The Integration Dilemma


It’s been suggested that the use of the niqab is a display of unwillingness by Muslims to integrate.  This is got me thinking about the whole integration question and the many claims made that Muslims are unwilling to integrate.

Let’s bear in my mind firstly that most of the Muslims in Britain are second/third/fourth generation Muslims.  Born and bred here.

I have direct experience of Muslim integration and I’ll be covering that later but first, I’d like to understand this whole integration issue a bit more because I’m really perplexed by it all. 

Two points…firstly, I do wonder why it’s always the Muslim who is the most *got at* for this lack of integration. And secondly, in what ways exactly are Muslims not integrating?

Regarding the first point, let’s look at location habits.  Most people, by nature, seek their own kind.  We have Jewish communities, Chinese immigrants naturally form their own communities, Brits abroad seek out ex-pat communities.  And here in Britain, whites tend to locate themselves in predominantly ‘white’ areas, usually the leafy suburbs and what’s the first thing they say when they see a Muslim family come to view a property near them?  “Oh no!  They’re moving here now.  They’ll soon take over.  That’s £30 grand off the value of my house.” 

We rarely see whites/non-Muslims integrating with the Muslim communities, getting involved, celebrating Muslim culture but we blame the Muslims for cohesion failures.  Let’s remember what I said earlier, most British Muslims are second and third generation Muslims.   So why is it up to them to do all the integrating?  Should it not be a two-way venture?  Their Grandparents and great-grandparents who migrated here had to live through the all racial tensions and severe prejudice and they haven’t forgotten.  The current generation are a bit more confident in the system but this confidence is being eroded bit by bit by recent Western demands on their lifestyle and if Muslims are now retreating more and more into their own world, I think it’s only because they are under constant attack.  A point I’ve made many times in discussion is that it’s a small wonder that Muslims retreat into the protection of their own communities when they are regularly scapegoated and constantly faced with hostile demands to change, adapt, integrate, become Westernised.  And, in contrast, instead of withdrawing, some become defiant.  Grimmer still, some are radicalised. 

Some people firmly believe that Muslims not only don’t wish to integrate, they wish to impose Sharia law onto Britain.  These claims are wildly exaggerated.  A minority would desire this, just as a minority of fundamental Christians would desire a British theocracy.  In fact, Christian indoctrination already occurs here in a small way because it is now compulsory that all state schools should hold an “act of worship” every day either in assembly or in class.  This is a legal requirement.

Coming to my second point which questions just how much they are not integrating?  In my experience it’s inaccurate to say they don’t make efforts to integrate.   Because amazingly, in spite of all the hostility, they actually do.  I know many scarf or veil-wearing Muslims and I have regular contact with them through work and school.  They’re not oppressed.  You should hear one particular woman I know – how she bosses her poor husband around.  Remnants of oppression do, sadly, still exist and this needs to be addressed, by legislation if necessary.  And incidentally, I know of many female Muslims who are brave enough to campaign against this oppression and many are vocal in their hatred of the niqab too.  So they do have their own minds and do use their voices to speak out. 

Muslim mothers (and fathers) are very involved in the life of the school.  They regularly attend the school assembly, including the Christian ones (Easter, Christmas).  They allow their children to take part in them all, including the Christmas nativity.  I’ve never known any of them to exclude their children from any school activity on the grounds of religion.  Their children attend all the birthday parties of their peers and return the invites for their own children’s parties. The veil does not stop Muslim mums from integrating and interacting with non-Muslims.  I know from direct experience.

At work, I have many Muslim colleagues. Contrary to popular misconceptions such as that Muslims being allowed special privileges regarding prayer time etc. they conform to the work ethic just like anyone else.  They join us at break times, they socially interact, they’re cooperative, friendly,  Bascially normal.

Many Muslims get involved in community ventures and Neighbourhood Watch schemes, they chase career dreams and aspirations, they are politically active, they donate to charitable causes (they are required by Sharia law to give a fixed percentage of their earnings to charity).  More and more are entering predominantly non-Muslim professions (police, nursing) and if we could stop bashing them for long enough, even more would do so – voluntarily, without the need of positive-discrimination type schemes.

I come across Muslims on a daily basis.  In the supermarket.  At work.  At my children’s school.  Most of them are very friendly, helpful and sociable people.

So…I’m at an utter loss as to know just how much more integrated can they be?  How much more can they be reasonably expected to integrate into Western culture without compromising some of their Muslim values?  Clearly, they’re not going to be joining the rabble down town on a Saturday night.  We’re not going to be seeing them getting drunk or doing drugs and generally behaving like morons anytime soon.  Should we expect them to be seen mixing in the local pub in the evenings or “integrating” with the gamblers at the betting shops?  I’m not suggesting that all non-Muslims behave like this.  But the ones who don’t are usually family-orientated and do family things together – just like Muslim families do.  It doesn’t mean they’ve opted out of social interaction with non-Muslims.   Again, how often do you see non-Muslim families going out of their way to socially-interact with Muslim families?  We’re all, by nature, territorial and protective of our own little family unit and we’re all happy with that.   We don’t generally poke our noses into other communities unless invited.   

My whole point is, what is it that Muslims aren’t doing?  In what ways are they failing to interact?  And why do Muslims have to work harder at this social interaction thing than non-Muslims?

If Muslim behaviour is not unlawful, why are we spending so much time discussing it?  This is supposed to be a free and tolerant society. 

When people say,“Muslims would be ok if they integrated more!”  what they are really saying is, “Muslims would be ok if they totally surrendered their Muslim lifestyles and became fully Westernised.”

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2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by misslionheart on October 10, 2006 at 11:59 pm

    This is well thought-out blog, Earthpal, and I respect the time and effort that went into it, the sad part is, that you are missing the fundamentalist side of the facts. Those who believe that Islam is the ‘one-true-religion’ and are intolerant of other beliefs, they believe that Islam *is* the one true religion and should be imposed upon the world over and above all other religions.
    These people live their lives in strict adherance to the teachings of the Koran and feel that the world and all non Muslims are lesser people without these teachings.
    Christians, Hindu’s, Buddhists, Atheists and all non-believers, by the teachings of the Koran, are lost and will only be redeemed by their conversion to Islam.
    Your comments in relation to integration and cohesion failures are valid to a degree, however, I would say that it is the minority as opposed to the majority who try to integrate. In every county in the world the vast majority of the Western Demograph, integrate into the society in which they live. They adhere to all local laws, customs and the cultures whilst still maintaining their own identity.
    I must continue my comment at a later date, its getting too heavy!

    Reply

  2. Yes, it is a bit heavy for your usual taste and I’m surprised at the depth of your comment. Thanks for your contribution.  Methinks you’re becoming an armchair warrior like me. 

    I really didn’t want to go into the fundamentalist side of things; I was just questioning the perceived beliefs that Muslims don’t integrate enough in this country. But you’ve raised a good point and I accept that it’s an important part of the debate.

    Yes you’re right, Muslims do believe that if you are not converted to Islam, you are lost. All the other main religions believe EXACTLY the same about their own religion. They all believe that their own religion has exclusive access to the *truth*.

    And it’s also true that some Muslims would have Sharia law imposed in Britain. But we really mustn’t let ourselves get hysterical over the propaganda spewed out by the media because the media is deliberately sensationalist; it’s the best way to increase circulation/viewing figures. The majority of Muslims who express a desire to have Sharia law introduced here are not asking for Sharia law to replace British law. They only wish for British law to accommodate Sharia law whenever and wherever it’s applicable to them, for example, religious holidays, prayer times, marriage laws and so on. They don’t desire that it should apply to non-Muslims and I’m pretty sure they’re not asking to be allowed to carry out stonings and beheadings at their whim.

    Personally speaking, I strongly believe that the law should always be secular (which would also mean no more compulsory daily worship in state schools). The only time when the law should be influenced by religion is when it is needed to protect a persons right to freely practise their religion and this religion must only be practised within the law of the country.

    In some Muslim countries, Islam is very intolerant of other religions and I strongly disagree with this…just as I would disagree if my own country was intolerant of other religions too. The popular argument “well Muslims countries are intolerant of Christianity so why should we tolerate their religion?” fails straightaway because it is self-contradictory and it turns us into the very people we are accusing of being intolerant. I sincerely hope that the countries that practise intolerance and archaic, outdated, oppressive laws will eventually evolve but I feel that it’s got to come largely from within because any outside force tends to be counterproductive. In cases of extremely oppressive and tyrannical governments where human rights are being grossly violated then there should be some sort of diplomatic international intervention.

    And you’re right that Western immigrants do adhere to the local laws, customs etc.. They seem to find it much easier to integrate and bond with their host country than Muslims, Hindu’s etc. do but it probably helps that they’re white, they’re of Western culture anyway and they don’t receive such a hostile reception as the black’s, Muslim’s, Hindu’s etc.. As I said, it’s no wonder they retreat into the protection of their own kind.

    Reply

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