Though Dutch MP Geert Wilders warns that "the lights are going out all over Europe," the proverbial light bulbs have been clicking on above the heads of European leaders regarding the negative impact of multicultural policies, which for years have encouraged separation rather than integration of the continent's Muslims. With the results of this approach — from no-go zones to niqabs — too obvious to ignore, Europe's three most influential statesmen have weighed in:
In October, Chancellor Angela Merkel declared that multiculturalism has "utterly failed" in Germany because too little has been asked of immigrants. It had been assumed that "people would live side by side and that it would sort itself out by itself," she later elaborated. "This turned out to be false." Immigrants must adopt the country's language and values, Merkel said, calling such demands the opposite of multiculturalism.
In February, Prime Minister David Cameron blasted the UK's doctrines of state multiculturalism. "We have encouraged different cultures to live separate lives, apart from each other and apart from the mainstream," he noted. "We've failed to provide a vision of society to which they feel they want to belong. We've even tolerated these segregated communities behaving in ways that run completely counter to our values."
Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, also chimed in this month. "My answer is clearly yes, it is a failure," he said of multiculturalism. "If you come to France, you accept to melt into a single community, which is the national community, and if you do not want to accept that, you cannot be welcome in France." Citing the need to protect core values, Sarkozy argued that "we have been too concerned about the identity of the person who was arriving and not enough about the identity of the country that was receiving him."
Less prominent European politicians, such as Prime Minister Yves Leterme of Belgium, now have joined the critics. Truly ahead of the curve was José Maria Aznar, the former Spanish prime minister, who cautioned that multiculturalism "divides and weakens societies" back in 2006.
As Daniel Pipes asserts, this trend of mainstream leaders acknowledging a problem so familiar to ordinary Europeans is cause for cheer. However, while he sees "anti-Islamist reaction growing even more quickly than the Islamist threat itself," Europe's tardy response means that there is much ground to make up against Islamism, with the final outcome far from certain.
Speeches are nice, but actions are the key. The past year has witnessed examples of the latter, from laws banning burqas and niqabs to greater focus on combating forced marriages. Yet on a continent where governments tabulate "sensitive urban zones" under de facto Islamic rule, no shortage of work remains.
It all begins with the necessary evolution in thinking outlined by David Cameron: today's neutral tolerance must give way to a "muscular liberalism" that "believes in certain values and actively promotes them."