Saturday, 16 July 2016

The Europeanization of Europe

In a column in Der Spiegel, one of the German news magazines:

"Es gehört zu den Zielen des IS, dass sich Muslime in Europa ausgegrenzt und stigmatisiert fühlen, weil es so wahrscheinlicher wird, sie eines Tages zu rekrutieren. Wollen wir den Dschihadisten ein Schnippchen schlagen, müssen wir die Willkommenskultur gerade jetzt beibehalten und so viel in die Integration dieser Flüchtlinge investieren, damit diese für die Radikalen unerreichbar bleiben." One of the aims of IS is, to get Moslims in Europe feeling excluded and stigmatized, because in that way it will be easier to recrute them for terrorist actions. If we want to get ahead of the djihadists, we should especially now maintain the 'welcoming culture' and invest much in the integration of these fugitives, so that they will remain inaccessible to the radicals.

The great challenge is, to Europeanize immigrants. To a great extent, that is already happening for years successfully; it are the mishaps and the critical abberations which reach the media, not the numerous instances where immigrants have built-up a worthwhile life in a European way, in spite of head scarfs, religious opinions or non-white skin colour. The problem with this process is, what exactly means 'Europeanization'. Do we consider it a purely social and educational process, or (also) a cultural one? And do we mean by 'cultural' the broad, anthropological meaning or the more circumscribed, artistic one, in the sense we use the term in 'high / low culture'?

The anthropological meaning points towards the observation that Western/ European culture has evolved into a universal world culture, based upon universal humanistic values as developed in the West after the Enlightenment. Its universal nature means also, no longer rooted in and restricted to locality, which opens the way for immigrants to cultivate the culture of their home country, and distancing themselves from their environment, which invokes suspicion and indifference. This explains the nature of the Parisian banlieux where muslim immigrants are left to their own devices and don't participate in French society: giving them special attention and support as a group, would deny the idea that every civilian is the same in the eyes of government and the law, in a secular society. In reality, immigrants in France are often treated as second class people, or less.

Universal values of freedom thus produce paradoxical problems in the area where they had developed, for instance the freedom to dress in a way not customary in Europe, or cultivating unusual life styles which can have alienating consequences. A whole territory of cultural mass psychology is emerging with the current surge of terrorist attacks, inviting debate about what it means to be European, and that is in itself a good and necessary thing.

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