In defense – and offense – of Jacinda Ardern

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In the aftermath of the multiple terrorist bombings in Sri Lanka by Islamists targeting Christians and tourists, many a meme on social media attacked the New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern for a supposed hypocrisy. Ardern became known around the world as the caring and compassionate face of Kiwiland after the Christchurch terrorist attack when she covered her hair in solidarity with the Muslim victims and initiated a number of other symbolic initiatives to let the local Islamic population know she’s with them at this tragic time and always, including by broadcasting an Islamic call to prayer on New Zealand radio. Will Ardern now, asked the post-Sri Lanka memes, don a nun’s outfit in solidarity with the murdered Catholics? Will Christian prayers be heard through New Zealand electronic media?

The expected answer was no, which would prove that Ardern and her fellow leftists care more for Muslim than Christian victims of terrorism. But such comparison is fatuous; a case of apples and oranges – or maybe prayer beads and rosaries. The reason why Ardern went to all the lengths she did to wave the multicultural flag was because the anti-Muslim terrorist attack took place in her own country – and while not perpetuated by a local, it was the work of a member of the dominant ANZ Caucasian majority against an immigrant minority. If, for some reason, the victims were Indian, Ardern would have no doubt also wore a (slightly different) head covering to attend the Hindu funeral ceremonies. An attack on an African cultural centre, in turn, would see the Prime Minister adopt a different culturally appropriate attire. The reason Ardern did not pop up on TV in a habit, with a large pectoral cross, while quoting Biblical verses, is the same reason why no other  political figure around the world did in the aftermath of the Easter attacks. The only one it would arguably be appropriate and possibly expected of would have been the Sri Lankan Prime Minister (who in any event didn’t).

That’s as much slack as I will cut Ardern, all in the interest of logic and consistency.

Now for the slack uncut.

When Ardern recently accompanied Prince William on a visit to a hospital in Auckland, she again covered her hair to meet survivors of the attack and their families.

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Now, this is a public hospital – it’s not a mosque and it’s not a religious ceremony like a funeral. This sort of behaviour goes beyond the expected politeness and enters the territory of pandering to a belief that, had it been expressed by anyone else, would have revolted the leftie feminist icon Ardern, namely that women with uncovered hair – or for that matter ankles or elbows – are whores. By playing dress-up apparently whenever she meets Muslims, including in an entirely secular setting, Ardern is playing into and reinforcing niche religious and cultural traditions, not to mention stereotypes (lots of Muslim women around the world do not cover their hair). Not that we did not know this before, but in the minority rankings multiculturalism clearly trumps feminism.

Places of worship are a different matter; abiding their dress rules is a matter of courtesy. Your presence is voluntary and nothing is forcing you to enter if you object to particular requirements. Mosques, of course, are not exceptional in that regard. At least some churches, like St Peter’s in Rome, or for that matter Notre Dame, ask women not to wear sleeveless tops or short dresses inside. When I visited a Sikh temple a few weeks ago, I took off my shoes and socks and donned on an orange headscarf, which made me feel like Peter FitzSimons (i.e. dirty). When in Egypt a few years ago, I likewise took off my shoes and put on crime scene-like feet covers to walk inside mosques. Your god’s house, your god’s rules.

It’s no doubt my white, Judeo-Christian, Euro privilege talking (I might be a migrant, but not the cool kind), but I have always found the multicultural left’s efforts to tip-toe around immigrants and make them feel comfortable to be ridiculous and cringeworthy. I feel like taking the politicians in questions by their shoulders and shaking them (except that would be considered to be an assault): “For God’s sake, it’s your damned country, man/woman/human; it’s for the immigrants to adjust and fit in, not for you to change to accommodate them.” This is a pretty simple deal and has been generally understood by everyone concerned throughout the ages. “When in Rome…”, and all that. Migrants, as well as less permanent visitors, are guests, who at the very least are obliged to follow the local laws. The world does not revolve around you when you shift yourself and your family 10,000 miles. Immigration might or might not have various benefits for the host society (as with everything else in life, it depends on specific circumstances), but by and large you’re not doing anyone an honour and a favour by choosing to settle in their country. In almost every circumstances, you need your new home more than it needs you, and you will benefit more from your new life and circumstances than will your destination benefit from your presence. If you are expecting red carpets and deference to your preferences, you are doing it wrong. As are all those politicians and activists who create such expectations for the migrants in the spirit of “multiculturalism”, “diversity” and “inclusion”. Of course we should be nice to immigrants as we are to others in general, and of course immigrants should be able to eat, wear, worship and do what they like as long as it does not contravene the laws of the land; making tangible or symbolic changes around them to suit them and to make them feel like home – but with better sanitation and a more generous welfare system – it’s not what it’s all about. Immigration and diversity are the means, not the end in themselves, and certainly not absolutely good.

So no, Ardern should not be expected to dress up “Christian” in solidarity with Sri Lankan victims of terrorism. But equally it would be disingenuous to pretend that the left does not have its own hierarchies of worth. After all, we’re told, there is nothing more unjust than treating unequal as equal. Your “privilege” and heritage – your relationship to power, past and present – determines whether you’re good or bad (to borrow a Santa Claus classification), worthy or less worthy in the progressive political calculus. Those “powerless”, “marginalised”, “oppressed” or “weak” are more important in the scheme of things than those deemed dominant – who have already had it too good for too long vis-a-vis and at the expense of everyone else. If you can’t by now identify where a particular gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, religion or socio-economic group fits in in the left world-view, you clearly have been living under the rock for a very long time. Fifty average Frenchmen or Americans gunned down by jihadis might be sad, but fifty Muslims gunned down by a white fascist is an unparalleled tragedy. Unlike Orwell’s pigs, the identarian left doesn’t even pretend any more that we’re all equal.

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