Yvette Espersen was asked by the NYTimes to wax prose on what the Oslo killings meant for the European right wing as it related to immigration. Her response leaves much to be desired:
Historically, people have moved around Europe for thousands of years, and the region and its ethnic groups have, in general, been welcoming and tolerant. During the last 40 years, Europe has gone through a cultural change with the enormous immigration of Islamic people. This change in demographics presents a great challenge to Europeans and what their democratic societies can tolerate. Islamic communities generally do not, as many other religious communities do, assimilate, and many Muslims are demanding accommodations that we view as radical to our way of life.
While she continues on to promote dialogue from all parties, which is always good, the assumptions here are staggering, especially considering that Europe has for the last fifty years been going through something of a miniature version of what America went through for the last two hundred.
- “Historically, people have moved around Europe for thousands of years, and the region and its ethnic groups have, in general, been welcoming and tolerant.“
Yes. Europeans have been somewhat* tolerant of other groups… so long as they’re white and Christian. What is the point of tolerance if you’re only tolerant of your own? Indeed, clan-based heathens have always been excluded as have north Africans of whatever creed, and the wars fought between Christian sects were only bested in savagery by the wars fought between Christianity and non-Christianity. There is no love lost where the ‘alien other’ is concerned, in Europe.
- “This change in demographics presents a great challenge to Europeans and what their democratic societies can tolerate.“
And here I thought the mark of a mature democracy was its ability to defend the rights of the minority over the tyranny of the majority.
- “Islamic communities generally do not, as many other religious communities do, assimilate, and many Muslims are demanding accommodations that we view as radical to our way of life.
As an American who once held a history book, I find that to be a frightfully dubious statement. Indeed, similar statements have, in this country’s short tenure, been said of Catholics – and vicariously, all Latin people – and Jews, and similar has been said as per the impossibility of assimilation of Blacks, American Indians and, quite lately, Latinos. Many, many times have there been attempts to repatriate these out-groups elsewhere.
Furthermore, even of most historical American in-groups, social cohesion of immigrant communities have lasted longer than expected when it came to assimilation. Germantowns, language barriers and all, persisted straight until World War I, with predictable results.
Furthermore, it is the height of hypocrisy to state that the laws of Islam are any special threat to a government when that government is already under siege from the laws of Christianity. I know that in Europe it’s a bit different, but in America I find the bible-thumping evangelists who attempt to get congressional seats far more threatening to the ostensibly secular state than the nascent Muslim communities peppered about the country because, well, those bible-thumping evangelists are equally as scary as Koran-thumping extremists in what they’re saying and yet have a far greater chance of actually getting into office.
I honestly do believe that the problem isn’t anything special about Islam but merely the existence of outsiders, and the “fear” exhibited by these Christian extremists and the conservative constituency that have been voting in right-wing politicians all over Europe are nothing more than bald xenophobia and racism. To say that the solution is to assimilate them as quickly as possible is as to say “your culture is offensive. Please hide it while in polite company,” which is offensive, and were the shoe on the other foot, there’d be an uproar by the same people.
In my humble opinion, assimilation isn’t the key. Just ask the native Americans or African-Americans who adopted Christianity and the western mode of life if they were, by doing so, accepted into the larger culture. Tolerance is the answer, and tolerance comes from understanding and understanding is a natural result of familiarity. Only by education can we stem the hate, which means abandoning this peevish desire to make the alien un-alien through assimilation and instead making the alien un-alien through understanding.
*yes, somewhat – as in, “hey, historically, weren’t most immigrants to America fleeing European religious persecution?”