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Some migrants are equal, others never want to

Many Europeans feel sublime when they can look up refugees from above. But many refugees arriving in Europe are more enlightened in their attitude towards life than many Europeans. An adjustment of the perspectives.

Kacem El Ghazzali

Who are the people who flee or immigrate to Europe? The ideas of the locals are sometimes far away - some immigrants are culturally European before they start. (Image: Juan Medina / Reuters)

Who are the people who flee or immigrate to Europe? The ideas of the locals are sometimes far away – some immigrants are culturally European before they start. (Image: Juan Medina / Reuters)

Abdallah Laroui, one of the leading philosophers of Morocco, my ancient homeland, once wrote: "Europe is the museum of the world". He is right, and more so when he observes this sentence with appreciation. Europe preserves part of the memory of humanity and its history. These include works of art, but also institutions such as human rights. Both are criticized: many countries ask that Europe return some of the art works from Africa or from Asia to the countries of origin. At the same time, once again, there is the demand that Europe should relativize the universalism of human rights. Those who ask them really consider this request?

I wonder: Ibn Ruschd (Averroes) would really like the manuscripts of his works and their Latin translations to be returned to his Arab readers after the Muslims in Morocco burned his books and sent him into exile in Spain? Above all, not much has changed since then. "Averroesians" are still persecuted in the Muslim world – because they are guided in their thinking by critical rationalism. Faced with violence and war, they now seek not only a part of their history in Europe's museums, but they venture directly to flee to the West.


They see Europe as a place where their ideals have lived. However, anyone looking for Europe from the so-called Islamic world has its own idea of ​​this dream. Some want to improve their economic situation; others flee from terror, war and destruction; others, instead, cling to abstruse ideas about a caliphate and want to bring back Andalusia on the Islamic map of the world. Some dream of Europe as the perfect embodiment of freedom, far from "eastern despotism" (Bassam Tibi).

It is wrong to believe that anyone coming to Europe from the Islamic world necessarily needs integration. There are people who not only come integrated, but are also enlightened in the spirit of Europe.

However, this European dream quickly dissipates for some newcomers when suddenly he hears his language teacher say that all people have the same dignity: Christians, Jews and Muslims, women, men and homosexuals. Or when he hears a social worker singing the praises of integration. Or when he involuntarily listens to the voices of politicians whose opinions on integration diverge as much as their ideological performances are different.

However, one thing is certain: the demand for integration is seen by many newcomers from the Muslim world as an accusation: they are confirmed that it is a matter of eradicating a cultural difference that disturbs from a European point of view. They include integration as an invitation to betray one's own religion. As an act of revocation of one's identity and culture, or even as a crime – according to Recep Tayyip Erdogan's slogan: "Assimilation is a crime against humanity".

Already integrated

However, there are heavy misunderstandings from the other side. It is wrong to believe that anyone coming to Europe from the Islamic world necessarily needs integration. There are people who not only come integrated, but are also enlightened in the spirit of Europe. They consider the West as a historical embodiment of the basic idea of ​​modernity, freedom and human rights. This makes Europe a part of their personal identity – beyond geographical, linguistic and ethnic barriers.

Ensaf Haidar, wife of the Saudi writer and political prisoner Raif Badawi, is one of those who arrived long before they arrived physically. When Raif was arrested for insulting Islam and created a liberal Internet forum and sentenced to ten years in prison and a thousand lashes, Ensaf was forced to leave Saudi Arabia with her three children as a refugee in direction of Canada. I know the brave woman. And I asked her about her new life in Canadian society. His answer, clear as sincere, "I did not need integration, I arrived fully integrated."

That Ensaf has already arrived in Canada as a European in the spirit, it should not surprise anyone. He never considered Western values ​​as a threat to his family or religion. He always wanted his children to live freely. She was never one of those Muslim mothers who force their daughters to wear the veil or have trouble inviting a male schoolmate to join them.

Although Ensaf grew up in a conservative society, she was able to successfully overcome this bitter internal conflict between the old and the modern, tribalism and the universal. He made the decision to be a citizen of the world and was not reduced to his religious, ethnic or geographical affiliation – despite the fact that this meant threats and social sanctions from his family. In short, those who have already integrated into Europe have already made the decision in their geographical homeland of being democratic rather than despots, laymen instead of theocrats.

Universal validity

For people like this, the words east and west do not refer to geographical areas, but to two ways of thinking that transcend all geographical and cultural boundaries. There are jihadists in Europe who dream of the Islamic caliphate, as well as young men and women in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan who are following in the footsteps of Averroes, Kant and Voltaire and carry the torch of enlightenment. The West is not just in the West, and Europeans are not just those born in Europe.

The answer should not exist in multiple integration programs.

Raif Badawi and his friends in Saudi Arabia remind us that human rights are universal and Europe belongs to all those involved in the values ​​of the Enlightenment. Without Raif Badawi and his companions in the Muslim world, who are opposed to the theocracy and tyranny of Islam, without the slaves of Haiti, who in their fight against the French, the song of the French Revolution, remind their oppressors that they are inside betraying their values ​​in their megalomania – without them the Enlightenment would remain only a historical event, reserved for a certain ethnic group and limited to the terroir of its creation. Only true friends of the Enlightenment who do not come from Europe confer universal legitimacy on their values.

Integration is difficult. The individual must free himself from the chains of inherited and acquired affiliations. Integration requires that you take care of yourself and think for yourself. Integration can fail. And it does it again and again.

But the answer should no longer concern integration programs and greater investments in integration. Immigrants or refugees who reject the values ​​of liberalism and secularism do not do so because they do not know them. On the contrary, they know exactly what liberalism and secularism are – and consciously reject these values ​​because they understand them as an antithesis to their beliefs. This refusal can not be annulled even by the best course of integration.

Integration: a decision

Those who reject Western values ​​and the Western way of life will never accept that men and women are equal; that the choice of religion or even the decision not to confess any religion are human rights; that art is protected by freedom of speech and that this principle must also be defended when it comes to the representation of the prophet.

Integration is an individual decision combined with a sense of responsibility for the host society. The refugee is primarily responsible for the success or failure of its integration. Programs that help migrants learn the language or find a job are important, but linguistic and professional integration is not the only indication of the success of personal integration.

Although language skills and financial independence are indispensable for successful integration, the process of integration involves much more. Otherwise, Mohammed Atta, one of the September 11 terrorists who studied in Germany, would be an example of successful integration.

Above all: those who ask newcomers to integrate do not want to deny cultural differences. The challenge is rather an invitation to be a citizen, to be European, to be a universalist. The Citoyenneté is the safety valve against identity policy officials who seek to make the state the property of a particular religion, race or class. Being a citizen means being a democrat, respecting your daughter's freedom and recognizing freedom of speech, even when you laugh in the most sacred place.

Who is not ready to accept and defend these values; those who want to take advantage of the advantages of modernity, but reject modernity when it comes to personal freedom and liberalism; Those who choose the song of identity politics, according to which a person's membership in a collective determines his behavior, well, should consequently seek his exile outside Europe.

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