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“Dialogue with the female imams”

Our study of the integration crisis in several European countries leave us with no doubt whatsoever: the continent faces challenges that are profound, extensive, and unprecedented. Much of what we have learned has only intensified our concern about the failure of certain immigration groups to truly become a part of the democratic Western societies in which they reside. For this reason, it is hard to come to any conclusion other than that the nations of Europe , particularly those in the northern and western parts of continents, are well on the way to becoming segregated societies.

The picture that is coming more and more clearly into focus is one of multicultural states – mosaics, not melting pots – where an individual’s country of origin plays a crucial role in determining his or her standard of living as well as the degree to which he or she participates in the rights and obligations of democratic society. It is our belief that in the long run, no one benefits from these developments – not the immigrants themselves, or the countries in which they live, or Europe as a whole. Given the lack of a common devotion to basic democratic values, the only easily conceivable future for Europe is one marked by open conflicts between population groups – and even, perhaps, the death of democracy.

What lessons can be learned from the documentation presented in this book? First, there should no longer be any discussion as to whether current government family-reunification policies lead to violations of individual rights and to an illegal visa trade. Obviously they do. If it is difficult to establish the precise dimensions of this problem (which is a legitimate topic of discussion), this question should certainly not be allowed to prevent necessary steps from being taken. We know the problem exists. Its consequences at the individual level are dramatic and involve, among much else, the denial to countless persons of the fundamental right to make one of life’s most decisive and delicate choices: whom one will share one’s life with. This right is mentioned specifically in several international conventions. The panoply of personal violations, moreover, that are typically involved in the use of young people as human visas – among them physical and psychological force, threats and manipulation, imprisonment and sex crimes – are all completely unacceptable.

All of Europe is in agreement on this. But this problem will never be solved so long as we accept the received wisdom that “the situation will resolve itself over time” and that “new generations will be integrated as a matter of course.” We are convinced, on the contrary, that events are moving in quite a different direction. Ghettoization is on increasing; certain immigrant groups are becoming more, not less, disconnected from civil society. A kind of self-imposed isolation has taken hold of many immigrant communities, largely imposed and enforced by anti-democratic forces within those communities, and at the expense of children’s, young people’s, and women’s quality of life.

To collect and compare data in this field is far from easy. In some countries, official statistics on important aspects of integration are simply unavailable. At our request and for a fee, Statistics Norway carried out the study of marriage patterns that is discussed in Chapter 2. Shouldn’t such overviews – preferably more extensive ones, including such variables as educational level – be available for all European countries, and for the edification of political leaders (among others)? Or are the statistics, in fact, too discomforting? If some individuals think so, isn’t it appropriate to ask how a reasonable and defensible policy can be formulated if key information is held back from those formulating it?

It has often been argued that integration is a two-way process. This view is founded on the assumption that all immigrants want to integrate. The leaders of Europe have taken it for granted, whether they realize it or not, that all immigrants wish to become full members of a democratic society – which means accepting democracy’s fundamental conditions, namely equality between individuals, equal rights for men and women, religious liberty, and freedom of expression. In our experience, this view is largely misguided, and is founded on a lack of familiarity with non-Western cultures, in which collectivist and often feudal values hold sway, and in which respect for human rights and understanding of democratic principles is meager or nonexistent. In addition, European leaders are insufficiently aware of non-Westerners’ economic motives for migration.

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