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March 9, 2005
Moderator: Pierre Lellouche
Panellists: Morton H. Halperin, Assia Bensalah Alaoui, Jan C. Ting, Tariq Ramadan, Gilles Kepel, Robert Leiken
In the panel Immigration: Is Integration Failing?, the debate focused on the various experiences with integrating minority communities in Western countries. While some maintained that integration had been more successful than widely assumed, other panellists criticised the increased targeting of Muslims by law enforcement agencies which gave rise to alienation. There was some debate about the different models of integration, with one panellist arguing that a stronger emphasis on assimilation would help to further immigrants’ identification with society. The panel was organised in collaboration with the European Policy Centre and the Center for American Progress.
Note: […] Means not audible or missing content from the original tapes because of the recording
[…] This is what I considered to be one of the most sensitive discussions in this whole conference, with an expert group of people around me who will be introduced in a minute. I’m not going to go into depth of any issues here because it is highly sensitive.
As you all know, a year ago the attack in Madrid was perpetrated by Moroccan immigrants who were living in Spain. Before that, on September 11th, many of the attackers had been trained and organised in Germany, with ramifications here in Spain. Security services have been dismantling cells all over Europe in recent months and years, including in my country and we are dealing here with a very sensitive area. As a legislator, I had this discussion yesterday in my own party faction in Paris. We actually do not know what we are talking about in terms of numbers or origins. There are wild differences in numbers, in terms of Muslim immigrants in France. Are there four, five, six, seven, eight million? No one knows. Are we talking about 30 million Muslims in Europe? Or less? The Muslim religion has become the second religion in France in a matter of twenty years. That has a tremendous implication in our countries, since it sometimes creates very nasty political consequences. Two years ago, when we had the presidential election in France, Jean Marie Le Pen was at the second ballot, facing Jacques Chirac and defeating Lionel Jospin, the Socialist candidate. We have information of extremist right wing parties, in Austria for example, or in Belgium, many other places.
And so, the discussion this morning about the link between immigration, integration and terrorism is a highly difficult one. I think this has to be discussed this morning.
Is violence imported or is it home-grown as a result of the failure of integration or immigration policy? Or is it a mixture of both? Are there good and bad immigration policies in Europe or in the US and what can we learn about the various models? Should we try to organise a European or French Islam as the French Minister of Interior said? And how do we do that? Do we vote laws on the veil, for example, like we have done in France? How do we control some of the propaganda that beams into the homes of Muslims in Europe?
I'm thinking in particular of a fight I had some responsibility in with the Hezbollah Al-Manar TV Channel, which aired violently anti-Semitic programs all over Europe. Is there a link between all of this and the rise of anti-Semitism and anti-Semitic violence? I am the author of a law on racist-hate crime in France. And how do we coordinate intelligently immigration policies and anti-terrorist policies, if such a link needs to be put forward. So, you realise that we are never going to touch or find an answer to all of these questions in an hour and a half, but some of these questions and probably many more, are at the heart of this very sensitive and complex discussion. To do this, this morning we have six speakers, all of them are extremely experienced. They will each have seven minutes, and then we will have a debate between them and with you with some of the questions raised. I will start with the list as it is:
Madame Assia Bensalah Alaoui is Professor of International Law and Director of the Research Centre for Strategic Studies at the University Mohamed V in Morocco. She has been involved in many NGO’s and peace processes, such as the Israeli peace process, Israeli-Palestinian peace process, she has been involved in last years’ report of the Euro-Mediterranean dialogue, and she will discuss the angle of youth and women.
Mr. Morton H. Halperin is Senior Vice-president and Director of Fellows at the Centre for American Progress, a highly respected American academic, who also has a long experience in the US Government. He will discuss the relationship between immigration policy and anti-terrorism policy and give his views on that.
My friend Gilles Kepel right next to me is extremely well-known, at least in my country his books have been translated into many languages, he’s one of France’s top Arab and Muslim experts. He has done a lot of work on immigration and is one of the first researchers to really analyse what was going on in the changing French society as a result of immigration and he will contrast the various experiences in terms of immigration policy in Europe and the various European countries.
Mr. Liken on my left is Director of the Immigration and National Security program at the Nixon Centre. He has been involved in many US think tanks, like CSIS, Brookings, Carnegie and so on. He has a forthcoming article in the next issue of Foreign Affairs on European Mujahadeen and this morning he will describe his study on Jihad members detained or arrested in Europe and America between 1993 and 2004.
Then I have another star of this table, Tariq Ramadan, with whom we've had some debate on French television. He is Professor of Islamic Studies in Switzerland and is very well-known, extremely listened to by all of the Muslim communities in Europe. He has recently created a European think tank called the European-Muslim network, and he will give you a view from within the immigrant community, in relation to the subject treated this morning.
And finally, Jan Ting who is a former schoolmate of mine at Harvard Law School, some thirty years ago, Professor of US Immigration and National Security Law. He has been involved in the setting up of the US immigration system recently, and he has been writing a lot on immigration policy, so he will give us some comparisons between European and American immigration policies.
So you can see that this is a particularly talented collection of experiences. We will start with Madame Bensalah Alaoui, please have the floor:
Thank you Mr. Lellouche, good morning ladies and gentlemen. I would like to start with the obvious, to recall what Mr. Lellouche was underlying. The vast and extremely complex problem that we have to tackle today requires important measures to avoid precisely the caricatures, the stereotypes which are prevailing and of which we are the first victims. We in the Arab and the Muslim worlds. So allow me just to make two preliminary remarks.
Beyond the diversity of situations, which is the rule and that we must keep in mind, millions of Muslim immigrants, if not really integrated, do live peacefully in their host countries, despite all the implied difficulties. The problem is of course with the extremists which are a minority and which tend to preach hatred, and with the perpetrators of terrorist attacks, which are only a few, but which pave the way for generalisation and for the amalgam between Islam immigrants and terrorism. So I would like to contest very strongly the Islamist terrorists as a qualifier. We do not speak of Christian terrorists, whether there are a lot of religious problems in Ireland, for instance. So I would like to stress very strongly on this first aspect - we have to be extremely careful with terminology.
The second question is to address the very framework that we are working in today, which is after all fostering democracy, and allow me to be provocative and to ask The question which we can not avoid: have the immigration policies failed to deliver the main message about values and democracy to the rest of the world particularly and to the Arab worlds they really want to foster? Have immigrants lost faith in the models of the host countries, perceived to pay largely lip service to democracy? So having this in mind I would like to focus on two groups which are particularly vulnerable. The youth for obvious reasons, because they are at the same time the problems and the hope for the future. And women, because they are at the core of families’ and societies’ balances in a very changing context.
But allow me before that to say a word about these precise and very changing contexts, because ridiculing is not the result of one single cause, a large number of reasons embedded in historical, economic, political cultural evolutions, in changing societies, confronted themselves to perpetually changing contexts. From crisis of legitimacy, to failure of development, to failure of probably Arab nationalism to deliver better lives to all. All fostered by the Iranian revolution and its consequences.
I would like to say very quickly that we have to pay attention to that as well, probable terror does stem from this sinister combination of injured identity and exclusion. And I am not talking about exclusion from prosperity, but exclusion at large. So the question asked by the title “Is integration failing””, beyond the problem of democracy, which is the overall context I am referring to. To be provocative once again we could wonder whether there is or there are real integration policies under way. Beyond the diversity of national immigration policies, it seems to me that it has been established that immigration policies have been restrictive. Paying attention to concerns and aims of the host countries first, they have not been integrative, they do illustrate very sadly and confirm the assertion “We asked for workers and we have got human beings”.
So this is precisely the question I want to ask. The immigrant concerns, as the person with identities, with cultural and religious backgrounds, with aspirations, with all the complexities, have been largely disregarded. Why? A tremendous change in their lives was ushering. They had to adjust to new realities, to changing contexts, which were given contradictory signals, at the same time the revolution of human rights and communication, but accompanied by globalisation, which seems to me is generating at the same time integration and exclusion. Integration of the no’s and the have's and exclusion of the no-not’s and the have-not’s. And in parallel, we had to face the mega-trend to standardisation through the media, the consumption patters, and precisely through the youth culture and deep inspiration to differentiation, and we have noticed the violent return of the sacred and of culture, to contest the established order, whether be it national or international.
All this within, to speak of the specific region of context, rising mutual negative perceptions and this mirror game which have a lot of reasons but I would not like to dwell into that. The rise of right wing parties across Europe and hostility towards immigrants. So the focus on Islam and immigration as the threat, all together, to the security, identity and prosperity of Europe. In these contexts, I would just like to point out that if the old had difficulty in adjusting, because of being too old, to specific, too illiterate, they had to try to cope with the situation which they were facing and probably could not afford the luxury to voice their misery as well.
But the youth is another story, because it is the age of rebellion and because we face a triple crisis: the parental crisis, authority, the religion and ethics crisis, and I am tempted to say that they have absolutely no model to turn to. They are torn between the cultural origin, which is somehow remote but mythical, and try to clutch to some misinterpretation of it, and to their very present surrounding, but which is apparently sometimes out of reach because they do not have the cultural code and probably not the means to merge. So, the problem of the model is extremely important at this age and that is why we have to be really very careful.
You have already gone over seven minutes. I will tell the others that when you reach six I’ll tap the microphone, but at seven I’ll stop. But since you are the only lady on the table I will give you an additional minute.
Thank you, I don’t think I am going to consume it. I would just like to underline that we badly need targeted policies towards the youth, to accompany in this extremely difficult adjustment they have to do, otherwise they become very easy prey to all kinds of extremisms and preachers, and these are not liked nowdays, but probably other people will speak about that. Women do represent hope for the rest of the Arab world. I do think we have to make sure they must be accompanied in the reform about their status because they can trigger reforms for the society at large and probably we could come back of your interested, about what is going out in Morocco precisely in this field.
Thank you Madam. Mr. Halperin, please.
Morton H. Halperin
Thank you. I just want to focus on the US experience. There are obviously many more experienced and informed people to talk about the European experience.
I think we need to start off to remind ourselves that while there clearly are terrorists among us, some of them may be illegal immigrants, some of them may be legal immigrants, others are people born in our own societies, who may be of a different religion but may be not, and some of them are native to our society, who may have been there for many generations. It is a fundamental mistake to start off with the notion that terrorists are all of a particular religion, are all illegal immigrants and, therefore, we can focus our anti-terrorist policies somehow as immigration policies.
I think we must deal with the terrorist threat, consistent with our democratic values, and consistent with the notion that we target and investigate people who we have reasonable suspicion to be terrorists. We don’t start out targeting groups of people because we think the terrorists might be among them, that is not only in my view profoundly anti-democratic, it is also profoundly ineffective, because you end up investigating people whose political views you don’t like and who’s rhetoric you focus on, rather than getting to the people who are really posing a threat to your society.
If you look at American immigration policy since 9/11, it sets out a perfect example of what not to do if what one is concerned about is dealing with terrorism rather than harassing, intimidating and alienating the immigrant community. The perfect model for what has unfortunately been done in the United States occurred on September 12 when if you may recall, the United States pulled up a number of reservists and national guard units, and people were asked to report to duty. A patriotic American got in the car and drove his wife to the military base where she was supposed to report. He was a Muslim and was, therefore, pulled out of the car, interrogated, it was determined that he had a minor violation of his Visa requirements, was put in prison and eventually deported from the United States.
This sent a message which unfortunately has been reinforced in a number of ways, that cooperation by this community in dealing with the threat exposed people to arrest and deportation rather than to cooperation. We saw this in the fact that many people were held on minor immigration violations, often held without lawyers, held as material witnesses, and many of them were ultimately deported from the United States for immigration violations of the kind which would not have led to deportation prior to 9/11.
As far as we can tell and as far as the governments has claimed, not one of the people swept off in this enormous effort were in fact shown to be terrorists, so we not only had an enormous effort of misplaced energy but an enormous effort which succeeded in alienating precisely those people whose cooperation was needed.
The government also pulled in immigrants from different countries and insisted that they each had to come in for an interview. Again, as far as one can tell, no illegal terrorists showed up for these interviews. The people who showed up were mostly legal immigrants, some of them with minor technical violations, and the government’s response was to hold people and deport people, a policy which discouraged the kind of cooperation that we need from this community.
An essential element of what in fact needs to be done now is something that democratic societies needed to do before and the United States needed to do, but what is underlined by the terrorist threat, and that is to reduce to the greatest degree possible the illegal immigrant population within our society. What that illegal immigration does is to create a sea if you will, in which the illegal terrorists can hide, and which makes it much harder to identify people who entered the United States illegally with the purpose of engaging in terrorist activities. There are various proposals which have been made.
President Bush has one set of proposals which relate to letting people work for periods of time. There are others who have argued we need more fundamental amnesty and legalisation programs, and we need to recognise that the task is not to keep out the people who want to come here to work, but to keep out those who want to engage in terrorist acts. We need to find ways to build confidence within the immigration community. Again, that means focusing on methods which lead to cooperation within that community, which do not start out with the assumption that the way to deal with the community is to alienate it, to deport people but rather to focus on elements for gaining their cooperation.
We need to ensure the focus is on the terrorist threat among the terrorists and not assume that we can label a community, whether it’s the Muslim community, or in the United States the Christian Radical community, as the source of terrorism, and focus on those communities. That only succeeds in a process of alienation and of misplaced use of resources.
Thank you very much and thank you also for keeping the time right. Mr. Gilles.
Thank you Mr. Chairman and I will also try to keep the time right. Many thanks.
I would like to start with challenging the very title of the panel “Is integration failing?”, that is a very stupid question. It's not about whether integration is failing or succeeding, it's what makes it succeed and what makes it fail, and this is the only way for us to understand how we behave. We have had a number of integration policies which we can review. I will not review them all but I will try to give us a glimpse of things that worked and things that did not work over the last year.
Another thing, so as we don’t “beat around the bush”, if I may say so, in the context of the re-election, I can't agree more with Ms. Alaoui, we definitely shouldn’t consider that all Muslims are terrorists and so forth. So I would like to quote a recent piece in the Arabic language, London Daily, a shuttle, caught it and translated immediately, “The majority of Muslims are not terrorists, but the majority of terrorists are Muslims”. So what does that mean? I guess what this leads us to question is the ability or inability of groups with a radical understanding or a particularly strict understanding of the law, people who see themselves as the vanguards, to mobilise the majority or groups and nuclei of their coreligionists.
If we go back to the manifesto of 9/11, this is very clear, the pamphlet or writer sees himself as a vanguard, and he doesn't understand his acts as terrorism but most of the operations were meant to mobilise supporters, galvanise a constituency into recruits. So, how can we address this issue in the context of the presence of important populations of people with a Muslim descent in Europe? Again, it is not because someone is from Muslim descent that he has to be considered a Muslim, point blank. I was born a Roman Catholic, I am now an atheist and I do not allow anyone else to speak in my name, say “this guy has been baptised so I earmark him”. First and foremost, I think people with a Muslim descent in Europe should not necessarily be called or labelled Muslims, it is up to them to define their identity, whether they are Islam is significant to them in their political identity or not. So we should be very careful when we deal with numbers, how there are twenty, ten, thirty or three million Muslims, that does not mean anything in this sense. It means something, but not everything.
To go back quickly to what took place in Europe over the last year since the Madrid bombings on March 11th, on the one hand, we have people who consider “the worm is in the fruit”, as we say in French, and that, because a number of people who perpetrated the bombings in Madrid were Moroccan immigrants, some of them seemed to be rather well integrated in society. One was even dealing with real-estate and as we all know real-estate is the symbol of perfect integration. When you think about what happened in the Netherlands with another guy with Moroccan descent who stabbed to death Theo Van Gogh, many people since then have started to write in the press that integration was definitely failing, that it lead nowhere.
And if we stop for a minute on the Dutch example, which has a long-standing policy of dealing with the presence of foreigners, the Dutch model is, or was until the stabbing of Van Gogh, a multicultural model, where pressures to integrate where very low, and where the political system was pleased with the juxtaposition of groups which were encouraged to develop whatever their faith base or identity was like. After the stabbing of Van Gogh, all of these policies in the Netherlands were entirely rethought about and the Dutch multicultural model is now in deep crisis.
On the other hand, we had something in France which as you know was lambasted by a number of people for passing legislation defending secularism in state schools and not allowing children to wear religious clothes or symbols.
We had another example, quite different, which I believe is something we must think about, how during the end August two French journalists were captured in Iraq. The Islamic Army in Iraq asked that the French rescind the law on secularism in school which was perceived as “Islamophobic”, calling us “racists, secularists, Jacobin, Isaak Rabin, etc.”. Unless the law were rescinded, the hostages would be killed, like so many others had been killed already. In doing so, the radical Islamists thought that they would mobilise the Muslim masses of France, the people who were oppressed by the fascist or secularist French government would suddenly find their heroes and revolt. Much to the dismay of the abductors what we saw was the opposite. We saw the vast majority of our fellow citizens from Muslin descent –what of their relation with their faith and belief?- go down to the streets, go on air, and criticise very harshly the abductors, be sympathetic with the two journalists and express their solidarity.
I think this is an interesting lesson to be learnt and discussed, i.e., that there is no fatality in the process whereby groups with a mischievous potential might spread everywhere. The French system has been adamant on that, although integration politics have largely failed socially, they have nevertheless produced a culture of identification with the host society. I also believe that within the French population with Muslim descent there are a number of prejudices against terrorism. As well all know, since 9/11, nothing significant took place in France, not only because we have the best police in the world, as we all know, because we have had to deal with two threats in the eighties and nineties from terrorism coming out of middle-eastern Africa, but because the French population with Muslim descent is extremely concerned and has been keen to avoid the existence of such threats. Thank you.
Thank you very much. I am going to make no comment about this at this stage but it is all being very interesting. Mr. Leiken, Professor.
I’m going to just give a brief summary of a study which I directed, which assembled hard data on 373 Mujahadeen, all of those who had been publicly reported as taken into custody alive or dead in Western Europe and North America, from 1993 to 2004. A collection of the Global Salafi Jihad. The data we charted included country of birth, immigration vehicle, Visa type, fraudulent documents, etc. as well as host country, sender country, citizenship, legal status, incidence of conversion to Islam, other dates and data. They are all available on a database for whomever who would like to follow up on this. Here are some of the findings which go against the conventional wisdom and even against a couple of the things which have already been said here today.
First of all, a close link between immigration and Jihad. 87% of our Mujahadeen are immigrants. Though “most immigrants are not terrorists”, most terrorists are immigrants.
The global Jihad secondly, is not restricted to the Middle East or to developing countries. 41% of our Mujahadeen are nationals of the West and a quarter of them are Europeans. Only 44% were born in the Middle East.
There were more French national apprehended than nationals of Pakistan and Yemen combined, but while Pakistan and Yemeni citizens are subjected to intensive scrutiny by US authorities before entering the country, French nationals can enter the US with no Visa and are subject only to a rapid passport check at the port of entry.
We have found a striking number of converts among the Mujahadeen, suggesting that Al Qaeda is adopting a counter profile strategy for penetrating American and European defences.
Not a single subject entered the United Stated from Mexico, despite alarms about Mujahadeen concealed in the illegal traffic crossing that border. We did find that 26 resided in Canada. Of our sample, only 6% entered the country illegally, that is either the United States, Europe or Canada.
Contrary to both conventional wisdom and previous terrorist groupings, selected in accordance with the needed skills, Jihad cells tend to be based on ascribing or pre-induction characteristics, such as family, clan, nationality or immigration status. If there is a single law in migration, it is that a migration population is Turkish but no Turks militated in the Hamburg cell as periphery. In contrast to the European case, Muslims are not a majority group of immigrants to the United States. Of our top twenty five centre countries, only Iran and Pakistan make the list and they are at the bottom, ranking behind Asian and Latin American countries. Also in contrast to Europe, the Islamic community in the United States is more heterogeneous, without a dominance in nationality. Muslim immigrants to the United States come from three main areas: Iran, South Asia and Arab speaking countries.
Euro-Muslim immigration networks materialise from guest-worker programs based on colonial or neo-colonial relationships. European countries tended to recruit guest-workers who shared history or geography, and generally these were Muslim countries. Thus Algerians went to France, Turks to Germany, Moroccans to Spain, Southwest Asians to England, etc. These Muslim worker-immigrants were poor and unlettered, much like contemporary Mexican immigrants to the United States and have little in common with the students and professionals who form the core of early Muslim immigration to the United States. The fact that Western Europe borders on Arab regions with a high Muslim density translates into a national security problem for Europe. This contrast to the United States, bordering on a region with a small and peaceful Muslim population.
Our Mujahadeen entered their countries in every conceivable way, a third utilised Visas, the most prominent type being students and tourists, then immigrant Visas or Green cards and business Visas. 23% entered their respective host country through asylum claims, again only 6% illegally. 9% of the subjects in our database our converts to Islam. This high number confirms finding from intelligence sources at Al Qaeda as part of its efforts to penetrate the United States and Europe, seeks counter profile individuals, such as women, Europeans and converts.
We also find that the subjects in many terrorist plots share national and immigration markers. There is of course the widely noted prevalence of Saudis with visas in the 9/11 attacks. But the plot to destroy the US Embassy in Paris was largely composed of European nationals, the plot to attack the Strasbourg Cathedral was planned largely by Algerians, all the perpetrators of the plot to bomb New York landmarks in 1995 were illegally in the United States, the millennium bombers were almost entirely in illegal status, often by virtue of remaining in the country after a failed asylum. The Madrid train bombings were carried out by resident first generation Moroccans, the spring 2004 attempt to detonate a chemical bomb in London was plotted by British citizens, members of the Pakistani second generation. Likewise, in the United States a group was composed largely of second generation Yemeni groups.
These exogenous ties suggest the Jihad cells, contrary to conventional wisdom, or the previous terrorist or revolutionary cells, are not selective in terms of proficiency in a specific terrorist discipline, such as a forger or explosive expert, but rather through ascription groupings, such as family, nationality, region or village, or even friendship circle.
They also reveal that the organisation of a cell or plot may occur before contact with a terrorist leader like Kalhid Sheik Mohamed. This analysis appears to confirm the findings about the decentralised bottom-up nature of the Jihad and the roles of pre-existing bonds in joining and further in the Jihad. It may also help to explain why Jihad operatives, as opposed to the inner circle, appear to operate rather informally, without the security precautions characteristic of highly structured clandestine organisations.
Our data does not bear out the frequently heard warnings about Al Qaeda militants crossing the Mexican border. This might be due to the scarcity of Spanish speaking Latino Mujahadeen. The Mexican border appears to constitute a less serious national security danger for the US than the Canadian border or for that matter our air and sea borders. Its assumed that it is easy to walk across the Mexican border because they are so long and there are few security officials there, but to get from inside the United States having crossed that border to a major town like Phoenix or Houston is very difficult and usually you need an alien smuggling group to help you out, and if you don’t speak Spanish you’re going to stick out in that group, so that is why we are particularly concerned with Moroccans in Spain.
Over the long-term, the Southern border has the potential to become a significant security threat, because as we have noticed Spain has a significant presence of Mujahadeen, who are from Morocco and are learning Spanish. There is something like three hundred thousand Moroccan immigrants in Spain, some in the process of learning Spanish or raising children, who are learning Spanish at school –I’m just about to finish– so the day may be approaching when Spanish speaking Moroccan Mujahadeen will slip into the traffic crossing the US Mexican border daily.
Interesting. Mr. Ramadan.
As we don’t have much time, I will go straight to the point with a short introduction to the subject. Because of the title “Is integration failing?”, let me start by saying that I'm speaking as a European Muslim, so my position is not to be confused with immigration and I really think that from the very beginning we have to be cautious in the way we put the problem, because if we are confusing Islam or European Islam with the questions of immigration in Europe we are confusing all the different levels and I really think we have to start by saying that we have now a Muslim presence and Islam is a European religion so we have two problems: the presence of the Muslims in Europe and an ongoing process which is immigration. So the problems coming from immigration and that could come from immigration, not knowing about the European landscape, European societies, is a different problem. And sometimes in our approach it is very important to understand that we can rely on the Muslim presence in order to solve the presence of new immigrants if we succeed on the real integration and understanding of the Muslim presence in Europe.
If you assess the situation, the European integration of Muslims and Muslim citizens, it is succeeding greatly at all levels, just look at what happened in Europe and the reactions of the Muslims after the murder of Van Gogh who was in Holland, who were strongly against that and to condemn what happened. The great majority felt the consensus of the Muslim organisations in Holland, they said “this is wrong and we are against this kind of murder, this is not representing Islam”. When we had the discussion in France, even if it was a very sensitive discussion, after the law was voted by the Parliament the great majority if not all the Muslim organisations and leaders said “we don’t think that this is a good law, but in the end of the day if this is the law that has been voted by this country we have to respect it and if you have to choose between wearing the head scarf and going to school you have to go to school”. Which is a response coming from the citizens being aware of how they are part of a society, according to the democratic process.
In Italy, after the kidnapping, and in France, the majority of Muslims were condemning what happened in Iraq. Recently the Muslims were protesting with everyone. So we have to keep this in mind, that on the large scale, when we deal with Muslim presence, the great majority of the Muslims are now aware of what they want to promote, what kind of citizenship they want, and they are contesting and condemning the radical readings of Islam. So this is something we have to keep in mind and not to be upset with the more vocal groups, speaking or trying to speak in the name of Muslims, because the great majority are condemning these events. It also happened in Britain, the attacks in Yemen, the greater majority say “this is not Islam, we are against it, we are British citizens” and this voice should be heard as the Muslim presence and not only as immigrants or integrations still in process.
The integration process is now a success at many levels.
But we still have problems, and in the case of these problems, for example, terrorists, we can not have these voices speaking about it, and on that field I really think we have shared responsibilities. From within the communities I can speak about them, to say that Muslims can be a European or Westerner at the same time is possible. It’s something that we are experiencing. According to Islamic teachings, there is no contradiction to being a Muslim and also being a European, or being an American, or a Canadian or Australian. This is an important point and it means for the Muslims that the main challenge that they have to face today is to challenge the radical readings, saying that for example that you are in a space that is not yours, so this intercommunity dialogue is a responsibility of the Muslims, to challenge the radical readings, out of their understanding of the Islamic teaching. And this is very important, you can not dismiss or prevail on a specific reading if you speak from outside. It is very important for Muslims to speak from within and according to Islamic teaching, what you say, the way you are reading or referring to the sources is not Islamic, it’s outside the limits of the accepted diversity.
When, for example, they say you can kill a European or American only because they are an American, or a Christian or Jew, this is not acceptable. So, from deep in the Muslim community, this process is ongoing and I really think we don’t have to have this monolithic perception of the Muslim communities. The great majority of the Muslims are saying that these are radical readings and they are obsessed on going beyond that. But we also need people from the mainstream society that say we have to get rid of this minority discourse, that these Muslims are a minority and Muslims are not a minority because there are no minority citizenships in these countries. They are citizens so they are part of us and must not be perceived as minorities.
We also have to say that this perception of being dominated I just emotional, it is not the reality of what we need. We need to become involved in the society. So this is something what we have to say as Western citizens that we have to work from within, but as we say we have shared responsibility, and from the mainstream society it is really important to understand that the European society or the Western society has changed. Now the collective psychology is not the same. Our society has changed and has millions of people coming with a Muslim background. Being involved or committed to Islam is not their cultural origin which is here. They are talking about the past, their cultures of origin are here. If we really want Europe, America or Canada to understand that their future is to be inclusive with this people, we have to reassess our self-perception with these societies.
If we understand that the European societies are changing, we will understand that the points of sensitivity are changing as well, because the people are reacting differently, so a homogeneous society yesterday reacted different than today, because now we have these people. It doesn’t mean that we have to change the law, the problem is perception, self- perception and perception of others.
We have this level of understanding, and the point is that we have also to understand that we can not confuse everything. Social problems, unemployment, racism – this has nothing to do with Islam. To “Islamise” all the problems and to have this essentialist approach is disturbing and destroying the integration problems. Muslims could have social problems but not because they are Muslims. So the problem is to distinguish between the problems and to understand what we need, a social and urban policy which deals with this problem differently, not to confuse ourselves and have an essentialist approach.
This is a very important point because very often today the Muslims themselves are promoting this perception: we are openly discriminated and the victimisation mentality is here and it's is the most important hindrance in the integration process, because we have to feel that we are part of the society.
So these shared responsibilities are also very important in the way we speak. How can we speak about Islamic terrorism? And I totally agree with what was said before. Muslims should say "there is nothing like Islamic terrorism". Terrorism is terrorism and it should not be linked with Islam and in the name of Islam we have to reject terrorism as something that is not part of us. What about the nuclear Islamic bomb? What does it mean? This is not acceptable; we don't have a nuclear Islamic bomb. We have this problem at the terminological level, and my last point is that to do that and in terms of the shared responsibility from the mainstream society, we must focus on an inclusive education.
If our society has changed, out curriculum about our own past and present should be revised, in order to be more inclusive with the people. You are part of this society, don’t speak about “us” and “them” as Muslims and immigrants. If we still have this in mind it is because we have not understood that these people and ourselves are part of the process. We are Europeans, Americans or Canadians and part of the solution not of the problem. So this is very important. [...]
Education is also one of the problems and I don’t think security policy is the only answer. It is obliviously needed, but if don’t think upstream from the problems. We are not going to solve them. Just relying on the majority in order to prevent the disaster coming form the minority and not being obsessed with the minority or forgetting about the majority of the Muslim presence in Europe.
Last speaker – Professor Ting, please.
(Continued in: Balancing the Agenda, part 2).
Complete audio of the session
- Immigration: Is Integration Failing?
- Archivo de audio (Spanish / English) [1h. 34m., 21 MB, MP3]