Integrating Europe’s Muslims  – Javier Solana

Eiffel Tower: The most recognized landmark of France

Eiffel Tower: The most recognized landmark of France

Source: The Arab News

By Javier Solana,  who is a Spanish physicist and Socialist politician.  He was Secretary General of the Council of the European Union and Secretary-General of the Western European Union and held these posts from October 1999 until December 2009.

Published — Wednesday 28 January 2015

He came from Algeria seeking a better life, anticipating an escape from poverty, oppression, and hopelessness. In Paris, he found a low-skill job and had children and grandchildren. As French citizens, they had the right to an education and health care. But they grew up in the ghettos that ring France’s major cities, surrounded by families like theirs, literally on the margins of society. Unable to integrate fully, they had few opportunities for economic advancement. Paradise was never gained.

This story has been repeated millions of times in the countries of Western Europe, with immigrants and their families ending up poor and excluded. In the worst-case scenario, they are recruited by extremist groups that seem to offer what they are missing: A sense of belonging, identity and purpose. After a lifetime of marginalization, participation in a larger cause can seem worth the lies, self-destruction, and even death that inclusion demands.

Javier Solana

Javier Solana

In the wake of the attack on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris and the thwarting of another attack in Belgium, Europe needs to take a good look at itself. It must recognize that second- and third-generation immigrants are susceptible to the blandishments of terrorist organizations because European citizenship has not translated into social and economic inclusion. If anything, growing inequality — exacerbated by years of crisis — is making the problem worse.

People need hope. They need to believe in a vision, a project that promises a better future for them and their communities. European countries once offered that sense of hope. But the crisis, and the official response to it, has replaced hope with frustration and disillusionment.

This has created fertile ground for anti-immigrant populists and terrorists alike. More than 1,200 French citizens are estimated to have joined the militant cause in Syria, along with 600 from the United Kingdom, 550 from Germany, and 400 from Belgium. Other European countries, including Spain, are experiencing a similar phenomenon. And some European citizens have acted at home.

While intelligence services and police forces must be engaged to prevent attacks, devising an effective strategy to counteract extremist movements requires, first and foremost, understanding what drives them. Western countries must go beyond defending freedom of speech and improving police coordination to develop lasting solutions that address adherents’ economic and social marginalization, while avoiding cultural confrontation and reliance on repression alone.

More fundamentally, such solutions require abandoning the false dichotomy of liberty and security. If security concerns trump basic rights and freedoms, fanaticism will have scored a victory; and the same thing will happen if expressions of Islamophobia and xenophobia increase.

A week after the Paris attacks, German Chancellor Angela Merkel reiterated the sentiment expressed by former President Christian Wulff in 2010: standing beside Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, Merkel declared that Islam is as much a part of Germany as Judaism and Christianity. This statement represents the right way forward. Muslim immigrants, whether first-, second-, or third-generation, must be able to integrate fully into European society, gaining the same opportunities as Europe’s other residents and citizens.

That principle should be applied at the global level as well, through the establishment of an inclusive framework that fosters development — and encourages the rejection of fanaticism — in the Muslim world. The aggressive fundamentalism and infighting that held down Christian societies for centuries has been relegated to the past, and that is where it must remain.

The West must recognize that, as Afghanistan and Iraq have shown, conflict in the Arab world cannot be resolved through foreign military intervention. The only way to restore order and spur progress in the region is by empowering moderate Muslims, so that they can triumph over the forces of radicalism and violence. The West’s role is to identify them and offer them acceptance and support. This lesson should be applied both abroad and at home.


Suggested Reading

Australia senate appoints first Muslim woman amid race row

Europeans’ Attitude Towards the Muslims: The Glass is More than Half Full

Populism in Europe rooted in Islamophobia

75% Reject Islamophobia in Australia

How Islam Taught Medieval Christian Europe Religious and Political Tolerance

Assimilating the 44 Million Muslims in Europe; A Collection of Articles

Building the Case for Loving Co-existence of All Religions in Europe

Insights to Tackle Islamophobia in Europe

Today is the Anniversary of Goethe – Was He a Muslim?


6 replies

  1. I can relate to some extent to the writer. But it starts from home. Ahmedis also live in western countries, but we (I) never felt marginalized by the society. Because we became part of the society by integrating and leaving the bad aspects of society outside our homes. We interact with the society and take initiatives and open up to them about who we are and what Islam is all about, instead of living in our self made cocoons and expecting others to see whats going on inside.

  2. @Khalid Shaikh; Well said! I will give you an example from here in the US: I have been taking my younger brother to a cancer institute in Detroit for treatment. The first trip we were escorted by two young men from the entrance to the appropriate clinic. They were both Muslims and obviously born here in the US by their manner of speech (American accents). One, named Muhammad, is a college student (I asked him) and was a volunteer at the center as his mother was treated there and he felt compelled to ‘give back’, he told me. He is as much an American as I am whose family roots go back 300 years here. Integration and participation into society is the key. I cared not what his name was, what he looked like, or what his faith is. He is merely a young man doing ‘good works’ because he felt it necessary to do so. I shook his hand and thanked him. There are many Muslims working at the center from the other names I encountered and the women I saw wearing hijabs. Some may be immigrants, some born here. I don’t care. They are all Americans (or working towards being so) and that’s the important issue, i.e. being part of a society that they choose to become one with…

  3. It is a common saying that British schooling is upholding British values of integration, respect, tolerance and equality. But all minority groups find British schooling is the home of institutional racism and British teachers are chicken racist. This is one of the many reasons why they would like to see their children attending their own schools with their own teachers. Muslim community started setting up school in the 80s and I set up the first Muslim school in 1981 and now there are 180 Muslim schools and only 18 are state funded. Sikh and Hindu communities have set up their own schools. Now Black community is thinking of setting up schools with their own teachers.

    There is much hullabaloo about integration. The purpose is foul i.e. just to target Muslims. Nothing is being said about the Hindus or Sikhs who just like Muslims wish to preserve their thousands of year old tried and tested culture. About integration one can ask as to which society is integrated in Britain? If Britain is so integrated then why do we see the ” Clash of civilisations” spill out in the streets of British cities in most violent form. We can see or hear about the misdeeds of such civilisation, during almost every weekend, in many towns and cities of Britain.

    British newspapers have begun to read like a highlights reel of what many perceive as an irreversible trend in Britain: The attacks on the London Transport in 2005 by British-born nationals, the brutal killing of Lee Rigby in 2013 by converted and radicalized Muslims of Nigerian descent, the heart breaking beheading of journalist James Foley and others by a British-accented militant (a jihadist known as “John the Beatle”) along with an estimated 500 other Britons fighting for ISIL in Syria, not to mention almost two dozen women emigrating to become jihadi brides. Even domestic institutions seem to be vulnerable; Operation Trojan Horse revealed a detailed plan by hard line Muslim community leaders in Birmingham to remove head teachers hostile to Islamic principles in city schools. This pattern is not an escalation but – perhaps more troubling – reflects the continuation of a malignant and deep-seated problem: not all citizens of free societies value freedom, especially freedom for others.

    Muslim youth are born into British society and socialized in British schools, or naturalized after years of residence and integration, but endure frustrating barriers to socioeconomic mobility and face discrimination as members of an ethnic minority. And though a majority identify as British, a 2006 Pew survey shows how British Muslims maintain attitudes of disaffection and alienation more than Muslims in other European countries. Opportunistic imams can then mobilize a minority of impressionable youth toward a fundamental practice of religion. In fact, former Foreign Office Minister Kim Howells directly attributes the threat from British-born Islamic State militants in Syria and Iraq to not dealing with their radicalization in the U.K.

    Across Europe, the anti-Muslim sentiment has reached a boiling point. There was a recent spate of violent attacks in Germany, according to a Washington Post story, when right-wing conservatives protesting Islamic fundamentalism in Cologne clashed with police while waving German flags and screaming “foreigners out!” Dozens were injured. In Paris, a Muslim woman wearing traditional clothing was kicked out of a performance at the Opera Bastille. And in Denmark, some politicians are calling for a ban on Muslim immigrants from entering the country.

    “The stigma against Muslims is just getting worse, and I have considered moving across the border to Sweden,” 21-year-old Alisiv Ceran told the newspaper. “I feel that here, they are saying that integration means forgetting your religious values. I don’t agree with that.”

    During colonial days, British did not follow local customs or culture. They didn’t exactly “go native”. They even forced the native Americans and native Australian to adopt all the evils of their culture and customs. They are still the underdogs of American and Australian societies. At least Australian Prime Minister apologised to the natives for their evil deeds. Brits living in Spain and France don’t even bother learning the language of the new adopted country. Frankly suggesting that people don’t want to become “British” they should move elsewhere is extremely irritating. Immigrants are in UK because they are needed, it was never an act of charity. Without migration, British economy and society will bleed to death. British culture and customs will undoubtedly change as it has for millennium due to immigration. I am not quite sure why Brits would be worried about that.

    Of course Multiculturalism has failed.

    The Irish hate the English

    The Scots hate the English & the Welsh hate The English.

    So what do you expect from people from other nations.

    Whilst I agree that you have an immigration problem in this country, I don’t think that this is your main problem. Your main problem is the disintegration of the family unit and the loveless binge drinking environment that your children are growing up in! NEVER in my life have I seen another country where people so seldom give their children a hug and a kiss like in this country and NEVER in my life have I seen another country where there are so many children from different fathers growing up in single parent households! Before you tackle the immigration problem (at least the immigrants LOVE their kids) you should first look at yourselves!

    Why complain when it’s the British who first migrated into other lands enslaving those people? When it is a question on immigration, the feelings are so strong. I wonder why. Serves you right! Britain! When the British colonised the world, it was ok. But now when people from the former colonies and from other countries come to Britain, its not ok?

    Look into history and then you can cry because what goes around comes around. Don’t see why people have such a problem with mass immigration? It enriches our culture and boosts the economy! We have to stop looking at these people as immigrants and think of them as human beings. The immigrants are not to blame because they were invited and welcomed here by our successive government. We have quite large Spanish , French and Italian communities in Brighton and I believe it really enhances the place and adds to diversity of the City. Globalisation is here to stay. Britain colonised & some would say civilised half the world. It’s called Karma. Not so long ago British people colonized Asia, living like kings while locals suffering to no end. At least, these migrants do not enslave the Britons, so stop whining please.

    The British government is again asking us ,Muslims, to adopt the” British values” and to integrate fully into the British way of life. But many so called “British values” are not acceptable to us. We would like to confirm again that we practising Muslim believers will never ever adopt or integrate into all these “destructive and immoral values”:

    -Sexual immorality, sleeping around,affairs,adultery and fornication,illegitimacy,teenage pregnancy, immoral sex education,pills and condoms and Morning after-pill to every one? ( the contraceptive mentality).

    -Sexually immoral programmes and messages daily on all TV and many radio channels and in magazines and newspapers.

    – The legalisation of homosexuality and homosexual practices(gays and lesbians).

    -the culture of death: killing every day 600 innocent unborn babies through abortion. And the killing of our old sick patients after stopping food and fluid to make them die from starvation and dehydration(Mental capacity Bill).

    -Alcoholic drinks and drug abuse which are causing hellish problems in all sectors in our society.

    -Yob culture

    -Gender-bending: women becoming like men and vice versa.

    -Disrespect for motherhood and full time mothers.

    -Broken families and neglect of elderly parents who are suffering and dying alone.

    -Unjust campaign of “Death and destruction” on concocted pretext.

    Let us all: people from all faiths(Islam, Christianity…) and from all nationalities: ADOPT FULLY THE DIVINE HUMANE SAFE HEALTHY AND ECONOMICALLY BENEFICIAL VALUES :

    *Morality, Chastity and fidelity, heterosexuality.

    *Clean safe media.

    *The Sacredness of life/Culture of life(no abortion, no assisted suicide and no Euthanasia).

    *Avoidance of poisons(alcohol and drugs).

    *Clear,natural,healthy,different genders, procreation/full time mothers.

    *Healthy, stable extended families with care and love to our weak old parents.

    *Peace, not wars.

    *No occupation of any one else’s land.

    Thank GOD, our Christian friends and believers and many other sensible people in our society, do share with us almost all these DIVINE values.

    We know it’s right, so let’s do it.

    The chairman of the Social Integration Commission has said that Muslim schools in the UK practice religious segregation. “The British are increasingly rejecting multiculturalism and choosing to socialise only with people like themselves.” That will surprise nobody with an ounce of common sense. It is simply human nature, and the same the world over. And that is why the Left is always doomed to failure, as the Leftist impulse is contrary to human nature. And that is why the Left always resorts to force in the end. Note the ‘solution suggested by the idiotic Taylor; force children to play. Being a Muslim in British schools can be very confusing. Muslim children have three identities: their British identity, their religious identity and an identity stems from their ethnic roots. Muslim pupils feel alienated in schools because non-Muslims peers and teachers do not understand the importance of their faith and languages. My letter published in the TES of August 1972 highlighted the issue of Identity Crises.
    Muslim community would like to protect their children from the evils of the western society.

    Indiscipline, incivility, binge drinking, drug addiction, gun and knife crimes, teenage pregnancies and abortion are part and parcel of British schooling. These are the reasons why majority of Muslim parents would like to send their children to Muslim schools with Muslim teachers as role models during their developmental periods. Only less than 5% attend Muslim schools and more than 95% keep on attending state and church schools to be mis-educated and de-educated by non-Muslim monolingual teachers.

    The shocking level of targeting of the Muslim community of Birmingham is indicative of the normalisation of the dehumanisation of the Muslims of Britain. Under the pretext of “extremism”, criminal undemocratic and unethical abuse of public institutions and the Muslims of the UK can occur without much accountability. This pervasive attitude, especially amongst officials like Michael Gove needs to change. Our schools are truly trying to develop our children to do well at schools so later in life they are able to stand on their own two feet, but if we stop our schools from doing this than our country will have up rise of unemployment, benefit issues, crime levels high, I think its time for you apologize and allow practitioners to do their job right.

    It is easy to say” Go back to where you came from”, but do not forget that British Muslims are actually born and educated here. They are in the unenviable position of trying to combine two different worlds. That is no easy. We do not want to change you lot but we would like to see our children getting balanced Islamic education along with National Curriculum. We would like our children to learn and be well versed in standard English to follow the National Curriculum and go for higher studies and research to serve humanity. At the same time we would like our children to learn and be well versed in Arabic, Urdu and other community languages to keep in touch with their cultural roots and enjoy the beauty of their literature and poetry. A Muslim is a citizen of this tiny global village. He/she does not want to become notoriously monolingual Brit. Bilingualism is an asset but British schooling regards it as a problem.

    We live in a shrunken world and millions of people are on the move; one of our biggest challenges is how we learn to live in proximity to difference – different skin colours, different beliefs and different way of life. According to a study by COMPASS, Muslims born and educated were given the impression of outsiders. The perception among Muslims is that they are unwelcome in Britain is undermining efforts to help them integrate into wider society. Most of them say that they have experienced race discrimination and religious prejudice. Muslims and Islam is promoted a fundamentalist and separatist by the western elite, which have negative impact on community and social cohesion. The number of racist incidents occurring in London Borough of Redbridge’s schools have reached their highest levels since record begin.

    None of 7/7 bombers and British Muslim youths who are in Syria and Iraq are the product of Muslim schools. They are the product of British schooling which is the home of institutional racism with chicken racist native teachers. It is absurd to believe that Muslim schools, Imams and Masajid teach Muslim children anti-Semitic, homophobic and anti-western views. It is dangerously deceptive and misleading to address text books and discuss them out of their historical, cultural and linguistic context. It is not wrong to teach children that Jews are committing the same cruelty in Palestine what German did to them before or during Second World War. It is not wrong to teach children that anti-social behaviour, drinking, drugs, homosexuality, sex before marriage, teenage pregnancies and abortions are western values and Islam is against all such sins. This does not mean that Muslim schools teach children to hate westerners, Jews and homosexuals.

    The British establishment is wrong in thinking that Imams are to blame for extremism. Imams are not solution to the problem for extremism. Extremism is nothing to do with Imams. Extremism is not created from abroad, it is coming from within. Britain fails to help Muslim communities feel part of British society. Race trouble is being predicted by the Daily Express, because of an ethnic boom in UK major cities. Muslim communities need imams for the solutions of their needs and demands in their own native languages. Muslim parents would like to see their children well versed in Standard English and to go for higher studies and research to serve humanity. The fact is that majority of Muslim children leave schools with low grades because monolingual teachers are not capable to teach Standard English to bilingual Muslim children. A Muslim is a citizen of this tiny global village. He/she does not want to become notoriously monolingual Brit.

    Terrorism and sexual grooming is nothing to do with Masajid, Imams and Muslim schools. Those Muslim youths who have been involved in terrorism and sexual grooming are the product of western education system which makes a man stupid, selfish and corrupt. They find themselves cut off from their cultural heritage, literature and poetry. They suffer from identity crises and I blame British schooling.

    When one looks at the profiles of the Westerners who join Jihadist groups in Syria, Iraq or elsewhere, they are usually middle class and not among the most socioeconomically, educationally, etc. deprived segments of those populations. For many European Muslims, the “sense of belonging”, though (their sense of integration) can be quite disconnected from their actual economic situation, and all of us here with Euro connections know Muslims, both from immigrant and native backgrounds (converts etc.), who on the surface live a comfortable and even privileged, “successful” and happy life (university degrees, a nice house, a good job, a nice family, great kids who do well at school, etc.) yet will tell you “there is no place for us in this country”. Then they will start dreaming about leaving for a supposedly better place, usually the US or the UK (though that “British Dream” of a European Islam-friendly haven is closing fast too, now), Saudi Arabia, etc. And quite a few actually leave. Some will talk about going to Palestine and fight to protect their “brothers and sisters” from Jewish aggression, etc.

    I never expected to say this, but I am beginning to feel that ‘integration’ is not a good thing at all. It just seems to be a way of punishing the native English, Welsh, Irish and Scottish people of these islands and destroying their culture(s). I note that people who can afford it are moving out into the ‘countryside’ – such as it is, in order to get their children into schools that still have a British and Christian ethos. If integration was a good thing it would have happened already and the rich and powerful would be living in the most ‘enriched’ areas. Only the clowns in Westminster could possibly envisage non Muslim British parents willingly wanting to send their children to an Islamic school. It’s not something people want and it’s not something we’ve ever voted for. It is a non British culture and should not be something that we encourage since encouraging a foreign culture at the expensive of the native culture is inherently racist against the indigenous population and racism is by the law, a crime.

    Identity is crucial for mental, emotional and personality development. Muslim children need state funded Muslim schools with Muslim teachers for the development of Islamic Identity as well as to raise standard of education to compete with the rest of the population. There are over 170 Muslim schools and only 12 are state funded. There are hundreds of state schools where Muslim pupils are in majority, in my opinion such schools may be opted out as Muslim Academies. There are already state schools and LEAs under the management of private companies and my proposal is in accordance with the law of the land. Extra funding, specialist schools and city academies are not going to help Muslim children to raise their standard of education and to develop Islamic Identity.

  4. I really think that contributors here miss the point and see the problems only from their perspective, meaning they want to change the countries they have moved to and change to accommodate their numbers and cultures. That is totally unrealistic and unreasonable. Indigenous folk have rights too, but that seems to be overlooked. We know how things were in colonial times, and that is not an example we want to follow. The situation is heaving with frustration from people who are expected to accommodate and change their lifestyles for newcomers, and not just the odd few, but so many that it has become totally unacceptable. Europeans have their own identities, which they have a right to preserve, and at the moment they are being threatened. Of course there are many who are sympathetic to the plight of immigrants and refugees, but they should not be there in the first place, especially on such a scale.We do have to blame the West for much of what has happened in the Middle East and other places around the globe, and I hope that many of those people will be able to return to their native lands and develop there and live according to their customs. That is reasonable. Then we can take migrants as needed. An open-door policy is not the answer. America and Australia are somewhat different to Europe, since both are made up of recent immigrants to those countries, and they should be more flexible. But even so, they have sensibly established a quota system. That’s the only way to go.

    • Who is saying locals should ‘change their life style for foreigners’? Do you call it a ‘change of life style’ when locals should learn to whom to serve pork sausages and to whom not to serve pork sausages?

  5. I would like to hope that if I went to visit someone, I would be asked about my food preferences. Many people have food allergies, and others don’t eat certain things. I had been vegetarian for many years, and more recently became vegan, therefore don’t eat any meat – for ethical reasons, because I don’t believe in killing, therefore pork sausages are only one consideration, sheep and chickens, etc are also included. Killing is killing whichever animal is involved.

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