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Social Integration

F rom among the significant social problems facing Britain and various other Euro p e a n countries at this present time the most imperative and indeed sensitive predicament is that of integration between the local communities and the immigrant population and the asylum seekers. In certain areas this complication has reached a crisis point and the situation has resulted in mutual tensions leading to con-frontations. In many areas these mutual conflicts and ensuing riots have created immense social disorder, causing governments tre m e n – dous concern. This situation poses a threat, because if the e n v i ronment of confro n t a t i o n between the local and the immigrant population/asylum seekers is not contained, the matter can gradually get completely out of hand, resulting in racist and many other nationalist movements gathering strength, which can lead to the total devastation of social order and peace. Nationalist movements and political parties with severe and o p p ressive policies relating to foreign immigrants and asylum seekers are gathering strength in Austria, Germany, France, Holland and Britain. Certain politicians are considering e n f o rcing laws that would compel immigrants from various countries, who speak diverse languages and maintain differing religious and cultural traditions, to adopt the local culture . H o w e v e r, due to a substantial presence of immigrants in these countries and their obvious political and economic influence, the politicians do not wish to risk the peril of a severe backlash to such proposals. There are certain prejudices on both sides in this respect and people seem to be predominantly inclined towards extremism. A huge section of those settling in E u rope from outside the continent are so vehemently holding on to their language, cultural and social values that they even refuse to learn the local 5The Review of Religions – February 2003 Social Integration By Naseer Ahmad Qamar – UK language or adopt the positive local customs. On the other hand, f rom among the local people, some are adamant that the immigrants should, having aban- doned their language and culture, be so fully assimilated in local milieu and social mores that they completely discount their identity, cultural, religious and moral values. Although the politicians do not usually express themselves openly on this matter, it is not too d i fficult to decipher from their vocabulary that when they mention ‘clash of civilizations’ they primarily mean the incon- g ruity between the culture of the Muslims settled in the West and the current Western culture . Hence, recently Pim Fortuyn of Holland, a maverick right-wing leader said in an interview: “The biggest problem is integration between people from countries with Islamic agrarian culture s . They don’t share with us the core values of modernity and think quite diff e rently about relationships between women and men and individual re s p o n s i b i l i t y ” (The Sunday Ti m e s, 5 May 2002. P. 2 ) Peter Hain, the British minister for Europe has warned that ‘Muslim immigration to Britain and the backlash against it poses a greater danger than tensions arising from racial differences’, reports Nicholas Rufford in the Sunday Times, May 12, 2002. In an interview with The Sunday Times he said he was concerned by the rapid growth in asylum seekers arriving in Britain, many from Islamic countries, and the refusal of some to adopt British culture. He said that unless the problem is addressed, it was ‘in the end going to create real difficulties’. ‘Islam is now a much bigger factor than racial tension and we are going to need to resolve that t o g e t h e r, not by targ e t i n g Muslims as Fortuyn was doing, but sending a clear message that British Muslims are welcome here and enrich our culture, but also that they must be part of our culture’ said Hain. ‘Muslim immigrants can be very isolationist in their own behaviour and their own customs. That in the end is going to create real difficulties and is likely to be ripe for exploitation by extremists, whether it is 6 Social Integration The Review of Religions – February 2003 followers of bin Laden on one hand or racists on the other. It takes two to integrate, and we need to work with the Muslim community’ (The Sunday Ti m e s May 12, 2002 pp.1-2) The leader article in the same issue of The Sunday Ti m e s commenting on this under the heading of ‘An Honest Warning’ said: ‘Peter Hain is right to warn of the dangers that some British Muslims pose to their own community as well as to the national interest. His impeccable and anti-racists credentials make his comment about the cultural isolation of the Muslim separatists in our midst all the more telling. As minister for Europe he is doubly well placed to sound the alarm about Islamic asylum seekers who expect Britain to offer a safe haven but refuse to adapt to Britain’s way of life, sometimes even refusing to learn English.’ Cultural ghetto building undoubtedly poses a greater danger to race relations than ever before. By setting themselves apart in a manner that no pre v i o u s wave of immigrants has done – and which most of their more sensible co-religionists also think is crass – they incite a backlash from the majority population as has alre a d y happened in France and Holland. Britain has absorbed many cultural influences and has been enriched by them. The intolerance of Muslim extremists is the problem and the remedy is clear. They must accept our political culture, not our religion. That is the best way for them to succeed in Britain and the best way to live happily alongside us’. (The Sunday Times, May 12, 2002. p.16) It is true that under the influence of certain ignorant and fanatical mullahs, many Muslims have a very prejudicial and irrational attitude towards Western nations and non-Muslims. They are thus, t h rough their mean spirit, n a r row mindedness, national and regional cultural traditions, b a c k w a rd living standard s , dated views and erro n e o u s 7 Social Integration The Review of Religions – February 2003 p rejudices, the cause of the notoriety of the faith of Islam. The fact is that this attitude of theirs has no semblance whatsoever with the teachings of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings be on him) who personified the Holy Qur’an, by his holy and blessed life and the faith of Islam that he had presented. Based on the activities of these extremists Muslim, it is therefore not at all justified to make Islam the target of indictment. The bright and sagacious teachings of Islam The fact of the matter is that Islam is a global religion and is most broad-minded among all world religions and is a faith of wisdom and reasoning. Its teachings are global and are not associated with any particular nation or region or culture. This alone is a religion that champions true equality and kindred spirit, absolute justice, freedom of faith and indeed freedom of conscience among mankind. In it, class division based on colour, creed, caste, ethnic origin, social standing, employment and any other kind of differentiation or for one to look down on the other and indulge in mutual cruelty and oppression based on national, religious or linguistic d i ff e rences are categorically unacceptable. The Holy Qur’an and the Holy Pro p h e t ’ s( s a ) traditions give detailed directives re g a rding this but only a few matters are given below as an illustration: Allah the Exalted commands in the Holy Qur’an: O ye who believe! Be steadfast in the cause of Allah, bearing witness in equity; and let not a people’s enmity incite you to act otherwise than with justice. Be always just, that is nearer to righteousness. And fear Allah. Surely, Allah is aware of what you do. (Surah Al Maidah – Ch.5: V.9) And make not Allah a target for your oaths that you may thereby abstain from doing good and acting righteously and making peace between men. And Allah is All- Hearing, All-Knowing. (Ch.2:V.225) Allah forbids you not, respecting those who have not fought 8 Social Integration The Review of Religions – February 2003 against you on account of your religion, and who have not driven you forth from your homes, that you be kind to them and act equitably towards them; surely Allah loves those who are equitable. (Ch.60:V.9) And among His Signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the diversity of your tongues and colours. In that surely are Signs for those who possess knowledge. (Ch.30:V23) Similarly the Holy Qur’an states: O ye who believe! Let not one people deride another people, who may be better than they, nor let women deride other women, who may be better than they. Do not slander your own people, nor taunt each other with nicknames. It is bad indeed to earn foul reputation after professing the faith; and those who repent not are the wrongdoers. (Ch.49:V.12) O mankind, We have created you from male and female; and we have made you into clans and tribes that you may recognize one another. Verily the most honourable among you, in the sight of Allah, is the righteous among you. Surely, Allah is All Knowing, All-Aware. (Ch.49: V.14) During his farewell sermon, the founder of Islam, Holy Prophet Muhammad(sa) said in emphatic terms: ‘O people! Your God is One. Your father is one. Remember an Arab possesses no superiority over the non-Arab, nor does a non-Arab over an Arab. The white have no superiority over the black or the black over the white. However, righteousness and integrity is the basis of distinction and preference.’ Islam does not simply present teachings or expound principles which when adhered to can create a peaceable society based on true justice and equality. Rather the Holy Pro p h e t( s a ) demonstrated the establishment of a most exem-plary society during his lifetime. Not only did he remove the local tribal prejudices from among the Arabs rather in that era the rich and the poor, the black and the white, people speaking diverse lan- guages of the world, people belonging to varied cultures and 9 Social Integration The Review of Religions – February 2003 indeed religions were so inte- grated amongst themselves. Thus a society came into being that brought about greatness to human dignity and in particular elevated the honour of slaves, women and children. The head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community Hadhrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad, Khalifatul Masih 1V (may Allah be his s t rength) has analysed the subject of social integration in great detail and with a dash of realism in his various sermons and Question and Answer sessions. He has expounded those luminous principles of the teachings of Islam whose implementation can cre a t e integration between diverse social groups in the real sense. In particular he elucidated this subject during his address to the Annual Convention of the Norwegian Ahmadiyya Community on 12th October 1996. He said: It is an absolute fact that this sense of isolation mostly stems f rom and is supported by d i s a g reement over languages. Those who immigrate and settle in foreign lands and fence themselves in around their language remain ‘foreigners’ despite having lived in the new country for centuries and despite being its legal citizens, just as the ‘China Towns’ in USA and in Britain. Similarly there are some Italian districts. Thus defensive walls against the outside environment are erected, so much so that when an American enters China Town he feels as if he has entered China and is not in his country anymore. When outside China Town, the Chinese roaming in USA appear as foreigners. It is a fact that inevitable troubles are borne out of barriers created through linguistic or cultural issues and which are isolating the local community. It is true that if linguistic discord is maintained isolated miniature islands are created within countries. Is this terrible enough to merit starting an intense movement against it or does it have some pleasant aspects as well? If courage is mustered to allow people from diverse countries and diverse cultures to set up contained areas of their own where, in light of their economical situation, they can trade their artefacts and maintain 10 Social Integration The Review of Religions – February 2003 their distinctive cultural traditions, not only would this be a source of adding a beautiful dimension to the society as a whole, it would also bring about many economic benefits. A p rominent example of this in particular is the existence of the China Towns in Europe and USA. Not only does a situation where the good and positive aspects of different cultures are taken care of not become the reason for passionate incitement, rather it carries many inherent benefits. There is a need to deeply reflect on these aspects and to understand them and to explicate them. Integration by Force Hadhrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad made it very clear in this address that it would be a huge mistake to try and forcefully amalgamate people of diverse backgrounds by exploiting law in order to transform them all into one society. His words are: This would be an attempt on par with turning a bouquet of varied flowers, as if by some wizardry, into just one particular flower. We understand from various societies and social systems and the societal evolution that each newcomer brings with them distinct colours and fragrances. This happens in all countries and happens from all sides. To erase the distinctiveness of the outsider and declare the sole existence of just one ‘flower’ in the bouquet, be it a rose or jasmine or some other flower, but not to allow mutual existence in the bouquet is not the correct way to c reate compromise and unifor- m i t y. This mode of action is contrary to the natural societal evolution and nations cannot gain from it in any way. Respect for the law of the land He further added: However, respect for the law of the land is a separate issue. Those who come into a new country, regardless of the fact that they may enclose themselves in around their own culture and people who speak their language, as I said before, they have absolutely no right whatsoever to be disre – spectful to the law of the land. No political land in the world would tolerate that its law is slighted with. Therefore, all the foreigners who have settled in this country in general and the Ahmadis in particular – whom this country has treated with great goodwill for 11 Social Integration The Review of Religions – February 2003 the simple reason that their own country had rejected them and they have been accepted and embraced here – are duty bound to not only respect the law of the land but to assist and support them in all their efforts to stem the surge of lawlessness. I believe the f o reigners should be especially in the fore f ront as regards the schemes and positive arrange- ments to develop social and manual skills in the youth. H o w e v e r, most of all it is the duty of the Ahmadiyya Community to come forward and be supportive and cooperative in all such schemes. This is also important f rom the viewpoint that if the Community fails to do so the intellectuals and policy-makers of the country could end up making certain wrong decisions. At times they cannot fully understand the situation and in light of the reactionary stance of their own youth can acquire a perspective that can ultimately prove to be unsuitable for them. There f o re cooperation is most significant. It is extremely important that the young, the old, men, women and c h i l d ren of the Ahmadiyya Community all step forward and in a cooperative spirit present their services to them and advise them as to what the real problem is. The language barrier As far as language is concerned…I have advised the Ahmadiyya Community that no nation has the right to barricade themselves within their language; not having learnt the language of the others and create a separate enclosure for themselves …to my mind this is ethically inappro – priate. It is indeed fair to keep one’s language alive, for through language one’s cultural values that pertain to high morals, are kept alive. However one does not have the right to live in a country as an alien, as if one is dumb and the flow of exchange of ideas between one and the local community ceases. This is a loss that can result in extre m e l y dangerous consequences. One of the main reasons for the youth movements espousing hatred for foreigners that you see in certain areas is the unawareness that is borne out of language differences. There are some people living here, and I do not refer to the Ahmadiyya Community, rather many other foreigners who have been living here for scores of years and are still barricaded within their Punjabi language and only 12 Social Integration The Review of Religions – February 2003 converse in it. For mutual connections and concerns they possess an insignificant know- ledge of Norwegian in order to subsist, so that they may find an employment, or may be able to sell a commodity and recover its cost in business, be able to eat bread and drink milk. Their language skill does not go beyond this. However…with the Grace of God the Ahmadiyya Community appreciates how to carry itself on the beckoning of a central Imam. It is not just in Norway, rather it has never been the case in the worldwide Ahmadiyya Community where I have instigated a moral scheme and the Community has not co-operated. ‘Values of Modernity’ When European politicians and scholars talk about social integration they usually fail to explain exactly what they mean by ‘values of modernity’ and when with reference to certain Muslims they express ‘them not adapting to our culture’ what it means? For instance alcohol intake is a part of the Western Euro p e a n c u l t u re. It would not be warrantable if it was to be legislated that the foreigners who do not drink appear alien and should there f o re be forced to drink alcohol. Indeed in Europe itself, many movements that are against alcohol consumption are rising. The judicious intel- lectuals and sympathisers of nation know full well the extent of damage alcohol drinking has brought about and continues to do so. Excessive materialism, gambling, free mixing of the sexes, sexual licentiousness, d rugs, homosexuality and lesbianism, cohabitation outside marriage, women parading semi- naked exhibiting their physical beauty, open display of kissing, the scarcity of modesty and bashfulness are all also some distinct features of the current Western culture. Similarly rights of the individual are being so s t ressed upon that even when there is a dire need in training their children, parents cannot even lightly punish them. On the other hand children think nothing of respecting their teachers. The moment they hit the ages of sixteen or eighteen they are independent of their p a rents. Yearning to see their o ffspring, many an old pare n t passes away in old peoples’ 13 Social Integration The Review of Religions – February 2003 homes or hospitals. In the West the idea that sex is a natural emotion and should therefore be satiated without any hindrance is gathering influence as a trend. When expressing opinion on this subject in particular, the traditional feminine bashfulness is becoming a thing of the past. It is proudly considered to be a candid expression of honesty to declare one’s indulgence in sin, audacious conversation, nudity, brazenness, displaying one’s body etc. Many such similar aspects that were considere d immoral some 60, 70 years ago today symbolize the culture. These indeed are the dangero u s state of affairs that have unfortunately now become a general constituent of the We s t e r n s o c i e t y. Most cultures today are actually supporting crime in the name of establishing freedom and the right of the individual. In the name of freedom, the criminal is advantaged and the innocent citizen is suffering the biggest loss. It is obvious that the modern values of the West, devoid of morals and based on material benefits and self-interest are not only detrimental but are in fact s e l f – d e s t ructive. Many thinkers and intellectuals are most concerned that if trends are maintained, it will be these very modern traditions themselves that will bring down the edifice of modern culture. The real danger to this ‘modern culture’ is indeed f rom within. C o n v e r s e l y, the religious and cultural traditions of many Asian and African immigrants, includ- 14 Social Integration The Review of Religions – February 2003 IN ANY CASE IT IS A REQUISITE THAT WE ASSIMILATE OURSELVES IN THE SOCIETY THAT IS OUR HOST. HOWEVER, THE EXTENT OF THIS ASSIMILATION IS A MOST SIGNIFICANT I S S U E. . . . .A S S I M I L AT I O N C O N N O T E S C O M B I N I N G T H E CAPACITIES OF TWO SIDES IN A WAY THAT ENABLES TO FOSTER A CAPACITY THAT IS REPLETE WITH THE EXCELLENT AT T R I B U T E S O F B O T H. A S A C O N S E Q U E N C E O F T H I S A SOCIETY SHOULD EMERGE THAT IS MORE ATTRACTIVE AND DELIGHTFUL THAN BEFORE. ing both Muslim and non- Muslims are completely different and in some situations, are in direct conflict with the current and pervasive modern Western cultural values. Due to their cultural traditions their family unit is comparatively very strong. As a result of d e f e rence for parents and teachers, serving the elderly, abstinence from alcohol, drugs, gambling, free mixing of men and women at parties and other re v e l r y, they find themselves m o re content and positive in their daily social life. An important question: Where should integration apply and how much? So, when we mention social integration we have to examine the whole cultural stru c t u re in its e n t i re l y. In this instance it becomes imperative to find out w h e re the principle of integration should be applied and to what extent? The head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community Hadhrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad, Khalifatul Masih IV (may Allah be his s t rength) has said: In any case it is a requisite that we assimilate ourselves in the society that is our host. However, the extent of this assimilation is a most significant issue. Wi n d s blowing from different directions essentially merge together. However it is not essential that cold winds completely vanquish warms winds and turn them chilly as well. Or that warm winds subdue the cold winds to the extent that they turn just as warm. This is against the law of n a t u re. Assimilation connotes combining the capacities of two sides in a way that enables to foster a capacity that is replete with the excellent attributes of both. As a consequence of this a society should emerge that is more attractive and delightful than before. This is the objective that the Ahmadiyya Community should keep in view. T h e re f o re assimilation does not mean that those aspects that have become detrimental to their own society should be adopted. Adopting them would cause you to become like them. If you enforce your own negative characteristics on them then you will be in the w rong. Indeed those who have come from the East have brought 15 Social Integration The Review of Religions – February 2003 along some shortcomings of their own society with them and the inhabitants of the West possess numerous good features that you have not got. So when I refer to assimilation I speak of an assimilation of values, not absorption brought on by blindly following each other. A most salient feature of science today, without which no system, be it the workings of television, radio or any other electrical appliance will function, is the system of transferring only the required power from one point to another and to place a complete obstacle in the path of the power that is not required at the other end. This is the system of the workings of a ‘valve’, the system of one-way resistance. To halt the non-requisite electric current and to let the one that is so intended, move on. This system, in its most complexity and subtlety is working in the human body. If you were to reflect on it, you will be astounded Thus the thing to watch out for is that the exchange is of exqui- siteness and not of unsightliness. W h e rever the newcomers to a society introduce their own attractive aspects, courage and g e n e rosity of spirit should be employed to give them a chance that the Western society may adopt their positive customs. ( A d d ress Norwegian Annual Convention 12th October 1996) The Holy Qur’an commands: And help one another in righteousness and piety; but help not one another in sin and transgression. (Ch.5: V.3) ..vie, then, with one another in good works. (Ch.2:V.149) The Holy Prophet (peace and blessings be on him) having enjoined: ‘That which is wise and sagacious is the lost property of a believer’ has given an eternal code of conduct to Muslims in adopting another nation’s positive attributes and being supportive and competitive in good and benevolent matters. This can indeed result in solving issues of social integration in a most excellent manner. In this age the Ahmadiyya Community is the standard 16 Social Integration The Review of Religions – February 2003 bearer of true Islam and is the g u a rdian Community of high values. These high values are associated with piety. Social welfare, sincere compassion for humanity, attending to the needs of the less fortunate, alleviating the deprivation of the destitute, a love for harmony and the promotion of global peace are the constituents of these high values. There is loveliness in piety that carries an inherent dominant rule that is bound to triumph. Today, it is not just Europe but rather the e n t i re world that needs these very beautiful high morals and human values in order to be rid of all sorts of social ills. It is not possible to establish a beautiful and paradisiacal society on the face of the earth without these values. T h e re f o re, the Ahmadiyya Community that is associated to the true Muslim Khilafat Ahmadiyya, is forming a global society based on the bright teachings and the excellent and blessed model of the Holy Prophet(sa) – a society that has perfect uniformity and which is free from all kinds of out- dated and offensive prejudices and consists of high human and moral values. It is therefore an exclusive obligation of the members of the Community to step forward to solve the p roblems relating to social integration on the correct lines, and guide the politicians and intellectuals of their country in light of the teachings of Islam. 17 Social Integration The Review of Religions – February 2003 About the author Mr Naseer Ahmad Qamar is the Additional Wakilul Isha’at (director of publications) amd is also the Editor of A l – F a z l I n t e r n a t i o n a l, an Urd u weekly published fro m London. He is a renowned scholar and a passionate orator who has dedicated his life to the cause of God Almighty.