been declared by Islam's lunatic fringe. Some say it's too late to tighten up on immigration. But there's still time here. That Auckland Islamist should be made to apologise for his conduct. If Muslim extremists can't be reined in, a major conflagration looks likely.