Tolerance, Diversity, or Integration: Time to Choose
by Dr. Robert D. Crane
Chancellor Angela Merkel declared on October 17th, 2010, that Germany’s attempts to build a multicultural society had “utterly failed”. According to UP’s Melissa Eddy and Kerstin Sopke, her new exclusionary policies are feeding a growing debate over how to deal with the millions of foreigners who call the country home.
Chancellor Merkel told a meeting of young members of her conservative Christian Democratic Union that while immigrants are welcome in Germany, they must learn the language and accept the country’s cultural norms - sounding a note heard increasingly across Europe as it battles an economic slump and worries about homegrown terrorism.
Many immigrants speak little or no German, work in low paying jobs or live off of government handouts at the same time the country faces an aging population and a shortage of highly skilled workers.
“Germany needs more qualified immigration to maintain its economic advantage and deal with the demographic developments,” Volker Beck, a lawmaker with the opposition Greens party said Sunday.
Merkel acknowledged in her Saturday comments that then-West Germany in the 1960s opened its doors to Turkish laborers who helped the nation rebuild from the ruins of World War II. Yet German politicians believed those laborers would eventually return home. Instead, many have stayed and their children’s children are now starting families here but remain emotionally in foreign ghettos. Reportedly the majority of school children in Munich’s “inner city” are Turkish, and they cheer for Turkish athletes in any competition with Germany.
Merkel says that tolerance and diversity together spell societal and civilizational failure. Tolerance is a negative concept that means little more than that “I won’t kill you yet”. Diversity means “You’re here, I can’t stand you, but I can’t do anything about it”. Instead Merkel now advocates what properly is called pluralism, whereby foreigners should integrate or go home. A foreigner is anyone who is culturally estranged, and integration is when everyone tries to bring the best of all religions together within the national context.
Europe as a secularist culture may be a hopeless case for integration. Unless Tariq Ramadan and his peers can effectively lead the movement to transform what passes for a culturally-bound Islam into a genuine religion, the only possible outcome eventually will be ethnic cleansing.
Restricting immigration is not sufficient. Providing incentives for emigration is also essential, like new residency requirements, such as demonstrated fluency in the local language and knowledge of the regional history for everyone under thirty. The same should apply immediately to all imams. This should eliminate most of the sociophobes within a single generation.
America, on the other hand, as a religious culture is ideally suited for integration of all peoples in the pursuit of America’s founding principles of peace, prosperity, and freedom through faith-based compassionate justice. The rise of native-born, fully integrated Muslims to leadership positions both among Muslims and throughout America will proceed naturally, because even the foreign-born leaders advocate this, most of whom already are fully integrated.
Merkel’s new approach is only one side of the story. There is one obvious but often neglected issue in issues of both personal and group self-determination. The first is the need to distinguish between assimilation, which is cultural suicide, and integration. Integration requires access for all groups in society to participate in the national debate on issues that affect them all. No religious groups, whether Christian, Muslim, or Jewish, can assimilate to a secular society imposed by the modern state without denying their core identity. Similarly, no group of any kind can survive without integrating.
The question then becomes whether integration as the core of pluralism is a two-way street. Last December 15th, Jeremy Henzell Thomas attended the launch at City Hall in London of an important report on Muslims in Europe, prepared by the Open Society Institute and the British Council (http://www.soros.org/initiatives/home/articles_publications/publications/muslims-europe-20091215). This study concluded that the majority of Muslims in Europe want to integrate, but “they are impeded in so doing by discrimination, Islamophobia, racism, and other manifestations of hostility and prejudice”.
A perhaps a unique case is America, which as a religious culture is ideally suited for integration of all peoples in the pursuit of America’s founding principles of peace, prosperity, and freedom through faith-based compassionate justice. The rise of native-born, fully integrated Muslims to leadership positions among Muslims and throughout America has been proceeding naturally, because even the foreign-born leaders advocate this, most of whom already are fully integrated.
Whether this process will continue in America, however, depends on two factors. The first is the extent to which American policy makers fails to practice the teachings of its Founders, especially in foreign policy. The second is the future of Islamophobia, which is based on an existential fear of global chaos and of one’s own identity diminution, both of which can produce extremism and terroristic counter-terrorism in American foreign policy.
These two politically powerful emotions lend themselves to political exploitation through the demonization of “the other”, especially the religion of Islam, because of a minority of Muslims who violate all its classical teachings. This demonization alienates the younger generation of Muslims in a vicious circle of cause and effect, thereby creating what conflict theory calls “a self-fulfilling prophecy”.
The most influential solution to such a potential calamity is to recognize that only enlightened Muslims familiar with their classical normative jurisprudence on human responsibilities and human rights can counter the radicalization process among Muslims, which begins with various degrees of exclusivist extremism and ends up in terrorism.
As Daniel Pipes put it in connection with Cordoba House, also known by Islamophobes as the Ground-Zero Mosque, the best way to support those who fear the hatefilled radicalization that seems to be endemic all over the world is to support the enlightened Muslims’ understanding of their own religion, because only they can marginalize the extremists in their midst and join their Christian and Jewish peers in a common cause.