This exchange took place in the Netherlands in mid-2001, as Stanford's Paul M. Sniderman (email him) and the University of Utrecht's Louk Hagendoorn (email him) detail in their insightful new book When Ways of Life Collide.
The homosexual, Pim Fortuyn, started his own political party and quickly rose to prominence as a candidate for parliament. Nine days before the election, a man named Volkert van der Graaf assassinated Fortuyn, explaining that "he was an ever growing danger who would affect many people in society." Fortuyn's party won 26 of the 150 seats.
This event, though a microcosm of immigration-influenced tensions, was but a blip on the radar screen. Since then, the Netherlands has continued a policy of internationalism, importing massive numbers of Muslim immigrants. In a decade Muslims will outnumber Dutch in major cities.
Even discounting high-profile acts of violence—the Fortuyn assassination, the Muhammad cartoon riots, the Theo van Gogh murder, Dutch Muslims cheering after 9/11—the trend has had a wide range of negative effects.
For one, the government aggressively promoted Islam, despite the religion's inconsistency with Dutch values. Sniderman and Hagendoorn write:
"Minority groups are provided instruction in their own language and culture; separate radio and television stations; government funding to import religious leaders; and publicly financed housing set aside for and specifically designed to meet Muslim requirements for strict separation of 'public' and 'private' spaces."
The government also "builds mosques," "supports separate social and welfare arrangements for immigrant minorities; and has established a separate consultation system with community 'leaders.'"
Some of these "leaders" have even advocated that sharia law apply to civil disputes between Muslims.
Inevitably, this coupling of immigration and multicultural politics has triggered resentment among native Dutch, a phenomenon to which When Ways of Life Collide devotes a considerable portion of its pages. The authors conducted extensive original research, running statistical regressions and factor analyses on their survey data.
Importantly, the polling took place in 1998—years before Fortuyn's murder and the World Trade Center attack brought Muslim-West tensions to a head. Even so, it was obvious, as the authors argue, that official multiculturalism had planted the seeds for a clash of civilizations.
Some of the more fascinating findings:
From the mountain of information barely scratched above, the authors put forward the thesis that
"Bringing issues of collective identity to the fore undercuts support for the right of ethnic and religious minorities to follow their own ways of life. Tolerance, not identity, provides the foundation for diversity."
This is the authors' preferred solution—one consistent with the evidence but not explicitly weighed against alternatives. They do not even mention the most obvious deduction: Muslim immigration has done more harm than good and it should end.
The book's 15-page closing chapter—mainly the last two pages—lays out a dual-pronged program:
Both are steps in the right direction, but inadequate.
It's unclear what the first suggestion even means, exactly: "A pledge of loyalty to the larger society is the basis for, not the antithesis of, diversity." Is such a pledge voluntary, or a visa requirement?
A voluntary pledge presumes a Muslim desire for inclusion—a desire by the authors' own far from universal. They write:
"Many Muslim immigrants wish to live in liberal societies but not be part of them. They believe that they ought not to be bound by the ground rules of a liberal democracy when they conflict with their religious tenets."
A required loyalty pledge might weed out a few bad apples—Muslims who don't want to join a new culture and won't even say they do—but it's easy enough to lie. A forced loyalty oath is just that, forced.
A political de-multiculturalization may hold a little more promise. As the authors' data show, the Dutch public reacts most strongly when cultural identity comes to the fore. If the government stopped promoting Islam and acknowledged the validity of "insensitive" criticisms like Fortuyn's, native resentment would subside…to some degree.
That's far from certain, though. This solution focuses too much on Dutch sentiments, ignoring one of the main problems: Muslims intimidating their critics, sometimes through murder, thereby threatening core Dutch values like hyper-tolerance and free speech.
It's clearly counterintuitive that doing less for Muslims will make them friendlier. And the authors make no attempt to convince readers otherwise. Indeed, about 42 percent of Turkish Muslims and half of Moroccan Muslims already agree strongly or somewhat that "West Europeans have no respect for Muslim culture."
Perhaps that's When Ways of Life Collide's biggest oversight. Sniderman and Hagendoorn get so wound up in theories of white racism that they ignore Muslims as part of the problem. "How can we get the Dutch to like Muslims?" takes precedence over, "How can we improve Muslim behavior and attitudes?"
The authors believe multiculturalism spurs resentment on both sides. But they only seriously investigate one side. Only two of the book's 33 tables and figures deal with Muslim poll results.
Stateside readers will wonder how universal the book's findings are. Taken at face value, America's immigration dilemma differs from that of the Netherlands'.
For one, here the largest immigrant contingent comes from Mexico. Muslim immigrants have certainly raised their share of hell, from 9/11 to the "flying imams" controversy, but in sheer numbers they do not pose an immediate cultural or economic threat, yet. The U.S.-radical Islam conflict is a war with an immigration dimension—not a relentless mass invasion.
And whatever Hispanics do to low-wage labor and the English language, they've never asked American courts to apply Latin American law. The thought is absurd (…maybe. The Supreme Court has cited other countries' rulings from time to time.)
Two, Americans have a fiercer dedication to their constitution. They let neo-Nazis march in the streets. It's presumably safe to say the U.S. government won't extensively fund Muslim religious activities anytime soon. And citizens won't stand for blatant attacks on free speech.
That said, there are many eerie similarities. Muslims and Mexicans are similarly arrogant in their demands. It might surprise Americans to learn that, as racial preferences went into effect against the electorate's wishes here, Dutch multicultural policies evolved in a top-down manner. Elites decided what was best, implementing those views without popular support.
And Dutch left-right cooperation, with the left advocating and the right acquiescing to multiculturalism, must remind Americans of their own internationalist left/free-trade right pro-immigration alliance.
When Ways of Life Collide is an immensely important and meticulously researched contribution to the developed world's immigration debate.
The data should inform policymakers for years to come—even if the impeccably Establishment authors' analysis is vague and incomplete at times.
Bruce Allen Roberts (email him) is a writer living in northern Virginia