The turning tide

In the pre-terrorism world, most developed countries welcomed diversity. The rationale was that welcoming individuals from different nations helped build a stronger society, brought different points of view to the table and contributed to socioeconomic development. People who did not have the resources to excel in their own country could do so in their adopted one. The lure of good employment brought in both legal and illegal immigrants to Europe by the thousands and despite the concerns shown by nationalists, their presence was largely welcomed, or at least tolerated. But with the terrorist attacks on ordinary civilians coming thick and fast, the tide is slowly turning against migrants, especially if they belong to certain ethnicities or are Muslim. Muslim communities in the West now find themselves having to explain behaviours that had passed without notice or comment before. Bans on hijabs or face coverings, pointed questions about Islamic beliefs and practices and kicking Muslims off international flights for ‘suspicious behaviour’ has become the norm.

Recently, a halal supermarket in the suburbs of Paris faced the brunt of this turning tide and was told by the local housing authority to sell alcohol and pork or have its lease rescinded. The reason posited for this is that giving priority to one community over another and having specific areas of the city designated for specific groups is against French republican principles. Perhaps the housing authority needs to have its attention drawn to the ghettos populated by migrant Muslims caught in poverty traps. On the face of it, this seems like a clunky and needless attempt at forced integration that is simply a reaction to recent events. Although the onus of accepting their adopted country’s norms is placed on migrants, it must also be remembered that introducing new elements to a society ultimately ends up changing it. To truly integrate its various communities, a society must be open to change. This clumsy attempt and others like it only end up alienating those who feel they cannot live a full life in their new home.

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