In the coming years a new Dutch think-tank called Knowledge Platform Integration & Society (Kennisplatform Integratie & Samenleving) will develop a new program pertaining to integration issues in the Netherlands. It will stimulate and facilitate current debates and present concrete solutions for inquiries by governments, business world, and societal organizations. The Dutch Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment will finance the program that will be executed by the Verwey-Jonker Institute and Movisie. In the past similar projects were executed by Forum, a knowledge institute for multicultural issues, that ceased to exist last year.
You couldn’t ask for a better symbol of the present, paradoxical state of multicultural Britain than Jawaahir Daahir. She is a vigorous example of female empowerment: a Somali refugee in the Hague, she learnt Dutch and studied for seven years to become a social worker there, while bringing up her six children. She is also a conservative Muslim, like most of her compatriots. She combines the two – feminism and religious piety – with no apparent strain. And it was because that combination is one that Britain can deal with, while the Continent finds it unacceptable, that she is now happily settled in Leicester.
“When the Somali community came to Leicester there was a sense of support and a welcoming environment. For example, now there are lights, welcoming Ramadan. When I registered my children for school, there were welcome signs in so many languages, including Somali. It was a culture shock, because you don’t expect a Western city to welcome you in your own language. In Holland, even though I participated actively in all sorts of different areas, I still felt separate, different. But here in Leicester you feel a sense of belonging. You are not a foreigner, you are not an outsider. The society and the system acknowledge you and consider you.”
David Goodhart, founding editor of Prospect magazine, asks hard questions about the economic and political rationale for the mass immigration that has transformed the ethnic profile of so many of our towns and cities. Britain obtained its dazzling array of new citizens with little conscious planning. And, as Goodhart describes, in places such as Bradford and Tower Hamlets, the mixture of declining local industry and a large, tight-knit population of immigrants from rural parts of Pakistan and Bangladesh has produced severe social tension, culminating in the mill-town riots of 2001. But as Jawaahir Daahir’s story reveals, that is not the whole picture. Slap in the middle of England there is a city where an improbably rich mix of people and religions seems to be working rather well. Nobody planned for Leicester to become the most multicultural city on the planet. It just happened that way. And for the early immigrants, too, there was little thought that they might make their lives here.
In the past 40 years, Leicester has become the poster city for multicultural Britain, a place where the stunning number and size of the minorities – the 55 mosques, 18 Hindu temples, nine Sikh gurudwaras, two synagogues, two Buddhist centres and one Jain centre – are seen not as a recipe for conflict or a millstone around the city’s neck, but a badge of honour.
But in the 12 years since the attacks on America, punctuated by 7/7 and the Woolwich atrocity, Britain’s faith in multiculturalism has begun to erode. After every act of Islamist terrorism, there has been a spasm of revulsion. This is one of the conundrums of our age, one which laid-back, permissive Holland epitomises: how are the super-tolerant children of the European Enlightenment to react to the arrival of newcomers who refuse to adopt the uniform of secular liberalism? How far do you tolerate those who themselves have strict limits on what they will tolerate?
As atheists – who account for 23 per cent of Leicester’s population – like to point out, religion is not a reliable recipe for communal harmony. Quite the reverse: as every religion enshrines an exclusive explanation of the world, each has the potential to oppress and persecute those who think differently. And often that’s how it works out. Muslims are often treated like second-class citizens in India, Christians in Pakistan, Hindus in Bangladesh and Muslims in Burma.
While the mill towns of Burnley, Oldham and Bradford experienced race riots in 2001, Leicester has ridden out its multicultural decades in considerable peace and harmony. The white population, guided by the likes of Peter Soulsby, has responded with maturity and imagination to these epochal demographic changes. And while there will always be grumbling about the “cosseting” of immigrants, the facts speak for themselves. In the mid-1970s, the National Front was active in Leicester, and on one occasion came close to winning a single council seat. But since then, they and their successors have been notably unsuccessful in the city. If the minority of British whites are seething about the way the city is changing, they are keeping it very much to themselves.
A recent article published by the French daily, Le Monde, interviewed the families of four Belgian Muslims who have left Europe to join the Syrian revolutionaries in their fight to overthrow the current Syrian regime under Dictator Bashir Al-Assad. The article is released in the wake of a nationwide soul searching in regards to the wave of young Belgian Muslims, numbered to be around 80 to 300, who have joined the forces of the revolutionaries. These events have, however, not been isolated, but came into the spotlight all over Europe in the recent weeks and months.
In its investigative journalistic piece, the newspaper attempts to uncover the reasons for their leaving and what their departure means for Belgium as a multicultural country as a whole and its large Muslim citizenry specifically.
“Multi-culti” is a vital aspect of the German national team, which is going to compete with 15 other nations for the 2012European football championship in Poland and Ukraine. The selection of seven players with a “migration background” by Head coach Joachim Löw is a living example for successful integration.
In earlier statements, Federal chancellor Angela Merkel had declared multiculturalism as a failed concept for German society. Nevertheless, the presence of players such as Mesud Özil, Lukas Podolski, Jerome Boateng, Sami Khedira und Ilkay Gündoğan, shows that players with different backgrounds to be able to integrate in a successful German team. Head coach Löw defended his players when the media questioned the identification feeling of some players, who would refuse to sing the German national anthem. In fact, these players have proven their belonging feeling in previous matches and if other German players like Cacao, who is a religious Christian, would celebrate their goals in praying to Jesus, the first player to congratulate and hug them would be the Muslim Mesud Özil.
17 May 2012
Spain forms a multicultural map with different lifestyles, ideologies, and beliefs. In this context of diversity, the Muslim community has an increasingly important opinion. “Together we build the future” is the documentary that gives voice to some of these people.
The video, made by Imal Producciones y Aire Comunicación, in collaboration with the Foundation for Pluralism and Coexistence, is part of the materials developed by the Union of Islamic Communities of Spain (UCIDE) to promote religious freedom in a framework of peaceful coexistence and plural in Spanish society.
The video, which lasts approximately 30 minutes, shows the daily lives of five Muslims and gives us their testimonies and experiences, especially on living in Spain.
25 August 2011
A survey conducted by J/M magazine indicates that Dutch parents want their children to grow up in multicultural society but many prefer that they attend non-mixed schools. The magazine interviewed 588 parents and concludes that 80% of those surveyed acknowledge the advantage of growing up in a multicultural society while 57% worry about the position of their white children in a mixed race society.
17 June 2011
In a letter to the Dutch parliament, Interior Minister Piet Hein Donner has requested an end to government policies which target integrating ethnic migrant groups in the Netherlands. Radio Netherlands Worldwide reports the move is a part of the cabinet distancing itself from multicultural society as a concession to the Freedom Party (PVV), which is supporting the current government. The Labour Party and democrat party D66 fear that this proposed shift is a ‘historic error’. Donner is also advancing a proposal to prosecute for forced marriage and to ban facial covering in public.
February 15 2011
Christian Democrat leader Maxime Verhagen has announced that he believes multicultural society has failed. He claims that the Dutch no longer feel at home in the country, and that immigrants are also unhappy, and called for the Dutch to be prouder of their country, as they are in the United States.
Toronto Star – September 26, 2010
Nazem Kadri survived Sunday’s round of cuts that chopped the Maple Leafs’ pre-season roster to 30 players — 23 will open the season. But whether he is on the roster on opening night or has to spend time with the AHL Marlies, it’s virtually assured Kadri will be with the Leafs for a significant portion of the season and in his career to come. There’s more pressure on him than on most other 19-year-olds because he’s a visible minority in a mostly white pursuit and a Muslim in a mostly Christian arena. He noted: “Hockey is going to become more multicultural. People from all different backgrounds and religions are going to be coming into the game of hockey. That’s good for the sport, that’s good for all communities.” Kadri certainly isn’t the first prominent Muslim athlete — Muhammad Ali and Hakeem Olajuwan long ago broke those barriers. But he could become the first prominent Muslim hockey player.
According to a study released by multicultural research institute Forum, some 25% of youngsters with a Turkish, Moroccan, Surinamese or Antillean background in the Netherlands are without a job. Compared with a 5.1% unemployment rate among white Dutch, 14% of people with a non-Western background are jobless. However, Forum director Sadik Harcahoui notes that the cause is not necessarily discrimination- lower education levels and a tendency for ethnic minority youth to work on flexible contracts contribute to the statistics.