Opinion

If Bobby Jindal wants to preach forced American assimilation, he should visit Brooklyn

The Louisiana governor has some ideas about living in America. Brooklynites might tell him to fuhgeddaboutit.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) is out promoting his idea for how to nip homegrown Islamist terrorism in the bud. He has been spreading his message in Europe and the U.S., on TV, radio programs, and even Christian revival gatherings.

Terrorism is despicable, and there are never enough good ideas on how to prevent it. Sadly, Jindal's proposed course of action isn't serious; it's cynical and political, and it falls apart with an imaginary trip to New York's outer boroughs.

His big idea? Jindal summed it up on Sunday's This Week, telling ABC host George Stephanopoulos: "People who come into our country need to integrate, need to assimilate."

Jindal made similar comments a week earlier in London, claiming that Europe has "no-go zones" where police and non-Muslims aren't welcome and don't enter. (The conservative fixation on non-existent no-go zones has since become something of an international joke.)

The Louisiana governor's spiel is full of wobbly straw men and self-consciously defensive warnings about how he's about to be "politically incorrect," and you can read it in its entirety at his official governor's office site.

Jindal's plan has two big parts. The first is to blame "Muslim leaders" for not condemning terrorism enough. "I have no interest in defaming any religion, nor do I have any interest in assigning the maniacal acts of radical Islamists to millions of Muslims worldwide," he says, but "Islam has a problem," and "they need to deal with it" by, among other things, warning jihadists that "they are murderers who are going to hell."

Jindal also has some ideas for non-Muslim leaders: Make immigrants assimilate or leave.

"There is a way of thinking by many on the Left in America, which disturbs me greatly," Jindal says: "The notion that assimilation is not necessary or even preferable." Liberals, he adds, "think it is unenlightened, discriminatory, and even racist to expect immigrants to endorse and assimilate into the culture in their new country. This is complete rubbish."

Jindal says he believes that religious and ethnic groups make America stronger when they come to embrace America's culture and values. But not every group qualifies:

Are they coming to be set apart, are they unwilling to assimilate, do they have their own laws they want to establish, do they fundamentally disagree with your political culture? Therein lies the difference between immigration and invasion....

To be clear — I am not suggesting for one second that people should be shy or embarrassed about their ethnic heritage. But I am explicitly saying that it is completely reasonable for nations to discriminate between allowing people into their country who want to embrace their culture, or allowing people into their country who want to destroy their culture, or establish a separate culture within. [Jindal]

Well, off the top of my head, I can think of a couple of groups in the United States that have established "a separate culture within" America, probably "fundamentally disagree" with America's "political culture," and are still an integral part of America's rich cultural and religious tapestry.

The Amish communities in Pennsylvania and Ohio, for example, don't drive cars, use smartphones, or allow their members to wear synthetic fabrics. Jehovah's Witnesses consider themselves a global movement and don't serve in the U.S. armed forces or salute or pledge allegiance to the American flag; they also don't accept blood transfusions, or celebrate Christmas or birthdays. And is Jindal really going to tell the Cajun and Creole communities in his home state to stop speaking Louisiana French?

If Jindal is serious about his idea, though, I have a challenge for him: Go to Brooklyn.

In Williamsburg, in Crown Heights, in Borough Park, there are sizable and growing insular communities, or "courts," of ultra-orthodox Hasidic Jews. They have their own customs, language (Yiddish), 19th-century style of dress, political and religious leaders, and, in some instances, laws. Women typically don't have the same rights as men. The Hasidic communities of Brooklyn and elsewhere in New York and New Jersey have not assimilated to American culture.

I'm guessing Jindal wouldn't make a big stink about getting them to give up their rich and distinct culture.

It's strange, because in his very same speeches and interviews, Jindal makes rousing remarks about American-style freedom. "This is a place where you have freedom of self-determination, freedom of religious liberty, freedom of speech," he told the Family Research Council's Washington Watch radio program on Monday.

In his Washington Watch interview (you can listen at BuzzFeed), Jindal also said this:

If someone wants to come here and change our fundamental culture and our values, if they want to come here and they want to set up their own culture and values, that's not immigration, that's really invasion if you're honest about it. Of course, the politically correct crowd when you say things like that, they'll call you racist, but this is a particular threat we face. And if we're not serious about this we're going to see more lone wolf actors. We're gonna see more folks come into our country just like you've seen in other countries — the horrific shootings in Paris. [Jindal]

I'm not going to call Jindal racist. I'm just going to note that out of America's vast melting pot, only one religious group is being singled out for Jindal's ire.

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