Minorities in the Western Societies
By Nasim Hassan, Delaware USA
Human emigration started out of Africa began thousands of years ago and continues unabated to this day. Homo -Sapiens began this journey at the dawn of history and crossed over the continents. Initially the pace of migration was slow due to available means of transportation. At the advent of 20th century, the pace of migration markedly accelerated. Major wars and certain local conflicts added to migration from one continent to another.
The main cause of migration has always been the search for better living conditions or greener pastures. Although millions of people have left their homeland due to wars, the recent migration from Asia, Africa and South America to Europe and North America is primarily motivated by economic reasons. After gaining independence, the people from past colonies migrated to run the factories in the Western Europe.
The problem of assimilation during earlier migrations was non-existent. People settled at a place and mixed with the local population without any problems or strife. They stayed around for centuries and only small groups ventured out to other parts of the world. Religious, ethnic and racial tensions are relatively a recent phenomenon.
The humanity has come a long way and I believe the latest immigrants to Europe and North America can easily assimilate in their host countries. People of all religions or ethnic background have a lot in common and very few differences. If these minor differences are kept in proper perspective, mutual understanding can easily overcome these conflicts.
Even though all people are themselves responsible for their life and progress, I believe the administrations of host countries in Europe and North America can impact the transition in a positive way. The policies must be made for gradual assimilation of new immigrants. There are certain basic steps that must be taken by the immigrants as well as the host countries to effect peaceful and harmonious integration. In this write up, I have tried to communicate my ideas on upcoming challenges of integration of minorities in Europe and North America.
Language is gateway to human understanding and culture. The immigrants must acquire verbal and reading language skills if they want to make progress in the adopted country.
There is no harm in teaching mother tongue to young kids but parents must ensure the learning of national language of the host country. For example, in Germany, France, Spain or Italy it may be possible to get by with English but long-term residents must learn the native language.
The people who do not understand local language tend to stick together and form separate ethnic enclaves. They are afraid of living away from people who understand their language. This may have certain advantages in the beginning but in the long run, these people cannot compete with majority and stay behind mainstream.
The state governments can help in teaching language skills to new immigrants. In North America, immigrants can easily stay within their own communities without learning English. In some instances, local schools also provide bilingual teachers. This is simply a wrong policy. In my opinion, the children must be kept together and taught English from early childhood. The language skills should be one of the criteria for granting of citizenship to immigrants.
The language goes a long way in the integration. In South Asia major divisions have emanated from language differences. The provinces in South Asia are based on common language as well as geographical regions.
Creating an Image
The minorities have to create and sustain a positive image within the majority community. In India, the Parsi community has developed an image of a benevolent and philanthropic group. Persian people migrated from Iran during early advent of Islam and crossed over into India. Parsi community is engaged in business and became a model peace loving community. They also established a large numbers of schools, colleges, hospitals started in South Asia.
Likewise, the Jewish immigrants have created an impressive image in North America. The image of Indians, Arabs and other Asian communities is still in the making in the USA.
The image cannot be created by simple talk. It requires sustained efforts and focused thinking. The minorities have to decide on their own about the image they would like to create and project.
Muslims living in the West, North America, and Europe, will have to come out of the mental frame they developed in Africa, South Asia and Middle East. Here are some of the activities that any minority can adopt to create a positive image.
Join the school education board
Volunteer for the fire department, ambulance, and para-medical vans and services, including CPR.
Attend various disease-related clubs, and blogs as contributors, free of charge
Seek election for towns, counties, and other local political organizations as Democrats, Republicans and independent
Donate generously to the various tax-exempt charitable organizations in their local community
Volunteer time for hospitals, hospices, senior centers, and assisted living facilities
The first generation of immigrants has divided loyalties. Most of their charitable contributions go to their country of origin. This is simply human nature as large numbers of relatives and friends still live back home. The second generation is getting away from this attitude. The minorities have to start supporting local charities and contribute towards the well being of local people.
If minorities want to progress and still maintain a level of identity then they must motivate their next generation to get the highest education. Any community or individual that ignores knowledge and education sinks at the bottom level of society.
Regardless of religion the minorities will face the same hardships, challenges and disadvantages of poverty without education. There is no safety net at the bottom of the society. Europeans may provide good healthcare and welfare but the receivers lose human dignity.
Although the USA provides minimum welfare benefits it still provides the best opportunity for anyone willing to work hard to achieve better economic conditions. My observation shows that better education accelerates the integration.
Education is a key to earn a respectable living. Minorities should enter and excel in all disciplines in addition to medicine, law, or engineering. There is a wide world beyond these chosen professions dominated by certain minorities.
Recent demonstrations by minorities in France have highlighted the problem. In Western Europe jobs must be provided to educated people from various minorities. They should also encourage these people to move away from ethnic minority enclaves. Gradually a middle class within minorities will emerge and act as a bridge between the mainstream and minorities. This will generate hope among the new generation of immigrants and pave the way for the process of assimilation.
Minorities cannot progress without social coherence. By social coherence, I mean a level of trust and empathy for other members of the community. In a vast ocean of humanity the individuals get lost. A group that sticks together with strong social and cultural ties can weather any storm.
Social coherence develops with shared values, beliefs and empathy for other people in the group and conscious efforts to uplift other members of community. There are a number of examples all around the World that show the minorities thriving by developing a social coherence.
Parsi community in India, Gujarati in the USA, Agha Khani community and Jews all around the world are few examples of social coherence. People can look around and they will find that Jews are seldom on welfare or public assistance. Similarly you will not find a Sikh beggar anywhere in India or abroad.
Building of Institutions
It is easy to talk about unity, social coherence and human progress. In my opinion nothing can be achieved without institutions. The institutions translate the aspirations, hopes and dreams into realty.
The institutions bring the people and resources together for the benefit of all members. The institutions can be social, cultural, educational, religious or philanthropic in their objective. I consider institutions as life support system for the human beings. They are even more important for minorities. The institutions should welcome all people, including the majority. This will promoting understanding among all people and reduce the ethnic, racial and religious tensions.
All of us belong to a common human race. Starting from a small group, the humanity evolved into nations and countries. In the 21st century and beyond we have to ensure the peace and harmony between people of all races. The pace of migration will certainly accelerate. The minorities will be able to maintain their ethnic and cultural identities due to revolution in the communication technology. It is now possible to stay in any country and still maintain a cultural link with the country of origin. However, it should be a tool to unite the people instead of dividing them. It is better to accept the differences and still respect diversity. This will make this small world a pleasant place to live.