THE concept of Rashtra is found in Rig Veda dated CE 1500.(1) And Bramhanda Purana dated prior to 7th-10th century celebrated Bharat as a nation and Bharatiyas as one people.(2) In contrast, the current sense of nation in the West was not older than the 18th century.(3) Over several centuries from the 13th, the elite – the ordinary people being then known as “rabble”– in the West, particularly in England, France, Germany, Russia and finally the USA, transformed their regional and community identities into nations.(4)
The “emergence of nations and states in Europe had nothing to do with the feeling of the people to live as a nation”; “raids of plunders, dowries” and “complex system of tiered concubinage” of the ruling class by “religiously sanctioned polygamy” integrated peoples as nations.(5) If nations in Europe originated between 17th to 19th centuries on such external variables, see how their defining fundamentals changed in the 20th century. Because of colonisation first and later to supplement its global trade, economic and political ambition and dominance, the West had to resort to large scale import of immigrants. And to accommodate them as national citizens it succumbed to the contextual urge to adopt liberal multicultural policies in the 20th century. But, in less than three decades of tryst with multiculturalism, it has now found to its horror that multiculturalism eroded the identity that the Western nations had acquired through the 17th and 19th centuries. So, as quickly as Europe adopted multiculturalism, it has begun U-turning on the multicultural regime.
The history of the idea of nations in the West and quick-fix multicultural tinkering holds a great lesson for India. This story needs to be captured in some detail to show how the origin and nature of the nation in India testified to in Vedas and Puranas is different from the origin and character of nations in Europe. That is why, defying the calumny of westernised Indians and transcending all contextual temptations, Guruji consistently expounded the concept of Hindu cultural nationalism of unity in diversity and fought valiantly to rescue the idea of the Indian nation from falling into Euro-centric multicultural drift. The birth and demise of multiculturalism in the West validates Guruji’s idea of assimilative Hindu cultural nationalism.
Multiculturalism gives right to minorities in the West to destroy the liberal rights cherished by the West itself
The emergence of multiculturalism delegitimised the western way of assimilation of minorities into the majority way of life and also the “melting pot” assimilation of both majority and minority into a new common culture. This is because multiculturalism recognises nothing like majority or core culture.
Multiculturalism evolved as in broad categories
The first is “laissez-faire multiculturalism” where the culture of neither the majority nor the minority culture is either promoted or suppressed. The second is “active multiculturalism” which is an intentional policy to promote and support the cultural diversities of both majority and minority.(6) In active multiculturalism, mere tolerance of minority culture is inadequate; it extends to the recognition and positive acceptance of all group differences. Besides granting such overwhelming rights to minorities, it extends the concept to a wide range of groups, women, Lesbian-Gay-Bisexual-Transgender [LGBT] and the disabled.(7)
Just as multiculturalism is a component of western liberalism, LGBT and women’s rights too are integral to the liberal world view of the West. This is where the conflict between the minorities and the nation states in the West started.
The multicultural western states upheld women’s rights and LGBT rights, but, the minorities who enjoyed the protection of the active multiculturalist policies of the West have accepted neither. Organised Muslim minorities in Western states aggressively oppose women’s rights and LGBT rights as opposed to the Islamic Sharia law. Same sex union is punishable with death in important Islamic nations.(8) Thus arose the irresolvable contradiction between multiculturalism and western states on the one hand and the Muslim minority on the other. While drawing their cultural freedom from multicultural policies of Western nations, under the very policies, the Muslims defy women’s and LGBT rights of modern Western liberal culture. With the minority right to deny women and LGBT rights becoming integral to multiculturalism, conflict started within the multiculturalist school. While multiculturalism became a safe haven for minority cultural rights that united the minorities, it divided the mainstream culture and majority society through women, LGBT and similar sectional rights. That is, while a united minority drew its strength from the multicultural policies, by the very same policies, the national identity – that is, the mainstream society and culture – so weakened that the country became “weak, divided and simply not a nation at all”.(9) It is regarded as politically incorrect to question multiculturalism in the West (10) just as it is politically incorrect to question pseudo secularism in India.
U-turn in Europe – Islamic terror strikes the West
Until Islamic terror became an issue following the terror attack on US in 2001 and on London in 2007, multiculturalism was indisputably the most fashionable political idea in the West. But the situation has changed after Islamic extremism and terrorism began to target the US and Europe. Today multiculturalism is under considerable strain in Europe. Open and demonstrable repudiation of multiculturalism is visible in the West today. A few examples of this trend are: Switzerland has banned the construction of Minarets in mosques;(11); Over 40,000 Americans protested against a mosque at Ground Zero in New York. (12) France has banned ‘Burqa’ in public places; (13) Norway has refused to allow tens of millions of dollars of Saudi money intended for building mosques.(14) A recent survey in Germany showed that some 58 per cent of those responded said that the practice of Islam should be “considerably restricted”. (15) The same survey says, ‘a powerful and populist strain of anti-Muslim sentiment is now taking hold across Europe – boosting support for far-right groups, putting mainstream politicians on the defensive.’ The developments have been very swift. The changes have begun manifesting in mainline politics.
It is official now: France, Germany, UK announce “multiculturalism has failed”
And now comes the official admission that multiculturalism has failed in Europe. In October 2010, the German Chancellor Angela Merkel admitted at a meeting of Christian Democrats that multiculturalism (“multi-kulti”), where people would “live side-by-side” happily, did not work and has been an “utter failure” in Germany; she urged the immigrants to integrate, learning German language for example.(16) At the same meeting, a minister and President of Bavaria and the Chairman of an alliance partner of Christian Democrats declared that they were “committed to a dominant German culture as opposed to a multicultural one”.(17) Merkel’s statement stunned the world as ominous.(18) Three months later, in January 2011, echoing Merkel, the British Prime Minister David Cameron, speaking in Germany at the Munich Security Conference, too declared multiculturalism as a failure.(19) In the same month Nicholas Sarkozy, the French President, also declared that multiculturalism has failed.(20)The declarations of the national leaders with global reach, known to be always “politically correct”, have far reaching consequences for their future and the future of the world. Significantly, all of them have spoken in the context of Islamic people living in their respective countries.
Question before the West: Will liberal politics and market capitalism survive the demise of multiculturalism?
A research paper titled “A working paper of Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity” summarises the situation in Europe thus: in recent years, across Europe ‘Multiculturalism’ has taken a beating; many governments have purposefully dropped the notion ‘multicultural’ or diversity in policy vocabularies; politicians and public intellectuals have criticised a perceived shift towards ‘too much diversity’; multiculturalism is seen as stifling debate, fostering separateness, refusing common values, denying problems and supporting reprehensible practices and providing a haven for terrorists. The paper concludes: “Across a range of countries, there seems to have arisen a kind of convergence of backlash discourse, idioms and stratagems attacking a presumed multiculturalism.” (21) In a recent article in the US Homeland Security Affairs Journal, Fathali M. Moghaddam and James N. Breckenridge have pointed out that, in a survey, more than 82 per cent respondents rejected, less than 14 per cent supported, multiculturalism.(22) So, multiculturalism in US-West, the cousin of liberal politics and free market capitalism, seems to be a sun-set idea. If multiculturalism ends, will liberal politics, free market capitalism, and globalisation – all of them founded on it – survive? Interesting questions to explore.
History of Dharmasastras (Government Oriental Series Class B No 6) Vol III. p.132-34
Ancient Indian Tradition and Mythology Series published by Motilal Banarsidas. Brahmanda Purana Part I p130
Secular Agenda by Arun Shourie Harper Collins Publishers, India, p.1-8
Nationalism: Five Roads to Modernity by Liah Greenfeld Harvard University Press p3-8/
Secular Agenda p5
Cultural diversity: its social psychology Author: Xenia Chryssochoou Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell. [p119]
BBC News dt 29.11. 2009: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/8385069.stm
News dated 19.10.2010:http://www.faithfreedom.org/features/news/norway-refuses-millions-of-dollars-from-saudi-arabia-for-mosque-building/
http://www.stratfor.com/weekly /20101018_germany_ and_failure_multiculturalism
MMG Working Paper 09-04; Steven vertovec / SuSanne WeSSendorf; Assessing the backlash against multiculturalism in Europe; Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity; available at: http://www.scribd.com/doc/21114760/Assessing-the-Backlash-Against-Multiculturalism-in-Europe-by-Max-Planck-Institute
Al Jazeera news 12.10.2010: http://english.aljazeera.net/programmes/insidestory/2010/09/201091373340936821.html]
Thomas Friedman, The Lexus and the Olive Tree, (New York: Anchor Books), 1999, p.9