These stories turn up so routinely you hardly notice them anymore:
Vancouver's hookah-parlour owners are celebrating after winning an exemption Thursday from a proposed new bylaw that will ban smoking on most sidewalks in commercial districts, in bus shelters and even in taxis passing through Vancouver.
In giving the bylaw unanimous approval-in-principle, Vancouver city council members bowed to arguments that hookah lounges provide an important cultural space for the city's Muslims and granted them a temporary exemption.
Can that be right, even in Canada? Infidels can't smoke but Muslims can? Apparently so. As the Vancouver Sun report continued, Emad Yacoub "said hookah lounges are essential for immigrants from hookah-smoking cultures, because it helps them deal with the depression common for newcomers and gives them places like they have at home."
Once upon a time English and Irish and French immigrants to Vancouver used to find "places like they have at home" – pubs and bars and so forth. But not anymore. In fact, if you're at the Legion Hall and can no longer light up a fag (whoa, relax, I'm just talking about cigarettes, not another lively Muslim cultural tradition), you might be forgiven for getting the impression that fewer and fewer places seem like home anymore.
It's good to know the state is still prepared to trust adult citizens to be able to weigh the health risks of smoking against the "cultural" value (ie, the pleasure), even if they have to convert to Islam to enjoy the right. Veterans, barflies, cigar aficionados and free-born Canadians in general can no longer enjoy this responsibility. But Muslims, uniquely, can.
Well, not entirely uniquely. For as The Vancouver Sun also reported:
The one foggy point in the new bylaw was whether it will apply to crack cocaine and crystal-meth smoking.
Ah, right. If you're taking a limo from Squamish to Richmond, you can't light up a Craven A. But, if you do feel the need the smoke, just stop off at the nearest crack house or meth lab. It's good to know that some aspects of infidel culture are still celebrated in Vancouver.
At casual glance, this decision by the city council breaches one of the most fundamental principles: equality before the law. Either smoking is illegal, or it's not. But it can't be illegal for some citizens, and not for others. But, of course, most of us don't give that casual glance to this story, or to the gazillions like it that bubble up at the foot of the "News In Brief" section every day of the week across the western world. And, of those who do give it a casual glance, the general blasé reaction was pithily distilled by one correspondent of mine as follows: "We're rich enough to afford to be stupid." Yeah, sure, it's idiotic but it's harmless. Don't get your panties in a twist. Ours is such a wealthy, powerful, confident culture it can jab untold numbers of screwdrivers into its own head, and still survive. Death by a thousand cuts is not for us, even if (or just because) the cuts are self-inflicted.
I wonder. In Vancouver city council's action, what was once dimly discerned is made explicit. An Englishman or Irishman has no culture. Indeed, Canada has no culture, save what others bring to it. Which is the logical reductio of multiculturalism: If coming to Canada causes "depression" among "newcomers", it behooves us to bring Canada into line with "places like they have at home". Instead of the immigrant assimilating with the host society, the host society assimilates with the immigrant. Which makes sense, given that he seems to value his inheritance more than Canada values its own. And so we confront the limits of political correctness. It's fine for a pliant citizenry sedated by decades of propaganda, but not for Muslims or crackheads who don't yield quite so easily. When the nanny state runs up against the unnannyable, it crumples like a cheap roll-up.
When I wrote my book about Europe and demography, dissenting critics wanted to argue about the rate of change – specifically, the date at which Islam becomes a majority on the Continent. It won't be 2025 or 2050, they scoff. It might not even be by the end of the century, as Professor Bernard Lewis says. Maybe. Maybe not. My book has very little to say either way about the precise day on which Islam claims 50.00001 per cent of the European population. What matters is the point at which it becomes the key determining feature of a society's political disposition. And that day will not be 2100 or 2050 or 2025, but, as we see in Vancouver, some time rather sooner.
Let us zip across the Dominion, to Etobicoke, a corner of Toronto I know well. Or I thought I did. The other day a reader sent me the list of candidates for the Etobicoke North riding in this month's provincial election. They are as follows:
Shafiq Qaadri, Liberal
Mohamed Boudjenane, NDP
Mohamed Kassim, Progressive Conservative
Jama Korshel, Green
Teresa Ceolin, Family Coalition
"Teresa"? What kind of cockamamie name is that for an Etobicoke politician? This is the first riding in Ontario in which every major party is running a Muslim candidate. But not the last. To the casual observer, this would seem to be statistically improbable. Etobicoke is not 80 per cent Muslim, nor even 50 per cent Muslim. Yet every major national party already feels obliged to defer, in its candidate selection process, to Islam's political muscle. I write in my book that, historically, Islam has never needed to be a statistical majority in order to function as one. At the height of its power in the eighth century, the "Islamic world" stretched from Spain to India yet its population was only minority Muslim: Islam conquered and ruled an empire of non-Muslim subjects. But, a millennium and a bit on, it's not even necessary to conquer – not when everyone's so eager to concede pre-emptively, all in the name of "tolerance". As Douglas Farrow told a conference at McGill recently, tolerance is a negative: it implies a kind of passivity. "You can't build a society on that negative principle," he says. But you can rot and enfeeble the one you have, and in its ruins something new will be built.
Let's zip east another few thousand miles, from Etobicoke to Brussels. The mayor of the city is a rather dreary Belgian leftie called Freddy Thielemans. He is the head of the governing Socialist Party. Of his 17-member caucus, ten are Muslim. Again, Brussels is not majority Muslim. Sure, the most popular baby boy's name is Mohammed, but then, in western Europe, it would be easier to list the cities where it isn't. Yet Brussels, the capital of the European Union, already has a Muslim-majority governing party.
It's been faintly surreal following the recent ructions about the usual instabilities of the Belgian state: Is this it? Are the ancient differences between the Walloons and Flemings about to tear the kingdom apart? Etc, etc. The traditional warring tribes of Belgium are irrelevant to its future. Brussels will be a Muslim city, and so will Antwerp, and Ghent, and even my mum's quaintly parochial Flemish backwater of St Niklaas. And the disputes of the future will be between Belgian Turks and Belgian Algerians, or Belgian Sunni and Belgian Shia, or some other variant thereof.
Twenty years ago, in The Closing Of The American Mind, Allan Bloom wrote, "As an image of our current intellectual condition, I keep being reminded of the newsreel pictures of Frenchmen splashing happily in the water at the seashore, enjoying the paid annual vacations legislated by Leon Blum's Popular Front government. It was 1936, the same year Hitler was permitted to occupy the Rhineland. All our big causes amount to that kind of vacation."
Yes, indeed. "Tolerance", "multiculturalism", splashing in the shallows – or so we think. Those Muslims who frequent Vancouver hookah parlours because they're "depressed", because Canada is not like "home", won't have to be depressed much longer. Here, as in much of the west, the state is happy to dismantle its own inheritance. And in the vacuum of multiculturalism it's those groups most fierce in defence of their culture who will build the future.
"The decline of the West," wrote Samuel P Huntington, is still in the slow first phase, but at some point it might speed up dramatically." What is the point at which it becomes irreversible? If you're on a river heading over the falls, it's not the moment when you plunge over the precipice and are dashed on the rocks below. That's the great visual dividing line – Joseph Cotton in Niagara: one minute his boat's horizontal, next it's heading straight down. But the critical point happens way back upstream. It's still flat, it's still the river not the distant falls, but what you thought were the placid shallows has, in fact, a strong silent running current and, before you even know it, you're being swept along.