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EUROPEAN MULTICULTURALISM: Beyond the line of liberty

EUROPEAN MULTICULTURALISM: Beyond the line of liberty

Previously one could have hardly treated European multiculturalism seriously. This concept had all the chances to become the political framework of European integration process, although abuses of democracy and misinterpretations of human rights prevented new citizens of the major European countries from truly enjoying the fruits of the "free world". European relative multiculturalism ended up with a natural relative failure in a relatively tolerant European society.

French court has fined two women for wearing nikab — Muslim national headdress completely hiding the face and a small eye-slit. Agence France-Press reported on Thursday. These are the first anti-Muslim sanctions since the ban on nikabs was imposed this April.

32-year-old Hind Ahmas was fined €120, 36-year-old Nayat Alit will pay €80. Fined women claimed that they would appeal for every possible institution against this verdict, up to the European Court on Human Rights. Their logic is quite understandable: a right to wear certain clothes is the very kind of achievement that the Western civilization is so proud of. After all, freedom, the much-talked-about liberty is not just fight against restrictions but also the right to create such for oneself. Given this background, attempts to find male Muslims, forcing their women to wear nikab and other "discriminating" dresses look quite silly and the rare examples of such often have some mental issues.

In 2008 Dutch government forbade schoolgirls wearing yashmak and paranja at schools. This year France and Belgium banned such headdresses from wearing on public. Italian parliamentarian commission on constitutional matters approved similar restricting bill in August. Violators are to pay the severest fine for "Islamic crime" — €150 to €300 plus public works. Husbands of women breaking the law may be fined up to €30 thousand or get in jail for up to one year. On the 27th of September this year Swiss National Council adopted (101 votes "for" versus 77 "against") the similar offer of Oskar Freysinger, nationalist and right-winger, which he slyly dubbed "put off the masks!"

American Pew Research Center explained these initiatives after carrying out public opinion polls in 2010: "Europeans dislike paranja as a headdress". The Center stated that the law-makers merely follow the electoral preferences of European old-timers. Still, we consider the reason to be much more profound. Human rights advocates and analysts believe the ban, initiated by Nicolas Sarkozy, to be a sign of treating Islam as a threat for the French culture.

Hysterical fight against nikabs, paranja and hijabs is actually supported by approximately 70-80% of population and it stiffens the positions of right-wingers, while the leaders of the "free world" admit the failure of multiculturalism one by one. And has there ever been such thing as multiculturalism, which, according to Angela Merkel, David Cameron, Nicolas Sarkozy and some local Christian-Democrats had failed? Fight against the alien dressing styles does not particularly mean "approving and accepting" the alien way of life, which is the exact definition of multiculturalism.

We’ll try to review this bugbear from the positions of ideal multiculturalism without going into the thickness of political aspirations of organized immigrants’ communities. Of course, the problem is quite complicated and all the participants of integrations processes try to make advantage of European legal and political system in order to gain some political scores and social bonuses.

Multiculturalism is a policy aimed at development and preservation of cultural variety within a particular country and the world in general (and the ideology that such policy rests upon). According to this concept, various cultural groups (subdividing into the ethnic and religious ones) dispose the collective rights and may act as a single political, cultural and educational subject. Yet, in order to preserve the state of multiculturalism, different groups should only be identical themselves, but also have an opportunity to reproduce their identity.

Alternative to multiculturalism is the assimilation — at times voluntary, yet more often than not a forced denial of one’s own ethnic features and adoption of the features of receiving countries. Acculturation is named as a sort of a give-and-take option, when various ethnic groups approach each other, "smoothen the angles" of their behavior patterns, history interpretation, yet keep their ethnic borders intact and do not melt into a single community. And although the Universal Declaration of Human Rights proclaims the right for freedom, right for national and cultural self-identification, freedom to choose nationality and language of communication and freedom of religion, these rights are actually reduced to the oral declaration of one’s membership in a certain group, yet without a right to reaffirm it with a day-to-day practice. European countries at the same time go roundabout the human rights and promote their assimilation projects.

According to the concept of multiculturalism, freedom of religion, for example, means not just the declaration of one’s faith at the job applications, but also the presence an ability to reproduce the religious identity, religious self-conscience and religious outlook. That, somehow, doesn’t fit with the ban for bearing and placing crucifixes in Italian schools and Belgian town of Charleroi along with Swiss ban of minarets in 2009 given the fact that according to Eurobarometer polls, more than a half of respondent failed to define a minaret.

Occasional ethnicity-based extraditions fit the multiculturalism concept even less. This is not only applied to French Gypsies, where multiculturalism has never been declared in the first place, but also to deportation of Irish people from Great Britain. We may particularly mention the police operation at Dale Farm, not far from Basildon, where 400 Irish travelers stayed.

Estimating the situation from this point of view, both restrictions in religious construction, prohibition of certain kinds of dresses and ban of religious symbols are acts of assimilation policy. Its goal is not to protect freedoms or fight certain kinds of religious or ethnic infringements. This policy intends to assimilate and turn the seasonal laborers and refugees into respectable local citizens with the fixed set of national features, characteristic of the receiving side.

At that, the half-hearted measures like acculturation don’t satisfy European leaders. This becomes quite apparent once we have a look at the so-called "regime violence" like the refusal to establish a television, speaking the immigrants’ language, hindering the creation of such media sources and specific steps intended to politically disable the immigrants. Failure of multiculturalism (or merely the acculturation in fact) became the talker, when Turks started demanding the protection of their religious rights and abolition of the "German integration and adaptation strategy for immigrants" and the century-old secular European pop-culture had nothing to counter this "threat" with. It is still viewed as a clerical and linguistic threat indeed — multicultural threat for Germany it is.

"Multiculturalism crisis" became a public issue along with the rise of euro-skepticism and building up of nationalist sentiments. Despite the EU prospects for evolving into the European Federation and even the European Empire, assimilation-demanding power started ramping up along with the crisis of this project. In some countries these sentiments have lifted nearly racist parties to the parliament level and in some Eastern European countries there also are parties with "combat wings" that participate in the nationalist pogroms. Take the "Hungarian Guard", banned in July of 2009 and belonging to JOBBIK, for one.

Multiculturalism, though, once it was actually present in Europe, would’ve given immigrants a variety of opportunities to participate in the state life. Their range is so broad that European nation-states are actually unable to provide them in full.

Finally, multiculturalism means not just commitment and sound attitude to various cultural artifacts — pictures, music, household items — but also the implementation of one’s own political culture, i. e. the creation of such policies and local governments that fit the immigrants’ traditions too. This surely contradicts national beliefs and is only possible in a hypothetical European Empire.

Multiculturalism gives not just an opportunity to announce once confession, but also choose the legal procedure, suiting one’s religious beliefs. I. e. in European case a person may choose between national legislation and Shariah law. Such legal models are imposed in Morocco, for instance, where true multiculturalism is present. At the same time, solely European legal system rather makes a sign of ethnocracy than multiculturalism and truly serves the goal of assimilation.

The very religious sphere can be include into or excluded from the political process according to the multicultural outlook. Multicultural states have religious parties that cannot be elected into the parliament. Multicultural Europe has been stopping the clearly religious parties — apart from Christian Democrats, who, however, appeal to Christianity at the level of values, rather than dogmas.

After the scandals with prophet Mohammed caricatures and the local legal struggles that lasted until June of 2011, leaders of a certain party called "New Alliance" passed the Danish Ministry of Interior a list with 21.5 thousand Danish signatures, necessary for registering the organization. From now on it is allowed to participate in the parliament elections. There also pro-Islamic parties in France and Belgium. These political parties are not so numerous as of yet and poorly represented in the parliaments — besides, they experience a huge legal pressure and have to mimic secular civic alignments. This is reflected in their very names: Belgian party is called "Party of Citizenship and Prosperity" and the French one — "Federation of French Muslims" (which already reflects union of Muslims as people with a declared confession, rather than Islamic political ideology — otherwise, their names would’ve also contained the word "Islamic").

Previously one could have hardly treated European multiculturalism seriously. This concept had all the chances to become the political framework of European integration process, although abuses of democracy and misinterpretations of human rights prevented new citizens of the major European countries from truly enjoying the fruits of the "free world". European relative multiculturalism ended up with a natural relative failure in a relatively tolerant European society.

By Vitaliy Trofimov-Trofimov




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