By Khalil Charles
The Anti-Muslim demonstrations that have swept across Germany have brought waves of condemnation from counter-protestors who believe that the movement called PEGIDA is fanning the flames of racism, intolerance and xenophobia.
The marches raise some important questions about attitudes towards Muslims and questions of integration and citizenship. Although, it is thought that 18,000 people turned up to support the regular weekly march in Dresden, there were similar rallies in the Western city of Cologne that were heavily outnumbered by counter-protesters.
The German Chancellor, Angela Merkel has urged Germans to shun the anti-Muslims protestors. She argued that hostility towards foreigners has no place in Germany and she said that the hearts of the protesters were full of hatred. A top selling German tabloid, Bild and some prominent German personalities have called for an end to these protests. The group regards itself as Patriotic Europeans fighting against the perceived Islamisation of the West and it have shaken Germany’s political establishment with support of German Eurosceptic party Alternative for Germany.
The fear is that such open demonstrations of hostility against Muslims might be followed by protests in the rest of Europe. However, some commentators cast doubt on the idea. In a recent article published in the Spector, it was pointed out that just 26% of Britons had unfavourable views of Muslims whereas 46% had in Spain, 53% in Greece and 63% in Italy.
However, it appears that despite Germany’s various schemes to encourage civic integration policies, which over a million immigrants have participated in civic orientation and languages courses, the gap between integration and acceptance by the wider German community remains wide. In France, immigrants are asked to sign an integration contract whereby they commit to uphold core French values.
Similarly, the Life in the UK test is a vital part of the process by which individuals are given leave to remain in this country. The book explains; the process of becoming a citizen or permanent resident, the values and principles of the UK, the traditions and culture from around the UK, the events and people that have shaped the UK’s history and the government and the law as well as getting involved in your community.
Research seems to suggest that there are many successful instances were ‘integration’ has taken place and the town of Leicester in the Midlands has been held up an example where diverse communities live in harmony.
Professor Kim Knott at Lancaster University’s Religious and Secular Studies Department has described the presence of immigrants with religious practices as being part of the solution towards integration. She wrote, “Religion is much more often part of the solution than the problem, and Britain is the leader in Europe in recognising and supporting religious communities and organisations as important agents in integration. To neglect this truth is to undermine what has been achieved, and to promote the very divisiveness which is being bemoaned.”
Nevertheless, Prof. Knott in her report says the road to integration still has many challenges in the UK, as policies like assimilation, accommodation and multiculturalism become discredited; however, in contrast to the current waves of protest across Germany, it appears that Britain is entitled to celebrate some success in integration of diverse religious identities.