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 Liberal in Chief 

February 7, 2006 
My crystal ball told me the Global War on Terror (GWOT) would bring us a lot of trouble, but it failed to foresee that one of the flashpoints would be cartoons in Denmark. Muslims are currently upset about a particular cartoon, published last September, Today's column is "Liberal in Chief" -- 
Read Joe's columns the day he writes them.ridiculing the prophet Mohammed. Scandinavian humor can be unexpectedly volatile, when it exists at all.

I could have told the publishers that the Muslims might not chuckle good-naturedly about this, had anyone asked me, which they didn’t. By comparison, Abe Foxman was a pretty good sport about Mel Gibson’s last movie.

Religion has been a factor in turmoil for most of human history, and though liberals have hoped tolerance would solve the problem for good, it has merely taken a new form as two great liberal principles have collided: freedom of expression (represented by the cartoonists) and organized touchiness (represented by world Islam, now moving into Europe).

Liberals always expect their principles to harmonize with each other, and then are surprised when it doesn’t work out that way. In their zeal for sexual equality, they oppose sex discrimination and favor abortion on demand, only to find that some people abort babies upon discovering that they are female. Since this happens most often in cultures where being female is regarded as a sort of birth defect and the decision to abort is made by the father, yet another sacred liberal principle takes it on the chin: multiculturalism.

Not all cultures are ready for multiculturalism, at least not this year. And some of those cultures, in what liberals reverently dubbed the Third World (back when the phrase seemed to make sense), are pretty old. They may take a while catching up with the progressive West — or, as liberals say, “evolving.” Evolution is another sacred liberal principle, but it doesn’t always follow the progressive script.

In some of those cultures, where sex-selection infanticide has long been a father’s prerogative (as it was back in pagan Greece and Rome), sex-selection abortion, now that it’s feasible, just seems the natural way to go (or evolve). I guess it falls under the heading of traditional family values. Dad still decides. That’s “choice,” you know — one more lofty liberal principle, as refracted through multiculturalism.

[Breaker quote for Liberal in Chief: Yet again, Danish humor flops in Islam.]Many cultures are all for choice — as long as it isn’t exercised by women, of course. This is the proviso that tends to take liberals by surprise. We won’t make any headway toward world peace until we recognize that liberalism, despite its universalist rhetoric, is just a local, recent, delicate, and perishable Western subculture. It probably has no hope of radically transforming other cultures, especially those that acknowledge the existence of two sexes.

Many primitive peoples believe not only that two sexes exist, but that they are somewhat different from one another. Such beliefs, seemingly simple and arbitrary, can make it difficult for liberalism to take root. The barbarians who hold them may be willing to try certain liberal enthusiasms on for size — elections or freedom of the press, maybe — as long as basic cultural preconditions are respected: two sexes, no cartoons of the Prophet, things like that.

At risk of provoking liberals to riot by insulting their most cherished beliefs, I should point out that in many respects President Bush himself is a liberal. He assumes that if he offers the world’s Muslims democracy — an offer they can’t refuse, as it were — they will eagerly grab it, women’s rights and all. This is another case where I might have counseled otherwise, but again, I wasn’t asked.

Like most of his breed, our liberal in chief seems to regard religion as a mere opinion, an edifying individual option rather than a necessary social cohesive. This is why he seems ill prepared to deal with the Muslim world, where they take a different view of it. Unlike the liberal Washington Post, for example, the Muslim press doesn’t bury religious news in the back sections of the weekend editions. It takes the view, so baffling to enlightened Westerners, that if the Almighty exists, he is probably pretty important.

Only modern Western culture — liberalism — could have conceived so incoherent a concept as multiculturalism. This strange idea hasn’t caught on in the Islamic world. You might as well expect to find a nudist colony in Mecca. (Just a joke, Mr. President.)

Joseph Sobran

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