When then-Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy pushed tough limits on immigrants last year, the left called it an attack on France's African and Arab populations. In a country roiled by changing complexion and identity, and on the eve of national elections, Mr. Sarkozy's new "contract" set a high bar: Know the French language, embrace civic values, and show means of support.
Some 600 pro-immigrant groups hit Paris streets, protesting how quickly Europe and France were closing to the foreign-born and how aggressive the measures seemed to be. But the law passed.
Now, President Sarkozy has again upped the stakes. Not only will incoming families face a higher hurdle, but an amendment quietly introduced DNA testing as a way to prove biological ties among them. In addition, French embassies abroad will be newly empowered to conduct extensive background checks of prospective residents.
Sounds like people with the legal right to immigrate to France have been bringing in non-relatives as relatives.
"Immigration is the problem of the 21st century for Europe," argues Thierry Mariani, the Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) lawmaker and author of the DNA test bill. "If Denmark, Finland, Norway, Holland ... countries that have a tradition of respect for human rights have accepted for many years the DNA approach, it is because there is a real problem."
Similar trends and views are emerging throughout Europe. In Belgium, one of the few agreements between the Flemish and Wallonians is to create far stronger measures to limit migration and asylum, and to make deportations of illegal workers easier. Last week, Holland debated whether to stop funding the protection of former Dutch lawmaker Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Somalian who lives under a death threat by radical Muslims.
France, Belgium, Denmark, Holland, and Switzerland have all witnessed the rise of a conservative discourse that has shifted the gravitational center of immigration politics. The formerly extreme views of nationalist voices like Jean-Marie Le Pen in France are today part of the mainstream discussion.
Yet as immigration expert Judith Sunderland of Human Rights Watch in Milan, Italy, points out, immigration politics now cut across the European political spectrum. "Most of the fights are no longer over whether to proceed with new laws and policies," she argues. "Immigration is seen as a crisis for both the left and the right."
In American the Europeans are generally seen as to the left of Americans on average. For example European politicians support a larger welfare state and more intervention in labor markets. Democrats tend to see Europe as a model for social policy they'd like to implement in America. But European leftist politicians are effectively to the "right" of American Democrat politicians on immigration.
So what are the Europeans afraid of? Islam.
Riva Kastoryano, an expert on immigration at Sciences Po in Paris, argues that the root of greater apprehension among mainstream Europeans is a fear of the spread of Islam. "Much of the old xenophobia about foreigners in Europe has been recast today as a perception of 'Islamophobia,' " she says.
The fear of Islam is rational though. Muslim minorities do not accept the cultures and values of the countries they immigrate to.
Hirsi Ali: We have to revert to the original meaning of the term tolerance. It meant you agreed to disagree without violence. It meant critical self-reflection. It meant not tolerating the intolerant. It also came to mean a very high level of personal freedom.
Then the Muslims arrived, and they hadnít grown up with that understanding of tolerance. In short order, tolerance was now defined by multiculturalism, the idea that all cultures and religions are equal. Expectations were created among the Muslim population. They were told they could preserve their own culture, their own religion. The vocabulary was quickly established that if you criticize someone of color, youíre a racist, and if you criticize Islam, youíre an Islamophobe.
Reason: The international corollary to the word tolerance is probably respect. The alleged lack of respect has become a perennial sore spot in relations between the West and Islam. Salman Rushdie receiving a British knighthood supposedly signified such a lack of respect, as did the Danish cartoons last year, and many other things. Do you believe this is what Muslims genuinely craveórespect?
Hirsi Ali: Itís not about respect. Itís about power, and Islam is a political movement.
Reason: Uniquely so?
Hirsi Ali: Well, it hasnít been tamed like Christianity. See, the Christian powers have accepted the separation of the worldly and the divine. We donít interfere with their religion, and they donít interfere with the state. That hasnít happened in Islam.
But I donít even think that the trouble is Islam. The trouble is the West, because in the West thereís this notion that we are invincible and that everyone will modernize anyway, and that what we are seeing now in Muslim countries is a craving for respect. Or itís poverty, or itís caused by colonization.
The Western mind-setóthat if we respect them, theyíre going to respect us, that if we indulge and appease and condone and so on, the problem will go awayóis delusional. The problem is not going to go away. Confront it, or itís only going to get bigger.
I agree with Hirsi Ali on at least one point here. Westerners hold false beliefs that cause them to underestimate the demographic vulnerability of the West to Muslim immigrants. I suspect these false beliefs have their origin in the Cold War. During the Cold War the communists presented their ideology as the universal ideology suitable for all of the world. Western opponents of communism argued that communism wasn't suitable for the whole world and instead argued that Western beliefs held universal appeal. Too many Westerners came to believe this propaganda and came to believe that the triumph of Western beliefs was inevitable because no other credible belief system (secular or religious) competed with anything Western.
However, Hirsi Ali is making mistakes in how she describes the differences between Christianity and Islam. One of Hirsi Ali's mistakes is to paint Islam as somehow lagging behind Christianity in going through a process of accepting a division between religion and state. Christians were able to accept that separation in large part because the base texts of Christianity ("render unto Caesar that which is Caesar") are compatible with that separation. Jesus Christ never ruled a kingdom. He never led soldiers into battle. He never created a legal system. He never wiped out tribes that rejected his religion. By contrast Mohammed did all those things. The founder of Islam presented a model of the state that has no room for a separation of religion and state. Islam hasn't so much lagged behind as it has stayed true to its teachings while Christianity changed its relationship to the state because a change in that relationship wasn't incompatible with Christianity.
Also, Christians have not stopped bringing their religious beliefs into the voting booth. Their values still influence what they'll decide to be acceptable policy. But Christians in Western countries see less conflict between what they believe governments should do and what governments actually do because Christian values so heavily influence what Westerners (even secular Westerners) believe are appropriate values. By contrast, when Muslims come into the West they bring a different and much more incompatible set of values. The values disagreements between Christian and secular Westerners are small in comparison to the values disagreements between Western and Muslim values. Muslims do not see non-Muslims as their equals. Islam is therefore incompatible with Western notions of equality.
|Share |||By Randall Parker at 2007 October 20 10:41 PM Immigration Politics|