Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Cultures collide: Muslim immigrants will be expelled from Europe unless they reverse the growing perception of them as a social threat

Cultures collide: Muslim immigrants will be expelled from Europe unless they reverse the growing perception of them as a social threat

unless they reverse the growing perception of them as a social threat

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Young Muslims protest French government policy. French tolerance is waning.
Photograph by : Abid Katib, Getty Images

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Lawrence Solomon, Financial Post
Published: Friday, February 17, 2006

The Muslims refused to assimilate. They were expelled. This was the story in Europe 400 years ago. We are watching the sequel today.

Europeans are rarely welcoming to outsiders, even when the outsiders are blond and blue-eyed and come from the country next door. When the outsiders are un-European, swarthy and Muslim, they are tolerated at best. When some Muslims also insist that Europeans stop acting like Europeans, on pain of death, European tolerance comes to an end.

In the clash of cultures between secular Europeans and extremist Muslims, there can ultimately be no compatibility or compromise, only loss by one side or the other of the absolute values it holds dear. European capitulation on European soil, where they remain the dominant majority, is unlikely: Europeans revel in their liberty to mock religion, to poke fun at sacred cows, to be outrageous, even to offend.

European leaders have reacted to the Muslim upset over the cartoons two ways. Publically and to buy time, they seek to calm the protesters by deploring the abuse of freedom of speech. More significantly, they seek to preserve their societies by legislating Western norms, by tightening or ending immigration from Muslim countries, by enabling the expulsion of radical imans and other Muslim activists, and by raising the spectre of mass deportations.

In France, hard-line Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, who in October characterized France's urban rioters as "rabble," will require non-European immigrants to sign a new "Contract of Welcome and Integration" that spells out their obligations. Among other reforms, the French government will be free to expel immigrants after 10 years. Insular Muslim communities -- commonplace today -- are outlawed. For immigrants to stay, they will have to demonstrate respect for French norms, such as equality between men and women. "If a wife is kept hostage at home without learning French, the whole family will be asked to leave [the country]," said Mr. Sarkozy, who proposes to rank countries to determine the desirability of their immigrants.

The Danes have brought in immigration laws that are stricter still, all but ending their liberal refugee program and discouraging even temporary workers. In the wake of the cartoon riots, many in Denmark, including those in government, want to see an outright ban on Muslim immigration and to have radical leaders stripped of citizenship and deported. To preserve home-grown values, Danish Minister for Cultural Affairs Brian Mikkelsen recently called for the creation of a "canon of Danish art, music, literature and film." Last summer, he stated that, "In Denmark we have seen the appearance of a parallel society in which minorities practice their own medieval values and undemocratic views," adding that, "This is the new front in our cultural war."

In Germany, which pioneered the guest-worker program in Europe, a sea change has occurred. "Multicultural societies have only ... functioned peacefully in authoritarian states. To that extent it was a mistake for us to bring guest workers from foreign cultures into the country at the beginning of the 1960s," said former German chancellor Helmut Schmidt. Germany's new Chancellor, Angela Merkel, shares his view: "The notion of multiculturalism has fallen apart," she said prior to her election. "Anyone coming here must respect our constitution and tolerate our Western and Christian roots."

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