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April 2, 2020
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Commentary: Multiculturalism has succeeded and is our greatest chance for peaceful coexistence

Prague, 14.1.2015 20:33, (ROMEA)
Martin Šimáček, former director of the Agency for Social Inclusion at the Office of the Government of the Czech Republic.
Martin Šimáček, former director of the Agency for Social Inclusion at the Office of the Government of the Czech Republic.

Multiculturalism has succeeded and continues to be our greatest chance for peaceful coexistence, not only in the Euro-Atlantic world, but for the whole planet. Never before has the civilized world, led by intellectual elites of all faiths, been so united in condemning radical Islamists.  

We are following the reactions of imams, intellectuals, and other Muslims worldwide on social networking sites who are condemning the terrorist attack in Paris and helping terrified Europeans understand that Muslims genuinely do not pose a security risk. The risk is posed by radicals and terrorists who have misappropriated Allah to murder in his name and destroy the lives of millions of ordinary people - most of them Muslims in their own homelands.

What failures resulted in this situation? Colonialism and the pugnacity of Europe during the 20th century, among other things.

We are now reaping the fruits of the Cold War and the exploitative competition between the East and the West to influence the Middle East and northern Africa, even though we do not want to acknowledge it. The looting of the mineral wealth of the impoverished parts of the world, the competition for oil and geopolitical influence all led to the creation of artificial state formations based on rule by minority groups who, thanks to support "from the West", have dominated the majority of the people in their societies through a mixture of political and religious oppression.    

We have armed small groups of dictators, unleashed wars, and and then abandoned them once the country at issue has been destroyed and looted. Hundreds of millions of lives have been mutilated, tens of millions have been dying beyond the gates of Europe during the past 50 to 70 years, and from that part of the world today there is now the threat (and in this context it is not at all surprising!) of radicals who are the offspring of these social experiments, those whom we find today in Al-Qaeda or among the warriors of the Islamic State.  

What else has led to this failure? The immigration and social or social inclusion policies of the Euro-Atlantic area.

The concept of inclusion, however, is not to blame - wherever that is supported, it has evidently contributed to good coexistence. On the contrary, the failure at issue has been an absence of inclusive policies.

This is precisely the case of France, which now has on her territory a third generation descended from Muslim asylum-seekers who have remained too separate from the rest of society, in economic and social isolation, during the three, four or five decades during which their families have been settling in France. Even these people, as a group, do not pose a threat of terrorism, but many do represent another kind of security risk which (especially in France, but not only there) we can sometimes follow on the news through reports of street battles on the outskirts of Paris and other cities.

In addition to their unsatisfactory social situation, their unemployment, and frequently just their poverty, the motor of such unrest is their loss of identity, of any sense of self-worth. The young people in particular basically do not feel they belong anywhere - they are no longer Arabs or Muslims, and even though they were born here, they are also neither Europeans nor French, among other reasons because society (both European and French) mostly despises, fears and rejects them.

Fortunately, a growing number of individuals and places are creating exceptions to this rule (it must be added). Nevertheless, the radical Islamists who travel the world know all of this, and they recruit these people back to their "original" homelands, into training, into the army "in the name of Allah".

The radicals can easily exploit these peoples' confusion, frustration, and loss of values. They can easily befuddle them by becoming their interpreters of Islam.

Indeed, the radicals may be the first in these young people's lives to offer them any kind of starting point, even one woven into a lie. The story of one of the girls who was reportedly an accomplice of those who attacked the editorial offices of Charlie Hebdo in Paris is symptomatic of this process.  

She spent most of her youth integrated into French society, albeit not very successfully. When she needed the aid of a helping hand because of her existential difficulties (from a social worker, for example) she instead ended up losing her job and beginning a relationship with a radical youth who has now turned the tables on her life.

All of this results in fear - the average Parisians or residents of any other city in America or Europe have asked themselves again and again whether they shouldn't be more afraid of Muslims for the sake of their own personal security, whether they shouldn't avoid them, push back against them, close themselves off to them. That is precisely what the radical Islamists want.  

That is the reason terrorists sow discord among ordinary people, the reason they increase their fear, the reason they want to artificially make Islam seem like a risk. The radicals do not need multicultural Euro-Atlantic society, integrated Muslims, or respected Islamic authorities.  

They need a conflict between societies, a war of civilizations - they need division and fear. Their influence and power will grow from such conflicts, thanks to which they are now taking over Islamic countries and easily organizing terrorist attacks in America and Europe.  

Muslims have been part of America and Europe for many decades. They are not leaving - on the contrary, one way or another their numbers are growing.

The question of the conditions under which their numbers will grow is also a question of the survival of America, Europe, and the whole world. The radicals do not want to see examples of good coexistence between Muslim immigrants and the original residents of Berlin or Frankfurt, for example.  

That makes the current position of German Chancellor Angela Merkel even more important:  "Where there are people in need, we will help them. Among other measures, we will help by accepting more refugees from Iraq and Syria."

It also makes the current position of the European Union even more important, which has (at least in its statements to date) followed the challenge of the German Chancellor and opened itself up to migration. If the coexistence of the original Europeans and new arrivals is based on humanity, open coexistence and respect for cultural and religious difference, then Europe will be enriched and prepared for the situation we are now experiencing - the moments following an appalling terrorist attack that sparks the question of revising the coexistence between the Christian (liberal democratic) and Muslim worlds.

If Muslims will be full-fledged co-inhabitants of Europe, then we will better know Islam and its traditions from daily contact with them, and we will be able to much more easily distinguish the radicals and terrorists hiding behind "Allah" from the real Muslims. However, this will mean undergoing one basic change, and here again Germany can be an example to us (especially the cities of Berlin and Frankfurt), as can U.S. President Barack Obama and his new asylum policy, thanks to which the lives of five million people who have been severely tested by illegally working in the country are now about to become legalized.

That change is a new direction for asylum and social policy. It must be inclusive, investing into the education and employment of impoverished immigrants.

It must be preventive, forestalling the exacerbation of situations in people's lives that could risk their dropping out of society and eventually radicalizing - this doesn't mean working with terrorists directly, "just" working on keeping people from entering the grey zone of illegal work, social pathology, etc. Last but not least, this policy must be respectful.  

People should feel that they belong together in public, in the schools and in their workplaces instead of facing off against one another. That begins with a girl's right to wear her headscarf and ends with people who know one another mixing as peers, no longer addressing who is Christian or who is Muslim, but what kind of person each of us is.  

Martin Šimáček, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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