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    Ann Corcoran
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Archive for May 26th, 2008

Assimilation and multiculturalism in Britain

Posted by Judy K. Warner on May 26, 2008

The always-interesting Theodore Dalrymple has an article in the current City Journal called A Confusion of Tongues: Why Britain struggles to assimilate immigrants. It’s long and thoughtful and not easily summarized, but I’ll give it a try.

Britain is full of immigrants from different places; London is the most multicultural city in the world. A third of its inhabitants were born outside Britain. Many of the native British people are alarmed at this rapid influx and would like the pace of immigration to slow down. But the intellectuals have made such an idea out of the bounds of respectability, as they have here. In the case of Britain or any European country there is some historical reason for this, as “too strong an emphasis on national identity has in the past led to barbarism.”

Dalrymple likes much about the variety of cultures in Britain, and he is himself the child and grandchild of refugees.

But we did not conclude that it was best, then, to have no national, religious, or cultural identity at all. The institutions that allow one to live in peace, freedom, and security require loyalty (not necessarily of a blind variety); and loyalty in turn requires a sense of identification. In a world in which sovereignty must exist, some kind of identification with that sovereignty is also necessary: too rigid a national identity has its dangers, but so does too loose a one. The first results in aggression toward and denigration of others; the second in society’s disintegration from within, which can then provoke authoritarian attempts at repair.

Many if not most of the immigrants have no interest in taking on a British identity.

A government report several years ago found that Britain’s whites and ethnic minorities led radically separate lives, with no sense of shared nationality. And as is now well-known, a disturbing number of British Muslims have proved susceptible to the ideology of Islamism. A recent survey found that 40 percent of British Muslims under 24 wanted to live under sharia; 36 percent supported the death penalty for apostasy. Significantly, the figures for older Muslims were considerably lower. Another poll found that a fifth of all British Muslims had sympathy with the “feelings and motives” of the London suicide bombers. Only a third of British Muslims, a Guardian survey found, want more integration into British culture.

 Dalrymple lives part of the time in France, and he contrasts the two countries’ treatment of their immigrants.

France has the easier task, perhaps, because it is an ideological, or at least a philosophical, state, while Britain is an organic one. The French state, unlike the ancient country it rules, is a new, reborn state. It has a foundation myth, that of the French Revolution, which ushered in the age of Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity.

These ideals, while not lived up to, are easily understandable by natives and immigrants alike. Everyone who makes France his home becomes a Frenchman, without a hyphen. And because France is an officially secular nation it can ban headscarves without accusations of bias: nobody’s religion is displayed in public.

Britain is a different kind of nation. 

The French state started with a philosophical big bang; the British state evolved. The French state prescribed; the British state did not forbid. The traditions of the British state, therefore, were much more favorable to multiculturalism, having always allowed people to form associations for their own freely chosen purposes. This lack of central direction served society well while differences among groups were relatively minor and while numbers of immigrants were small; but once there were so many different groups with nothing in common, each with numbers enough to form a ghetto—and worse still, some of them actively hostile to the overarching order of British society—then the laissez-faire approach was bound to run into difficulty. It is hard to oppose an ideology with a tradition.

Multiculturalism has become a big business in Britain, even more so than in the U.S.  And that helps to prolong and intensify the divisions between cultures. For all of these reasons, French Muslims are better integrated than British ones.  But Britain has a different advantage: It is far easier to start a business there than in France. So immigrants tend to open shops and restaurants and other small businesses, many of which are patronized by native Brits. In France, although the Muslims are more culturally integrated they are not integrated into the economy and tend to be unemployed, which embitters them.

Perhaps things are changing in Britain:

Aware of the polls on immigration, Brown’s Labour government has just taken some hesitant but sensible steps, putting aspiring British citizens on “probation” to show that they can speak English, pay taxes, and avoid jail before granting them citizenship.

Posted in diversity's dark side, Other Immigration | 1 Comment »

UN High Commissioner for Refugees visits Bangladesh to discuss Rohingya

Posted by Ann Corcoran on May 26, 2008

Antonio Guterres is arriving in Bangladesh today to attempt to resolve the Rohingya Muslim refugee “crisis.”  Many Rohingya fled Burma (Myanmar) in the 1990’s and are camped in Bangladesh.   We have written many times on the Rohingya because there is political pressure on Western countries to accept the Rohingya for resettlement.

The UN’s refugee agency chief António Guterres will arrive in Dhaka Monday on a two-day visit to primarily deal with Rohingya crisis, reports

“During his two-day visit, Guterres will hold talks with government officials to find a solution to some 27,000 Rohingya refugees,” a statement of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Dhaka said Sunday.

The UNHCR chief is expected to pass a day at a camp and talk to the refugees, the statement said.

The refugees have been languishing in refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar for 16 years, as they are not willing to go back to homeland Myanmar, fearing persecution by the military junta.

Bangladesh is concerned since it often struggles to maintain law and order in the camps in the coastal district. But a host country cannot force the refugees for repatriation because of the UN-backed practices. They can be repatriated only if they voluntarily return to their homeland.

In the early 1990s, a huge number of refugees flooded Bangladesh as the military regime in Myanmar carried out a massive crackdown on the Muslims living in the Arakan state of the Southeast Asian country.


Currently some 27,000 Rohingyas live in Bangladesh’s camps while the rest returned to Myanmar under the UNHCR sponsorship. But there are some 10,000 unregistered Rohingya refugees without water supplies and basic sanitation facilities. They have shelter in a reserved forest in Cox’s Bazar district.

Bangladesh has refused to entertain a request by the UNHCR to give the unregistered Rohingyas a refugee status.

See our category called “Rohingya Reports” here to learn more about this issue.

Posted in Muslim refugees, Rohingya Reports | 2 Comments »

Some Iraqis come home

Posted by Judy K. Warner on May 26, 2008

The International Herald Tribune has a better-than-usual piece on Iraqis who left their homes during the war. It is oddly called “Feeling safer, Iraqis come home.” Oddly because it is more about Iraqis who haven’t gone home. But the optimistic title reflects the relative lack of doom-and-gloom in the article. It begins this way:

BAGHDAD: The surge has been good for the Murads.

Just over a year after they were driven out of their Baghdad neighborhood by militants who kidnapped their son, the parents and children are back in their home. The Shiite family is living among longtime Sunni neighbors, protected by U.S. forces and armed with safety guarantees from the Sunni tribal sheiks who had joined forces to drive al-Qaida in Iraq from the area.

“I am happy to be back to my house and enjoying the company of my Sunni neighbors and friends,” says Ali Jassim Murad, 43, a Culture Ministry employee and head of the household.

But then it continues:

But 15 months after the U.S. military poured reinforcements into Iraq’s worst battlefields to regain control over them, families like the Murads are a tiny minority. Of some 5.1 million Iraqis uprooted from their homes, some 78,180 — fewer than 1 percent — had returned by March 31, according to the International Organization for Migration, an intergovernmental humanitarian group based in Switzerland.

I haven’t seen a figure larger than 4.5 million anywhere else, and most often I read of 4 million refugees — 2 million who left Iraq and 2 million internally displaced. This account fails to mention that among the Iraqis uprooted from there homes are almost a million who left during the regime of Saddam Hussein.

The displaced Iraqis are having a hard time.

Yet the U.N. and aid agencies warn that despite the drop in violence, a rapid mass return of Iraqis demanding their old homes back may only reignite sectarian tensions.

I would like to see an assessment by our military of the consequences of more Iraqis returning home. We have seen that the UN and the agencies have a bias in favor of resettlement and a desire to present the U.S. in the worst possible light.

The article is interesting, though, because it reports on the cases of several families who left their homes, going into some of the complexity of the issue, unlike most accounts. Negative reports are so common, I’m copying here one of the positive ones (which is still a horrible story):

In Khidr, a Shiite hamlet of date palms 45 miles south of Baghdad, all that remains of the downtown area are the mosque walls and huge piles of rubble. Months of shelling and bombings blamed on al-Qaida in Iraq finally forced all 800 villagers to flee in October 2006.

“Life was completely destroyed. We didn’t even see birds in the trees,” said Jaafar Hussein, a village sheik.

His family also was among the first of about 100 to return in January after U.S. soldiers with the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division cleared out the Sunni insurgents and established a patrol base.

Khidr is a Shiite enclave surrounded by mainly Sunni villages in a rural area long known as the triangle of death.

“What al-Qaida did and in some places the Shia extremists have done is they just decimated the area, they destroyed everything, they scared everyone away,” said Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, who commands American forces south of Baghdad.

The devastated center stands as a monument to the destruction. But the leafy surrounding area is slowly being restored as villagers, mostly potato and tomato farmers, salvage bricks from the rubble to rebuild their houses and their lives.

“With the support of the U.S. Army and the Iraqi government, life is returning gradually,” Hussein said. “More farmers are working in the fields now.”

Posted in Iraqi refugees | Comments Off on Some Iraqis come home

A tale of a Sudanese family in the Quad-cities–Part I

Posted by Ann Corcoran on May 26, 2008

First I came across this article from the Quad-City Times about a Sudanese refugee family who came to America in 2004.    The next day Chris sent me an article that actually preceded it which I’ll post on in Part II.

Both articles are so instructive on an important theme we’ve been writing about in recent days:  anger against immigrants and welfare.    But, this one also demonstrates once again how those resettling refugees are largely responsible for some of the troubles refugees are having.

The article starts out describing how on their first 4th of July, the father came home to find his wife and children huddled in the basement thinking war had broken out due to the loud fireworks going on outside.  My first thought was, once again the volags, who are paid to resettle refugees, are falling down on the job.  Does no one teach new Americans about our traditions?

The article discusses the good things in the Agok family’s life.  People are helping them and the kids are getting an education.    Then, when  reporters are truthful as this one is, comes a section about the things that have gone badly.  And, in this case it is not unlike what is happening in S. Africa except that American blacks aren’t killing black immigrants.   Well, maybe nearly killing them,  see this earlier post by Friends of Refugees Chris Coen. 

But their resettlement has not been seamless. Not everyone welcomed them, and they learned that the U.S. is not always a place of peace. The family’s small apartment in Rock Island’s Lincoln Homes housing project is not the safe haven they sought.

“Hearing the shooting and violence, it really scares us,” Michael said. “I ask myself, ‘Am I in the wrong place again?’ I don’t want more conflict. What I have been through is enough.”

Some of the conflict is directed squarely at his family, which frustrates, scares and saddens him.

“People can be aggressive and cruel,” he said. “They become angry when I mispronounce a word. Our neighborhood in the complex here can be frightening.” 

A commenter named Boomette hits the nail on the head.  The volags who resettle refugees must be looking at the color of skin and just making assumptions that a black American community will welcome their black African brothers (see my post on the same problems in Roanoke, VA).  Or, they are just looking for cheap housing.

This family has sponsors in New Windsor, Moline and Orion, and they end up in a Rock Island housing project? If you’re going to sponsor a family, you should not be dumping them somewhere where they will be surrounded by hostility.

And local black people make fun of this family’s mispronunciation of words? The irony. I hope the immigrants don’t end up speaking the way many of the locals do.

I wish the Ayuen family much success in their new country. 

Mr. Agok wonders if he is experiencing threats because he is too black! 

Rock Island Police have investigated several conflicts, including violent ones, between refugees and immigrants from Africa and American-born blacks.

“I don’t understand their thinking,” Michael said of some American blacks who he said have been “aggressive” toward the Africans. “Is it because we are more black?

“My family does nothing wrong. Why can’t they be welcoming to us? We are your visitors. We don’t come illegally.

No, Mr. Agok,  it’s the same around the world.  It is not the color of your skin.  It is partially cultural, you aren’t like them.   And, it has to do with welfare and work and a fear that you will take their jobs and that you are getting something they aren’t—special help as a refugee.  

See Judy’s post yesterday on Mark Krikorian’s new book.   I haven’t read the book but the discussion of his main point, that immigration is differant today not because of the immigrants themselves, but because we now have an extensive welfare system.  Local people see refugees getting all sorts of special things and resentment builds, unlike the old days when immigrants were just like the citizens—scratching out a living and trying to give their children a better life.  Everyone was in the same boat then.   Today we have special boats for immigrants.

Posted in Changing the way we live, Crimes, diversity's dark side, Refugee Resettlement Program, Resettlement cities | 1 Comment »

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