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The Sensitivity Trap By: John O'Sullivan
New York Post | Tuesday, July 08, 2008


MULTICULTURALISM struck again last week. London's Daily Tele graph reported that the Tayside police force in Scotland had apologized to local Muslims for running a public-service ad offensive to their religious sensibilities.

The outrage? A cartoon of the Prophet with a fuse in his turban? A warning that a burqa might camouflage an escaping male terrorist? An incendiary monocultural statement that "kilts will be worn" at the next Police Association's Robert Burns Night?

No, the offensive ad was, I'm sorry to report, a cute little doggie named "Rebel" - a German shepherd puppy pictured on a postcard advertising a new non-emergency police phone number.

In his short official life, Rebel had apparently captured the hearts of the local Tayside people. They logged on to the force's Web site in thousands to follow Rebel's progress in training to be a police dog. The little canine became Rebel after a visit to St. Ninian's primary school, where the tiny tots suggested various names for him.

At this point, you may be reminded of Dorothy Parker's review of the saccharine story "The House at Pooh Corner": "Tonstant Weader Thwowed Up." But a local Muslim councillor had a sterner reaction: He pointed out that Muslims considered dogs ritually unclean and asked for a police apology.

The Tayside police promptly conceded that they should have consulted their "diversity officer." Whereupon the clanking machinery of official multiculturalism rumbled into action, the police withdrew the ad, and everyone agreed to be more sensitive in the future. Heigh-ho. And ho-hum.

This kind of story pops up regularly in the British and international media. Last year, the kitchen staff at a hospital in Poole, Dorset, was told not to distribute the traditional "hot cross buns" to the patients at Easter in case this insensitive action "upset non-Christians."

Two years before that, Burger King withdrew its "spinning whirl" ice cream because, it was alleged, some Muslims had complained that the design bore a resemblance to the word "Allah" in Arabic script.

And just in case Americans are feeling superior to the benighted Brits cowed by these assaults on their regular lives, let me add that the same things happen here, too. Remember the Muslim taxi drivers at the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport who allegedly refused to carry blind passengers with guide dogs or - worse - sighted passengers with duty-free alcohol? Sure, eventually the airport had to instruct the taxi drivers to take whatever passenger was next in line, but its initial reaction had been to surrender to the "cultural" demand.

Occasionally, there is a hitch in such stories. Some reporter phones a reasonable Muslim cleric who says something like: "This is ridiculous. We have no objection to the Christian festivities or symbols of other Brits. And we don't expect them to observe Muslim practices."

That kind of balanced response almost certainly reflects the opinions of most ordinary Muslim citizens in Britain, America and elsewhere. How many Tayside Muslims, for instance, had any serious objection to a postcard photograph of a police dog? Maybe the Muslim councillor, his wife and one of his children - the one who doesn't attend St. Ninian's primary school and hadn't helped select the name Rebel. At most.

Orthodox Jews refrain from eating pork - but they don't try to ban Porky Pig cartoons. And ordinary Muslims may believe dogs to be unclean, but it doesn't follow that they regard stories of dogs loyal to their masters to be sinful or hostile.

The rest of us shouldn't assume airily that they hold these absurd views. There are two real villains in these stories - but they're hiding in the wings.

First, there are the Islamist radicals who invent or exploit most of these trivial "outrages" to sow irritation among the majority and fear among the Muslim community. Not all of these stories are trivial, to be sure. Last year, a British teacher in Sudan was imprisoned and threatened with execution by Sudanese mobs because she had innocently named a teddy bear Mohammed. But none of them are genuine outrages; they're invented to divide us.

The second villains are our own officials in Britain and here. If they were to treat complaints like those in Tayside with robust contempt, the complaints would peter out, the Muslim community would feel less isolated - and the ordinary public wouldn't get needlessly steamed up.

Instead, they've been miseducated to see Islamophobia, xeno- phobia, homophobia, racism, sexism and classism under every lamppost. The British bobby, in particular, has had his head stuffed with left-wing cultural anthropology. He no longer thinks his job is to catch criminals; he wants to enforce multiculturalism. But he keeps tripping over his boots when he tries to do so.

After all, who'da thunk that it meant banning photos of cute little doggies? No sensible cop, that's who.




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