Integration—or Coexistence?

THERE IS A CERTAIN RESISTANCE to the idea of immigrant integration which has been gaining some traction in late years. The Young Muslims of Italy, organization whose website can be found here, announced in 2015 a most suggestive congress entitled Integrazione? No grazie! Convivenza pacifica! (“Integration? No, thanks! Peaceful coexistence!”)—hardly a new idea even then, and one which has since been echoed in many sentiments of many commentators throughout Italy, both immigrant and native-born. A growing number of people, it seems, are recoiling from the idea that immigrants to Italy or to any other European country must accommodate themselves to European ways of life. To my eyes this is but the latest meter of territory willingly ceded to individuals who have no desire nor intention of following European ways, but who wish to populate our lands nonetheless.
      But before we go genuflecting at the feet of this demand on the part of foreigners, it would be well to reflect a moment on just what is being asked of us.
      The rejection of “integration” indicates that integration is in some way unpalatable for those who must integrate—that it is unjust toward them, or that it takes from them something precious that they are unwilling to surrender. Yet just what precisely might this be? For integration does not mean that these people must dress in accord with European fashions. It does not mean that they must worship in Christian churches, nor even cease to worship in mosques. It does not mean they must eat Italian food or frequent French cafes or marry into German families. It does not mean that they must change any single feature of their ways of life—save those features which contradict European laws or inhibit the right functioning of European societies.
      He who coexists but does not integrate presumably does not have to learn the language of his host country. He presumably does not have to bow to the legal precepts of his host country, but may establish his own system of laws beside them. He presumably does not have to adopt the moral or social code of his host country, but may retain his own. He has the right to form a state within the state, to speak exclusively a language unknown to European ears or tongues, to abide by laws which contradict European justice, and to live by customs abhorrent to European sensibilities. Else I do not know what this “coexistence” could possibly mean, in contradistinction to the concept of “integration.”
      Now, we must of course be just: the title of the Young Muslim’s congress, for example, calls for peaceful coexistence. What then does it matter what laws or what languages these people might speak, if they abide by the central point of order in any civil society, and refrain from doing harm or violence to their neighbors?
      But here is the fundamental problem. Integration in Europe is premised on the notion of tolerance: one must allow other ways of life, other opinions, other faiths, than one own. The basic element which any individual must accept in order to integrate into Europe is then this: such an individual must agree to be tolerant, with all the legal and moral ramifications which attend to this agreement. “Coexistence” suggests that even this is no longer obligatory. Tolerance, being a purely European standard, should certainly not be imposed on any “coexisting” newcomer. Such a one should be permitted to make up his own mind with regard to tolerance, in accordance with his original traditions and customs.
      But the Occident is the only part of the world, now or ever, to premise its society on the virtue of tolerance: no one who comes to Europe’s shores from a non-Westernized country will bring tolerant views with him, nor will he gain such views here unless he is integrated into the European way of life. These foreigners would live peacefully with us? That is well and good—so long as we tolerant Europeans remain the majority. But what of fifty years from now, when, given present trends in immigration and demographics, Muslims will form a sizable portion (no one even has any idea how sizable!) of European population? And what of one-hundred years from now, when they will almost certainly be the majority? What will guide their treatment of us then? The gentle interest in peaceful coexistence with individuals who live in starkly different ways than those taught by Mohammed? Or is it not rather to be expected that they will ignore the principles of a “tolerance” which they have never bothered to adopt, and will rather fall back on those preachments of Islam which are anything but inclusive, anything but peacable?
      Though dearly I pray I am mistaken, I do not know how to read these matters otherwise than this: those who call for coexistence with Muslim ways today, will call for the oppression of European ways tomorrow.

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