Friday, June 4, 2010

Some More Thoughts on Immigration...

by Madeleine Kando

If you live in the United States and the word ‘immigrant’ is mentioned, you immediately think ‘Mexican immigrant’ (illegal or otherwise). If you live in Northern Europe, the word ‘immigrant’ is usually associated with Muslim immigrants and Islam.

One excellent source of information that compares Muslim immigrants in America and Europe is an article by Marcia Pally, a Professor at New York University. She argues that in America, Muslim immigrants are part of civil society, while in Europe they tend to be more excluded from it. She goes on to explain why:

She talks of two concept/pairs to compare the two: the secular/pluralist concept and the assimilation/participation concept.

By secular/pluralist she means that a secular society (a society that is not based on religion) can, actually have many religions within in. Americans are more religious than Europeans, but the government and the laws of the land are not religious laws. They are secular laws. Believing in another God (or not believing in any God) doesn’t stop you from getting a good job here.

By Assimilation/Participation she means that immigrants don’t necessarily have to assimilate to the American culture in order for them to participate in it. Case in point: I participate in the economy of the United States (I set up my own business), but I have not totally assimilated to it (I still have very strong European roots and values).

In the United States, you don’t have to assimilate, but once you participate as an immigrant, there is no need to rebel. What would you rebel against? America is used to foreigners. In Europe, because there is less opportunity to participate, there is more violence and immigrants turn towards radical alternatives.

In Europe, there is also more pressure to assimilate (the French government bans the wearing of headscarves in school), but there is less opportunity to participate. If you never meet a person from another culture at work, there is less tolerance for differences. It is ironic that European countries expect more assimilation from their immigrants, but with stronger barriers against participation, they get less of it. Europe prides itself on being a ‘multicultural society’, but immigrants from other cultures have a hard time surviving.

One of the more ridiculous explanations for why immigrants in Europe do not assimilate to Western values is that Europe is not religious any more. So Islam fills the void. The argument goes that Europe is dying, and, supposedly because of a lack of religion, it doesn’t produce enough babies, it lacks moral values, it has become hedonistic etc. Well, I am half European, I am not religious but I do not lack moral values and I have children.

Tell me, which is more important: to be able to participate in the economy of a society or pray to a God every day? To quote Bertold Brecht: ‘Erst kommt das fressen, dan kommt die moral’ (first food, then morals). leave comment here