Are the Vast Majority of People Moderate?

One strong argument for the acceptance of large scale migration is that all people are made in the image of God. One powerful argument against it is that all people are, to some extent, made in the image of their culture.

One of the chief complaints about migration to Europe is that the migrants are bringing too much of their culture with them. Muslims, for example, tend to come from cultures where women are, by Western standards, badly treated. Thus, it should be no great surprise that sexual assaults have increased markedly in Sweden, Germany, the U.K., and elsewhere.

A common rejoinder to the complaint about the jump in the incidence of rape and other violent crimes is that it’s wrong to blame an entire race /religion/culture for the behavior of a tiny minority. The vast majority, of any group, it is maintained, are peaceful, moderate, and trustworthy. And that goes double for Muslims who, we are assured, are Europe’s future doctors, lawyers, nurses, engineers, and members of parliament.

The idea that the vast majority of any group of people are moderate bears some examination—especially when one considers that the vast majority of people (all of us, actually) are born with original sin. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the effects of original sin are not pretty—“disobedience,” “lust,” “domination,” “corruption,” and “evil.”

The Catechism goes on to say that:

Ignorance of the fact that man has a wounded nature inclined to evil gives rise to serious errors in the areas of education, politics, social action, and morals (407).

Which is exactly the point I was getting at. Many optimistic social policies, such as open borders immigration policy, don’t take account of our “wounded nature.” There are good theological reasons to doubt that the vast majority of any group are well-balanced moderates who will blend seamlessly with other groups. According to the Catechism, all people are sinners in need of salvation. That’s where God’s grace comes in, but culture also has a part to play in helping us to do good and resist evil. Christians believe that a culture based in Christian beliefs can do much to help individuals in their battle against sin.

Of course, it doesn’t always work out as well as we might expect. Take the South in the post-Reconstruction era. During that time a series of “Jim Crow” laws were enacted with the purpose of keeping blacks in “their place.” The vast majority of the population professed Christianity, yet the Jim Crow South was, by today’s standards, a deeply prejudiced place. Schools were segregated. So were trains, buses, and trolleys. Even railroad station waiting rooms were segregated. Blacks had to use separate restaurants, separate restrooms, and separate drinking fountains. The Jim Crow laws were passed by state legislatures, and defended by judges and governors. In short, they seemed to reflect the will of the people—or, at least, a majority of the people. Although lynchings were outside the law, they were not outside the pale. Lynchings sometimes drew crowds of thousands, were sometimes advertised in advance by newspapers, and were professionally photographed so that the images of the victims could be sold as souvenir postcards. Most southerners of that time would not actively participate in a lynching, but most would probably not do much to stop one or to bring the guilty parties to justice afterward.

It seems reasonable to say that the deeply biased laws, customs, and arrangements of the Jim Crow South were not simply the work of a tiny minority. Rather, the assumptions on which the laws were built were widely shared. The majority of white southerners of that era were not moral monsters. But when it came to the issue of segregation, very few were moral heroes in the mold of Atticus Finch. A great many of them were deeply prejudiced (as were many in the North). That is not how they saw themselves, but that is how we see them today.

They were, in varying degrees, products of their culture. But so, in varying degrees, are we products of our own culture. And one of the things our culture insists we believe is that the vast majority of Muslims are moderate. This is said to assure us that the importation of large numbers of Muslims into our culture won’t change a thing. But is it so? The point is this: if we can admit that at least a majority of southerners of only 70 years ago in the United States cooperated in an immoral system, why must we maintain the fiction that the vast majority of Muslims are moderate? Indeed, in many key respects, Muslim societies closely resemble the South of the Jim Crow era. They look upon non-Muslims as inferior beings, and they have a system of laws and practices designed to keep non-Muslims in their place. In short, Muslim societies are not Switzerland. There is nothing moderate about them. Why then should we believe that the vast majority of Muslims—the product of these cultures—are moderate?

Of course, if you define “moderate” very narrowly as one who is not currently beating up people or killing them, then the vast majority are indeed moderate. But by that definition, about ninety-nine percent of the planet’s population can be considered moderate. But if you define a moderate more broadly as one who would never support or participate in an immoral system, then it’s difficult to make the case that the vast majority of Muslims are moderate.

Take the case of the Pakistani rape gangs in England. Obviously, the perpetrators—many of them middle-aged men by the time of their arrest—could hardly be considered either “moderate” or “peaceful.” Yet, many more, supposedly peaceful and moderate Pakistanis must have known about the crimes, covered them up, or even participated in them. The English teen victims were groomed as prostitutes, and one must suppose that a great many of their “customers” would have been Pakistani men—men who grew up in a culture with a low opinion of women, and an even lower opinion of non-Muslim women. It’s true that some of these men grew up in England, but the values they imbibed were closer to the values of Lahore than those of Lancashire.

Of those men who did not participate, many must have been aware of what was happening. When one considers the vast scale of the rape gang operations (approximately 2,400 victims in the two towns of Rotherham and Telford alone), and the long time frame (over two decades in Telford), it strains credulity to think that the knowledge was confined to only a few. Pakistani communities are closely knit. Everybody knows everybody’s business. Yet, apparently, there were few if any Pakistanis willing to inform on their fellows. According to one researcher who has been carefully following the rape epidemic in England for years:

As far as we are aware, not one Pakistani anywhere in the entire country who was in a position to provide useful information to the police … ever did so.

Much the same can be said of Pakistanis in Pakistan itself. In Pakistan, the rape of a Christian girl is hardly worth noticing, let alone reporting. According to Raymond Ibrahim, one of the leading authorities on Muslim persecution of Christians:

Outside the victim’s family and surrounding Christian community, virtually no one else in the 99% Muslim-majority nation cares when Christians and their children are savaged and murdered…

That’s because Christians in Pakistan are widely seen as “untouchables,” and as less than human. In discussing the rape of a 9-year old Christian girl, one Pakistani Christian explained:

Such incidents occur frequently. Christian girls are considered goods to be damaged at leisure. Abusing them is a right. According to the [Muslim] community’s mentality it is not even a crime.

If the mentality of Pakistanis in Pakistan and England seems alien to us, consider that a similar mentality once prevailed in parts of America in regard to African-Americans. In a contribution to a book about lynching postcards, historian Leon F. Litwack wrote of the lynchers and the crowds who gathered to watch:

Few had any ethical qualms about their actions. This was not the outburst of crazed men or uncontrolled barbarians but the triumph of a belief system that defined one people as less human than another.

The majority of southerners were not lynchers, and the majority were not onlookers to the events, but it’s likely that a majority subscribed to the belief system that tolerated the lynchings.

Muslims also subscribe to a harsh and prejudicial belief system. Individual Muslims may not agree with the system, but there are enormous pressures on them to go along with it. Defenders of mass Muslim immigration tell us that the vast majority of Muslims are moderate. But there is abundant evidence to the contrary. A Pew Global Attitude Survey revealed that on several measures, a majority of Muslims hold extremist views. For example, approximately 81 percent of Egyptians favored stoning for adultery, and 86 percent supported the death penalty for apostates.

An ADL global survey of anti-Semitic attitudes showed that 74 percent of people in Mid-Eastern countries harbor anti-Semitic attitudes. The list includes the West Bank and Gaza (93 percent), Iraq (92 percent), Yemen (88 percent), Libya (87 percent), Algeria (87 percent), and Tunisia (86 percent). That doesn’t look like a tiny handful of extremists. It looks like whole countries full of extremists. Those who oppose mass Muslim migration are rightly concerned that a large number of immigrants will bring these attitudes with them.

One last point. In comparing the Jim Crow South with present-day Pakistan, I do not mean to draw a moral equivalence between a Christian culture and an Islamic culture. There are some significant differences. For one thing, the treatment of blacks in the South was a departure from Christian teaching, whereas the treatment of Christians in Pakistan is in line with Islamic teaching about the relative importance of non-Muslims. For another thing, African-Americans are no longer lynched and burned by vigilante mobs in the South, but Christians are still lynched and burned in Pakistan.

The change in attitude that occurred in the South (and other parts of America) was effected in large part by Christian leaders such as Reverend Martin Luther King. These leaders were not introducing Americans to a revolutionary new morality. They were reminding them of something that, as Christians, they already knew—namely, that all men are equal in the eyes of the Trinitarian God.

But all men are not equal in the eyes of Allah. According to the Koran and the law books, Christians and Jews are decidedly inferior to Muslims. They can be tolerated, but they cannot be granted equal status. In other words, there is nothing in Islamic texts that might prompt Pakistanis to change their attitudes—no higher teaching to remind them of higher duties. Allah’s contempt for non-believers is expressed on almost every page of the Koran.

One can still hope that, given enough time, Muslin migrants will assimilate to Western and Christian values. That did happen in Europe and the UK in the not too distant past. When Muslims came in smaller numbers, and when Western nations were more confident about their own beliefs and values, some amount of assimilation did take place. But things have changed. Muslim migrants now come in large numbers and, due to the revival of Islamic supremacist beliefs, they have little interest in integrating into cultures that are now seen as inferior and even decadent.

In addition, Europeans no longer accept the reassurances of their leaders that immigration will enrich their culture. A recent poll conducted by the European Commission found that a strong majority of Europeans believe that the integration of migrants has failed in their country. Those who felt integration had gone badly included 73 percent of Swedes, 64 percent of French, 63 percent of Germans, and 63 percent of Italians.

Europe’s utopian experiment in immigration isn’t working out because Europe’s leaders never took sufficient account of the extreme differences among cultures. They never understood that many of the migrants were traveling not just from different lands but, in effect, from different centuries. Moreover they seemed to be ignorant of what the Catechism says about man’s “wounded nature inclined to evil.” Still living off the accumulated moral capital of Christendom, they couldn’t envision a London that would become the acid attack capital of the world, or an England where the term “Shropshire lad” would conjure up an image not of late nineteenth century rural youth, but of a Pakistani gang rapist (Telford is in Shropshire).

The final irony in all this is that Catholic bishops, who ought to be quite familiar with the concept of man’s wounded nature, have nevertheless signed on to the same utopian policies as their secular counterparts. It would be nice to think that it’s only a tiny minority of bishops who are so inclined, but sometimes it seems like a vast majority.

Editor’s note: Pictured above is “The Problem We All Live With” painted by Norman Rockwell in 1964 for Look magazine.

William Kilpatrick

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William Kilpatrick taught for many years at Boston College. He is the author of several books about cultural and religious issues, including Why Johnny Can’t Tell Right From Wrong; and Christianity, Islam and Atheism: The Struggle for the Soul of the West and The Politically Incorrect Guide to Jihad. His articles have appeared in numerous publications, including Catholic World Report, National Catholic Register, Aleteia, Saint Austin Review, Investor’s Business Daily, and First Things. His work is supported in part by the Shillman Foundation. For more on his work and writings, visit his website, turningpointproject.com

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