Jet setting is exciting, but not transformative. Tom Friedman in Jeddah is still the same man he is on Fifth Avenue. The only difference is that there’s more sand in his shoes and sweat under his mustache. And the Saudi whose great-grandfather grew up in one of those villages, fought the Ottoman Empire, bought children from Syrian traders and kept them as slaves or concubines, and taught his children that living this way is what convinced Allah to open up some oil wells under the desert, is still that man even when he’s having lunch with Tom Friedman on Fifth Avenue.
We all live in villages. Our village is a place where women are considered human beings, but in the village that is an ocean and a desert away, women are considered property. For all the ridiculous noises about Islamic feminism and all the reforms coming out of Riyadh, a proper Muslim can no more consider a woman his equal, than he could consider a sheep or an African slave his equal.
The problem is that lately our two villages have been overlapping thanks to the heap big magic of the airport. Americans travel to Saudi Arabia, where they are told to cover themselves up and respect the local customs, and Muslims travel to Canada where they tell the city of Toronto that it needs to cover up its women or they won’t be responsible for the consequences. Our village just can’t seem to win.
This is not the sort of stuff that you put in tourist brochures, this is the sort of stuff you cover up, and these days our nations exist as long tourist brochures covering up the problems and extolling the virtues of all these people who visit, move in, learn to fly planes and ram them into buildings because a medieval warlord claimed that a fellow named Allah wanted him to conquer the world, but didn’t provide him with any transportation more reliable than camels and a flying horse.
Our tourist brochures say, “Diversity”, but diversity is another one of our village’s unique virtues. It’s not a virtue when you reach Saudi Arabia, and it’s not a virtue when Saudi Arabia reaches us. Our noble commitment to diversity leads us to diversify by investing in multiculturalism, but many of those villages full of men with thirteen wives and sharp knives are not interested in multiculturalism.
The Taliban showed us what they thought of multiculturalism when they blew up Buddhist statues and the Islamists in Mali are showing us what they think of multiculturalism with a rampage directed against Sufi shrines. The Muslim Waqf in Jerusalem is continuing its vandalism of the remains of the Second Temple. All of them are following in the footsteps of Saudi Arabia which has waged a campaign of destruction against the cultural artifacts of every other culture.
In India, Hindus had the temerity to sing in their own country during the month of Ramadan, which ended in violence as furious Muslims tried to explain their views on multiculturalism with big rocks. In that same spirit, Al-Hashim Kamena Atangana, like so many other Muslim clerics, is trying to explain to us that while in our village it may be the custom to treat women as human beings, in his village it is the custom to treat them as property.
Common sense says that our village means our customs, but diversity says that our village is on the shores of the global village which is moving into our village and insisting that it’s now their village. This is a problem, but only for those of us who are Jews, Christians, Hindus, Atheists, Zoroastrians, Wiccans, Buddhists, Sikhs and Bahai. Not to mention female or in any other way differing from the Muslim male that runs the other village and is trooping through our airport with thirteen wives in tow.
It used to be that when in Rome, you did like the Romans. Now it’s when in Toronto, you do like Al-Hashim says. Because his voice is the booming echo of diversity and like all the voices of diversity, it isn’t promoting multiculturalism, but a single culture. Their culture. One Ummah, one Caliph and one Burka.