Friday, July 8, 2011

Multiculturalism in the EU

Kenan Malik has an interesting oped in the NYT on multiculturalism in Europe:
In Britain, the promotion of multicultural policies led to the de facto treatment of individuals from minority groups not as citizens but simply as members of particular ethnic units. In Germany, the formal denial of citizenship to immigrants led to the policy of multiculturalism. In both cases this has resulted in the creation of fragmented societies, the scapegoating of immigrants and the rise of both populist and Islamist rhetoric.
...  The challenge facing Europe today, therefore, is how to reject multiculturalism as a political policy while embracing the diversity that immigration brings. No country has yet succeeded in doing so.
In principle, the French assimilationist resolve to treat everyone as a citizen, not simply as an inhabitant of a particular ethnic box, is welcome. Yet as evidenced by police brutality against North African youth and the state ban on burqas, France continues to tolerate, and even encourage, policies that polarize society in the name of colorblindness.

He is right. Multiculturalism does not equate with an appeasement of the most retrograde elements within immigrant populations. Yet many EU states have done just that. It is just lazy politics and is easy to understand because actual engagement requires a lot more work: learning about immigrant issues in all their complexity, creating support within the political space for solutions ...
The result is a massive disconnect between the early immigrants - many of whom were not well educated and clung to ideas from their home countries when those countries had not experienced modernization - and their children and grandchildren. The latter are better educated but are denied the full benefits of citizenship in some states and it is not surprising that radicalization is the end result. European states have to undergo the painful process of assimilation - which requires robust engagement with these populations - in order to maximise the full benefits of immigration. Ditching multiculturalism (as in the Netherlands)  is just another lazy attempt at solving the "immigrant problem."