Integrating Politically Hot Immigrants in Europe: How Do We Do It?
The tri-generation model of immigrant assimilation, developed in Chicago and explained by Silverstein (2005, 374), states that immigrants in Europe fit largely into four groups: (1) “nomadic” migrants, (2) “laborers” searching for work that they can not find at home, (3) refugees “uprooted” unwillingly from their homelands, or (4) “hybrid” second generation youth “caught between two cultures.” In only three generations, Silverstein maintains, real European integration for all of these immigrant classes occurs naturally. His claim is as follows: the first generation, upon moving to a European nation will likely cluster with other similar immigrants and segregate themselves from the new country in which they live. Their children will become hybrid youth, sharing ties to both their parents’ heritage and the country in which they live, and their children's children will fully assimilate into Western society. This seemingly systematic process of immigrant integration is helpful, but insufficient to ‘cure’ the current crisis of immigration in Europe. According to Sarah Spencer of the Migration Policy Institute (2003, 1), “some 13-14 million third-country nationals live in the EU,” thus accounting for four percent of the population of Europe. Today, a majority of the immigrants in France, Germany and in the UK are Muslim (Leiken 2005, 1). Will Muslims follow the integration pattern Silverstein has outlined? In 2005 the total number of Muslims in Europe was between 15 and 20 million, and according to the National Intelligence Council’s projection that number will double by 2025 (2005, 1). How do these nations effectively integrate new immigrants that come from such a politically hot/different background? They do not share a common belief in deity, human rights, holidays, the purpose of life, or even the rule of law. To many, no matter where they reside, they are Muslim first and foremost. Yet, at present, Europeans share no consensus or strategy on Muslim integration. Europeans do not share common views on both the exact goals of integration and the most appropriate strategies to achieve it.
In this paper I will argue that the greatest challenge to integrating non-European immigrants into various European societies is the clash of two major civilizations. As substantial amounts of Muslim immigrants move to Europe, most guard with zeal their identity and loyalty to the Islamic world, considering it of equal or greater importance than the secularized, democratic Western world and culture. To explain my point I will first address the increasing number of Muslim immigrants from Northern Africa as well as the Middle East in Europe. Secondly, I will discuss how the culture of Islamic immigrants conflicts with the world weary cultures of France, Britain, and Germany. Finally, I will point out that language barriers, a lack of unified authority in defense of a European national identity, and radicalism are major obstacles to integrating non-European immigrants into traditional European societies.
There is growing number of Muslim immigrants from Northern Africa as well as the Middle East in Europe. “Most projections seem to agree that the number of Muslims worldwide will increase twice as fast as that of non-Muslims and then level off.” (Laqueur 2012, 198). Since the World Wars ended, immigration into Western European societies has been increasing (Dancygier 2010, 11). Particularly, the flow of immigration from North Africa, Eastern Europe, and the Middle East to France, Germany and Great Britain continues. As political situations have changed and at times intensified, integrating incoming outsiders is not simple. Often Immigrants prefer above all else to live in communities where they can rely on the support of social networks (2010, 297). London, Berlin, and Paris are each home to large communities of Muslim immigrants (Laqueur 2011, 209), and the Muslim sections of each city are often considered dangerous. In France the number of mosques has multiplied by almost 10 times from 20 years ago (2011, 207). In Birmingham, England’s second largest city, there are now more mosques than churches, and Germany has quadrupled its number of mosques since the 1980s (2011, 207-208).
But as “the mosque is replaced with the street gang” and “spiritual impulses by political religion”, it is very apparent that Europe can do a better job integrating new Europeans with indigenous ones. (2011, 207). This “political religion” occurs as the influx of mosques in Western European countries provides greater space for political Muslim communities to grow. The life inside the mosques are sheltered from Western ideas and culture. “The sites around Paris where many of the French Muslim immigrants live and that exploded in November 2005 were uncomfortable and aesthetically displeasing, but they are not slums like the London East End of the past. Yet it was precisely in these quarters that…an ‘anti-society’ grew up, infused with a burning hatred of the other France, with deep distrust and ‘alienation’” (2011, 212).
Unfortunately, the communitarian culture of Islamic immigrants conflicts with the wearying cultures of France, Britain, and Germany. France is known for laïcity and secularism (Klausen 2005, 112); this is a country where the liberty to not believe is probably more important than the liberty to believe (Roy 2007, 88). A recent survey of Muslims in France revealed that only 36 percent of those who identified as Muslim said they were strictly observant of their religion (Laqueur 2011, 209). The fact that a far larger percentage observed individual commandments such as fasting during Ramadan, coupled with this low 36% of devout Muslims, gives us an idea of the cultural implications of Islam in France (2011, 209). It is difficult for any religion to maintain a high number of faithful attendees in France. Because of this, France and other Western European nations see a new kind of Islam: version of Islam that must be politically and culturally unified, but is clearly slacking in religious mosque attendance. “Many of the problems experienced by Muslims...are the product of European frameworks for the exercise of religion” (Klausen 2005, 108). In England “a government report projected Britain would have 11 million more people by 2031—an increase of 18 percent—and by one estimate 69 percent of the growth would come from immigrants and their children” (Shorto 2008). Because of this radical change in British demographics, Liam Byrne, Britain’s former immigration minister, called seven years ago for ‘radical action’ to manage the system. In France, seven to fifteen percent of the total population is Muslim, most of whom are immigrants from North Africa and the Middle East (Leiken 2005, 1). Germany, another country where secularism reigns supreme, is not far behind the French in terms of its Muslim population, and Britain is the country in Europe with the fifth most Muslims (2005, 1).
The culture clash emanating from two civilizations that cannot adequately communicate with one another is seen in the streets. Radical Islamic dialogue has found its place inside the communitarian, low class sections of some European cities (Judt 2005, 34). “The head of the London metropolitan police made it know that 80 percent of the crime committed on the London underground was carried out by immigrants from Africa” (Laqueur 2011, 216). Some younger Muslims reject the minority status “to which their parents acquiesced” and are abducted voluntarily by jihadist movements (Leiken 2005, 2). Radical jihadists exist in Europe either as first generation outsiders who come to Europe expressly to carry out jihad or as second or third generation insiders, born in Europe, who find appeal in a radical jihadist message and attempt to carry it out (2005, 4). Some are radical imams on stipends from Saudia Arabia (2005, 4). Jihadist networks span across Europe from Poland to Portugal” (2005, 1). “The head of Berlin Police announced that one out of three young immigrants in [the] city had a criminal record. Such statistics mentioning ethnic or religious background are forbidden in France, but the high number of young Muslims in French prisons is no secret” (Laqueur 2011, 216).
Unlike Muslims, the average European does not have a set code or ideology to live by; there is not one book like the Qur’an that exists to unite secular Europe. Secular Europeans have the news, sports teams, arts, science and progress. In France, commonly read literature, like Candide or Le Petit Prince, and in England, works by Shakespeare and Dickens offer a place for fraternal understanding among compatriots. Does this sort of unity exist on the larger scale of Europe? If there is no voice of authority being heard loudly enough to unify Europeans to common ideals, will Europeans be successful in being ‘united in diversity’ (McCormick 2010), or will one of the diverse factions of Europe take charge of Europe’s identity? For some, the EU is the voice that could go farther to create this identity for Europeans, and for some the EU has already gone too far.
If Turkey, along with its 83 million Muslims, joins the EU, the percentage of Muslims in Europe could rise to 17% (Esposito and Dahlia 2007, 139-140). It’s easy for some to say let’s stop the flow of immigration to maintain our traditional European cultures. However, if one primarily Muslim country joins the EU, it radically changes the identity of the whole EU and would require immediate action to combine this new force with traditional Europeans. This debate goes hand-in-hand with immigration. Some European citizens fear the idea that “Eurabia" is a reality. Algerian and Libyan leaders speak of the “impending Muslim majority in Europe” (Laqueur 2011, 235-236). They use faulty demographic data, but still their voices impact the minds of their constituents (2011, 235-236). The uneducated, fearful, and prejudiced among immigrants and the far right wing of politics are usually the first to take these kinds of claims seriously. “Immigration touches all sorts of raw nerves, forcing debates about cultural identity, citizenship tests, national canons, terrorism and tolerance, religious versus secular values.” (Shorto 2008, packet-552). Fear is invoked as a reason to attack another scapegoat group, and it is also used to defend the prejudice actions of a group.
Moreover, miscommunication can also come from the fact that different languages are being spoken. Language barriers create problems for integrating and educating non-European immigrants. The culture of many Islamists forbids them from learning too much from Western societies according to Laqueur (2011, 213). He says that language skills are low in Germany partly because Muslim boys are sent to a madrassa (religious schools where the Qur’an is taught), but they are not encouraged to study other subjects. Some Muslim girls are actually forbidden to go to any school or university beyond age 16 because of concerns that they might be exposed to “undesirable influences” (2011, 213). Laqueur tells the story of a Berlin school that decided, after consultation with students and parents, to insist on the use of German as the sole language of instruction at school. He writes, “it came under heavy attack by the Turkish media, even though most pupils and their parents favored it” (2011, 213). Even some well-meaning locals were upset about the school’s decision. Yet, really, how will a young generation advance socially and culturally if it does not master the language of business and intellectualism within a community? Another difficulty for immigrants is that they often do not share a common language with other immigrants. Other than France, they have no common language (2011, 207). “Many teachers fail to impose their authority, because if they dare to punish pupils for misbehavior or make any demands on them, they are accused of racism and discrimination. The streetwise pupils are adept at playing the race card.” (2011, 215)
Radicalism is a major obstacle to positive integration of immigrants in Europe. Both the radical, far right conservatives and radical Islam have a voice that is given far too many ears. According to Esposito and Dahlia, Gallup poll data shows “the problem is not that Islam any more than Christianity or Judaism is the cause of its extremists and terrorists; it’s the political radicalization of religion that creates militant theologies” (2007, 161). This is evidenced by the fact that 9 in 10 Muslims are politically moderate, not radical, and that a majority of Muslims see terrorism/extremism as the part of their society that they admire least (2007, 96). Muslims who say 9-11 was justified, cite political grievances to support their response, not religious justifications (2007, 161).
Part of the problem is that both sides see the other as aggressive and disrespectful. There are 1.3 billion Muslims in the world today, and 91 million (7%) of these are politically radicalized according to Gallup polls. They feel politically dominated, occupied, and disrespected by the West. Only 12% of politically radical Muslims and 17% of the moderate Muslims associate the phrase ‘respecting Islamic values’ with western nations.” Both of these groups rank the West’s ‘disrespect for Islam’ as high on the list of what they most resent (2007, 86-87). The radically conservative right wing groups of Western Europe associate a hatred for their western culture with Islam (2007, 97). Gallup polls reveal that 25% of the politically radicalized group of Muslims have very unfavorable views of France, 26% have very unfavorable views of Germany, and 68% have very unfavorable views of Britain (2007, 82). This information suggests that this animosity does occur on both sides. “The fears on the right are of a continent-wide takeover by third-world hordes—mostly Muslim—…who threaten to transform, if not completely delete, the storied, cherished cultures of Western Europe” (Shorto 2008, packet-544).
It is true that Islam is the fastest growing religion by birthrate in the world. However, radical fear, hate, disillusionment, and prejudice toward any religious group or people is uncalled for and is an obstacle to attaining a peaceful, productive society. Schain points out that “ill-defined and inconsistent policies on entry and integration have poisoned the political dialogue on these issues and have fed and defined support for the radical right” (Schain 2014, 114). Racism and prejudice exist on both sides, they occasionally cause miscommunication, lies, fear, and they are the root of social and political unrest/extremism.
The solution to integrating immigrants into Europe is not going to be easy, and it is not going to be a quick-fix. Europe must consolidate a clash of two civilizations. To do so, it should start with strengthening the national identity of Europe. European nationalism is not a bad thing if Europe is moving in a positive direction. Diversity, scientific progress, individualism, liberty, equality, intellectualism, secularism and fraternity are currently places upon which Europeans can and should stand tall. Next, policy changes that create selective immigration, like in Canada and Australia, would be useful as they could ensure that immigrants with needed vocational skills and experience are the first to be accepted into European countries. “The focus [in Canada and Australia] is on selective immigration—opening the door for those who have knowledge and training that will benefit society” (Shorto 2008, packet-551). Most importantly, Europe can attack radicalism by “promoting contact between people from different religious and cultural backgrounds and building a consensus that racial prejudice is socially unacceptable” (Spencer 2003, 1). As Roy Jenkins of British home security put it, integration is less about forced assimilation, and more about “equal opportunity, accompanied by cultural diversity, in an atmosphere of mutual tolerance” (Schain 2014, 106).
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