Delectable Lie: An interview with Dr Salim Mansur
Herald: Could you give a short summary of what your new book, Delectable Lie: a liberal repudiation of multiculturalism, is about?
Mansur: Delectable Lie is about the fact that multiculturalism is a lie. A delectable lie—delectable meaning something that is very pleasant, delightful, satisfying, pleasing—but it is a lie. In writing this book I set out to do what had not been done before; deconstruct multiculturalism and put it in context, both in terms of history and political philosophy.
Herald: How would you define multiculturalism as a philosophy?
Mansur: The very problem is that multiculturalism is not a philosophy; there is nothing to it. It is like cotton candy; it is sweet, it is nice, it is fluffy, but if you touch it there is nothing to it, your finger goes right through. Likewise, multiculturalism has no substance. In my view it is not a philosophy; it is merely a statement that was floated that all cultures are equal and demand equal respect.
Herald: What is good about Canada’s culture that we should not lose to multiculturalism?
Mansur: Canada is an integral part of what has come to be defined as the West. The West has it’s own cultural evolution and historical development; just as the Chinese did, just as the Indians did, just as the Arabs did. In this evolution the west arrived at certain fundamental conclusions about itself and the way it looks at the world. At their heart is the idea of freedom based on individual rights and the rule of law.
This did not happen overnight, it came about through a long and difficult struggle. If you wanted to pin a date to it, you might say for our purpose that modern Europe came from the struggles of the last 500 years, from 1500 to now. During that time there were huge events and convulsions; the Reformation, Counter-Reformation, Renaissance, the struggle for enlightenment, the making of modern science, the French Revolution, the American Revolution. But out of the heart of this struggle there comes a thread, an idea that was to come to our modern times and that was embedded in the making of Canada and our constitution, the idea of individual liberty and freedom. In the American Declaration of Independence it was in one sentence, “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” That is our culture.
This value system has now gone in a sense universal, because everyone wants to have that system, the system of individual rights based on the rule of law. The Chinese want it, the Indians want it, Africans want it, Arabs want it. Therefore we need to protect this system.
Herald: In essence, is the debate over multiculturalism a debate over whether or not we should have a shared culture, norms, morals, et cetera that ground us? Is multiculturalism one of the things threatening that?
Mansur: Absolutely, in the sense that once we concede that a culture which never shared the values that make the West what the West is—again I would go back to the question of individual rights and freedom, and law—is equal to the West.
It is not a matter of ethnicity, or gender, or colour, or religion—even though in a specific sense when you talk about the west we are talking about Christianity most particularly. The Judeo-Christian value system is at the heart of the western tradition—that is true—but the west has evolved, and in this evolution there was the great struggle about separating religion and politics: secularism. The modern West does not take religion as its defining value. It might be Christian, but it is not declared to be Christian constitutionally, so it is not a Christian country in that sense of the term.
Religion is very much a part of individual rights, and that is where it comes to the part of respect for the individual person. When you respect an individual, you respect them irrespective of what that person’s ethnicity is, or gender is, or language is, or religion is. That person as a whole is a sacred creation of God.
But then multiculturalism comes around, or people in the west itself come along and say that our value system is no different than that of the Chinese Communists, or cultures that don’t treat men and women equally, where freedom does not exist and individual rights are not respected. What are we doing? We are basically washing away our own culture. We are abandoning our own value system. I think that is exactly what is happening with multiculturalism.
Herald: Is multiculturalism perhaps the natural outworking of the emphasis on individual liberty—so if an individual wants to be under Sharia law, for example, it is their freedom to do so—along with the fading of shared belief in a Supreme Being with universal absolutes?
Mansur: Multiculturalism shifts the responsibility from the individual to the collective; it is the whole problem of identity, and collective right as opposed to individual rights.
The notion of individual rights is a unique development in the West. There is no other civilization in history—and there are other civilizations older than the west, living civilizations, the Chinese is one, India is another—no civilization developed a concept of freedom and individual rights and then put it into practice as in the West.
In modern times we have seen collectivism in the Soviet Union. We saw collectivism in Nazi Germany based upon the idea of race, that the Aryan race is superior to all other races.
Is a society, value system and culture based upon individual rights equal to a society based upon collective rights? That’s the question. My answer is no, that the emphasis on individual rights is a higher development. Collective rights are a poison, they are the delectable lie that destroys this higher value system. I can come to Canada from anywhere and I am respected as an individual. I am a Muslim; we have just finished the month of Ramadan and I was fasting for 30 days, I say my Friday prayers, I do whatever is required, but that is my personal faith as an individual. When people say that this is not a matter of the individual but it is a group right, then there is a problem. That is the undermining of our constitutional system.
Herald: But even if they brought in Sharia law for example, it would be an option, right? You wouldn’t have to use it if you didn’t want to. So is there a collective right to an individual expression?
Mansur: This is the paradox of democracy, that this is what Canadians are now saying. I don’t know if they are the majority or just a segment, but they are now saying that this is fine. But here is the problem. Does Sharia treat men and women equally? That is the first thing. Men and women are discriminated, individuals are discriminated, minorities are discriminated, and in Egypt the Christians are being discriminated. Do we want in Canada a situation where a group of people is protected by the Canadian Constitution to discriminate against women?
Herald: I guess that is the question, can you legislate freedom?
Mansur: Yes, that is the question as old as the question: can someone who wants to be a slave go and become the slave of somebody else?
Mansur: Well, that’s it.
Herald: Where do you see things going from here? In Canada these debates are coming up; in Europe things are polarizing. What would your solutions be, if you were in charge of crafting a policy? Where would you go from here? Do you think things will become more positive or negative?
Mansur: If the multiculturalists keep pushing away at our western civilization as they are doing then it will be the slow subversion of freedom. The evidence is there. It happened only the other day at McGill. They hosted the 2nd Global Conference on World Religion, and one of the first declarations coming out of it is that there must be no criticism of religion, which is basically taking away free speech. The entire development of the modern world in Europe began with the criticism of religion, that is what Martin Luther was all about. To say that you cannot criticize religion – which religion, Christianity? Christians have been criticizing each other’s religion for 500 years.
It is a question of Islam and Sharia, you cannot write a book like Salman Rushdie or you will be killed. A person like me saying what has to be said will be killed. That is what these people are doing, the evidence is there and it is a subversion of freedom. And once you start subverting freedom you are on a slippery slope, and you will lose the values that we fought for and protected and defended. What were your Grandparents going to the Second World War for? Was it to get somebody’s oil or to get somebody’s gold, or was it to fight to protect freedom? This is what it is all about, at the end of the day.
Dr. Salim Mansur is an Associate Professor at the University of Western Ontario and a weekly columnist in the Toronto Sun.