A horror story out of England, describing children, in Saudi-backed schools, being asked to list the “reprehensible” qualities of Jews, will shock anyone with a basic amount of decency. But it will also likely draw the ire of cultural conservatives here, eager to flag this as an example of the failures of multiculturalism. This would be the wrong reaction.
This incident, like many reports out of England, France, and Europe in general, surely signals a failed or deeply troubled effort at cultural integration (cf. the July 2005 Tube bombings). But these dangers represent reasons to approach integration honestly, and from a position of peace; not a reason to avoid it altogether. America has absorbed (and will continue to absorb) cultures wildly different from our own, as more and more are drawn by the desire (even the need) to live in peace and security in a pluralistic, [largely] prosperous society. This is an attractive offer, almost unique in the world. And if we have faith in our values, we’ll trust that it’s one men and women from different cultures will accept, given the opportunity.
We must, however, be in a position to make the offer of peace. For those who believe in the basic premise of America — that the promise of peace and equality can bring cultures together under one flag — it has been a bruising season. We must constantly remind ourselves and our countrymen that those who wish for war shall find it. Belief in a pending clash of civilizations becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, but true trust in American exceptionalism will bring peace. Islam has come to us with the honest request to live in peace, and join us in the fight against the radicals that purport to act in its name. With the offer made, the acceptance must not linger.