Europe Wonders 'Could It Happen Here?'

Could it happen here?

That's the question London's Daily Telegraph is asking its readers about the riots in France. It's the questions people all over Europe are asking themselves.

The answer varies by country, but it almost always revolves around the word "integration."

Radio Netherlands notes the difference between France and the Netherlands:

"French integration policy is aimed at 'cultural assimilation'. Everyone is supposed to feel French, and people are given little room in the public arena to express their religious or cultural identity. For example, public officials are now banned by law from wearing headscarves. The Netherlands, on the other hand, has a long tradition of offering more room for others to express their identity, although this tradition has been coming under pressure over the past decade."

One local analyst said poor neighborhoods in the Netherlands are relatively better off than their French counterparts:"The standard of accommodation and services is not as bad. It isn't the case, as it is in France, that these districts are less well served by public transport. At the same time, the economic situation is very difficult right now for Moroccan youths looking for work. They, too, do feel excluded."

In Germany, Spiegel Online's press survey found commentators across the political spectrum saying that Germans face comparable alienation in immigrant communities.

"We have to do everything possible for integration," says the left-wing Berliner Zeitung. "That means that we have to change. A Europe that reduces entire economic areas to begging, because it spends hundreds of millions supporting its own agriculture, has no more money left to integrate those poor farmers who have been displaced from their homelands."

"The conservative Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung points out that while it is right to differentiate between the no-go areas of the French ghettos and areas of social marginalization in Germany, there is a similar ignorance on the part of the politicians and society about the growing social powder keg at their doorstep. In France official policy aimed at increasing educational and employment opportunities has just been 'a tranquilizer that has had no effect.' It warns German politicians not to be too sure that the French problems are not coming their way."

In Denmark, a right-wing opposition party is calling for using anti-terrorism funding to crack down on rioters. Shortly before the French riots, immigrant youth in a Danish town rampaged through a shopping district, according to the Copenhagen Post.

"The events had local politicians clamouring for tougher measures and a zero-tolerance approach towards the rioters. The local police, however, said it had no plans to tackle the disturbances by other means than dialogue and peaceful negotiations with the teenagers."

The Danish prime minister said the equation of rioters to terrorists was mistaken.

In Britain, The Guardian's Jonathan Freedland says France is clinging to an ideal "pickled in dogma." It's worth quoting Freedland at length: "The US has a model of integration which is the reverse of France's: it positively encourages new migrants to hold on to their first culture, happy to let them hyphenate as Italian-Americans or Irish-Americans.

"But that model is not perfect either. As we saw after Katrina, there are still plenty of Americans who feel excluded by their race. That's partly because the US model applies to immigrants, those who chose to make their life anew in America. It does not apply either to those who were already there or those who were dragged to the country in chains, in the holds of cargo ships. Which is why Native Americans and African-Americans both argue, with justification, that they are shut out of the American dream.

"Britain has an emerging model too, one we call multiculturalism. It did not arrive from nowhere, but partly came out of our own experience of race riots in the 1980s. Unlike France's, it recognises difference and has passed legislation to protect it. But it also yearns for some affirmation of common identity. It knows there are differences between us - but it wants there to be ties that bind. What those ties should be, what notion of Britishness might hold us all together, nobody seems quite sure.

"Indeed, the problem of racial cohesion in Britain is far from solved .... But multiculturalism is still the best model we have. And, after the last 10 days, it may be the only one left."

By Jefferson Morley |  November 9, 2005; 9:51 AM ET  | Category:  Europe
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"It does not apply either to those who were already there or those who were dragged to the country in chains, in the holds of cargo ships." Huh? There is NO ONE living in this country who where "dragged to the country(USA) in chains, in the holds of cargo ships." That was over 150 years ago! Enough of that. Most Blacks living in the USA have moved on and a large percentage of them are doing very well here in the USA. Thank you very much and the American Dream is still alive and well. The Guardian's Jonathan Freedland is totally off base and he needs to brush up on his American history.

Posted by: Gary Reichenbach | November 9, 2005 10:53 AM

What they need to do is kick all these muslim immigrants out of Europe. Europeans need to also have more children so that they actually can have a future as well.

Posted by: Peter | November 9, 2005 11:29 AM

Nah, I think his comments apply. The communities of the people who were taken to the Americas in force are still there and feel largely disenfranchised.

Britain I think went through what France is facing now back in the 80s which were some bad times for us. It's far from paradise here, though there does seem to be far better representation of the minorities in positions of authority. And the far Right has less support, thank God. As to what constitutes Britishness? No one knows. It's not something that can be pinned down. It probably isn't just one single thing anyway. Britain has been a mix of different cultures ever since before most of it was conquered by the Romans.

Posted by: David Patrick, UK | November 9, 2005 11:32 AM

Why is it that none of these journalist are considering economics as a factor in this issue? Immigrants enter foriegn countries seeking opportunities, not patronizing laws that "protect their cultural diversity." This problem is 100% economic. Give those people the chance to open their own businesses and find employment and such riots as those in france will be a thing of the past.

Posted by: Keith | November 9, 2005 11:34 AM

I'm finding the two initial remarks very racist and am appalled that such attitudes still exist in the U.S. The socio-economic status of Native Americans and African-americans in this country is a direct effect of the displacement of Native Americans onto reservations and slavery. While progress has been made, the bigotry and racism that was used to justify such inhuman treatment of people is still an undercurrent in this society.

If a country allows immigration, why shouldn't they also allow they to have an equal opportunity? Besides, many of the youths demonstrating were born in France. They probably grew up with expectations of a better life, only to find enormous barriers unique to THEM within French society because of their economic and cultural heritage.

Posted by: Davis | November 9, 2005 11:49 AM

In response to the second comment, guess what a lot of Muslims say about white people in the holy lands of Islam.

Posted by: Joshua Vaughan | November 9, 2005 12:20 PM

It's all about the numbers, you don't have 5 million white people living in Saudi Arabia.

Posted by: Peter | November 9, 2005 01:43 PM

This is nothing new, although the violence is disturbing. When I lived in Germany during the mid-90s, there were anti-foreigner (mostly aimed at Turkish work-immigrants) rallies in the center of Stuttgart.

People forget that after WWII, there was a severe lack of skilled laborers in Germany, so over the subsequent decades they welcomed Turkish immigrants to the country on work visas. Similarly, Indian computer scientists and doctors are now being sought on work visas and long contracts to supplement the lack of "native" skilled workers throughout Europe.

Germany can't bring cheap labor into its borders then somehow expect these people to work there for years solving Germany's employment problems without settling down and raising and educating their children. Rather than relegating them to a life of janitorial positions and eventual graduation to "doner-kebab" shop management, Europe needs to reconcile with those second- and third-generation migrant workers now and embrace them as equal members of the society, then inact appropriate guidelines for stringently monitoring new work visas and contracts, while providing equal opportunities and investment in the education of all its permanent residents.

Posted by: Laura | November 9, 2005 02:01 PM

Of course the English model is going to be better received by most Europeans. We're just stupid Americans, can't do anything except fight and bully people, right? That's the attitude - nothing the US does is worth anything, even when they benefit from it.

However, having said that, the US is huge in terms of size and people and we do not have the same history of colonization that both the UK and France share.

One might even say that these countries have an OBLIGATION to the descendants of the people whose countries were invaded and pillaged (much like we in the US have an obligation to our native people that we screwed over).

The last time I was in London (the late 90's) racism was still prevelent. They're not as "multicultural" as they think they are, but at least the government is trying - unlike France.

Posted by: suze | November 9, 2005 02:15 PM

strife: n.
1)Heated, often violent dissension; bitter conflict. See Synonyms at discord.
2)A struggle, fight, or quarrel.
3)Contention or competition between rivals.

I've been reading about 'The Clash of Civilizations' by Samuel P. Huntington and have found it very interesting. Regarding the comments above, whether they are thought to be considered racial or not, I would like to see more supporting evidence in either justifying or negating such comments. I think it is important for people to comment. However, wouldn't it be great if we could back up our 'beliefs' with something more tangible.

Personally I would like to see Europeans and white Americans move into Latin America and ask for minority rights. If you can't laugh at that then you are taking yourself waaaaay to seriously. If you can't take a jab at that without at the very least having a dry cynical sense of humor than I suggest you join the peace corp and do something instead of saying something.

Posted by: Gnostic | November 9, 2005 02:15 PM

I basically go along with Freedland, but he doesn't understand that American culture reflects those aspects of immigrant culture that the general population found attractive and intergrated them into the general American culture. Our popular music has a strong African and Latin American influence plus folk music from the British Isles, Germany, and so on. Looking at the stage and Hollywood, the "American" art, and you find stars and directors from all over the world. One could give an endless number of examples, there are a few of them.
The problem Europe has is their fixed cultures, which does not easily deal with change. In America, we have the separation of Church and state, and Freedom of Religion is an individual right which government is not suppose to touch. While religious tolerance exists in Europe, religion tends to be highly regulated.
The French, in particular, are justly proud of their culture, and I think it is very difficult for them to bring "outside" cultures into their own culture.
But, there is an economic aspect to the problem. Free Trade has cost Europeans jobs as it has in America. They have lost social services and benefits on the altar of this universal economic theory. Any group on the low end of the economic scale will be the first to feel the pinch. I think "affirmative action" might help.
Most of the comments in this column have some merit.

Posted by: P. J. Casey | November 9, 2005 02:33 PM

Hi, I'm a mexican american.

I don't understand why people refer to people who are born in France as immigrants. They are French-Moroccans or Moroccan-French. Whatever sounds good.

My parents came to America, met in LA and decided to stay. Immigration was a lot easier back in the 60's. So I was born in LA. So I have grown up speaking Spanish and English, but since my entire education was in english, I speak and write english many many times better than spanish. Plus, I grew up in East LA.

Thanks to affirmative action, many in my situation got to go to some excellent colleges which our parents could never afford to send us to. In our culture, we don't like to ask our parents for money after we turn approximately 17. Don't ask me why, that's just the way it is.

I've lived in France for almost 2 years, I've lived in Germany for 6 months and I lived in Finland for 3 years. (By the way, I graduated as an engineer.)

The relationships between europeans and Muslims and Gypsys make the relationships between Americans/Muslims/Latinos/Chinese and all the above look like lovers walking in a park. That's why I am back in the states and loving it.

America isn't perfect, but mosto f us certainly get along very well. Most of my professors were children of immigrants or immigrants themselves. The same can be said about my bosses and city officials who sign my plans at work.

I grew up singing Dreidel dreidel, Frere Jaques, enjoying cultural weeks where students from different cultures would share their culture with everyone(vietnamese week was always the best), and we even celebrated holidays from other countries. But I would say that we all grew up feeling that we were American Nationals but our culture was something different. Our culture was a mix and american and of our parents.

America seems to be a game of tag, someone is always it. Unfortunately, there are still many white people either don't like colored people or feel they have enough color at their workplace, university or neighborhood. People afraid of change. And so Affirmative action of positive discrimination are required to protect us from these people because these people are usually in the position to decide who to hire, who to give the scholarship to, who to fail, or who to arrest and send to jail. We do not live in a perfect world.

In a perfect world, everyone would have a job. Low wage jobs for students,higher for university students and then well enough paid for a mother or father to stay home with the children after they have begun a career like engineering, lawyer, doctor, secretary, janitor or factory labor.

Help the whole world accomplish this and then we won't have runaway immigration & crime.

Much of Europe has stuck its head in the sand refusing to recognize the problems that they have. They hate each other over there. No unity as in the US. They will eventually have a continent wide war again.

And per Hurricane Katrina, most of New Orleans is(was) populated by black people. Why is anyone surprised to see that most of the refugees were black??? Many black people DROVE or FLEW away too.

Its not as if 15,000 died in the storm, the way 15,000 people in France died from a Heat wave. Temperatures which are "NORMAL" in much of the area between the two tropics.

Posted by: Mexican-American | November 9, 2005 04:23 PM

Whatever the other merits of this article are, I hope you realize that Denmark and the Netherlands are not the same country.

The Netherlands is where the Dutch live and Denmark is where the Danish live. I really have no idea otherwise how to interpret a Radio Netherlands report in Denmark on the differences between France and the Dutch people.

As a Danish American, the son of a Dane and an American, I have to say that I am reminded always when I am in Europe that I am only 1/2 Danish. This in spite of the fact that I am a fluent Danish speaker, blond and well over 6-feet tall.

The Danish minority that lives across the German border still retain their language and culture and see a clear distinction between themselves and their ethnic German neighbors. This phenomenon is repeated throughout Europe.

I cannot make an excuse for it. As an American I do not like it. But these distinctions, readily made between peoples an American would be hard pressed to differentiate, are apparent and meaningful to the many Europeans I have met over my life. Becasue of this, I am hard pressed to believe that there ever will be a sucessful integration of the immigrant Middle Eastern and African populations which have such a large cultural and social gap to cross.

Posted by: erik | November 9, 2005 07:32 PM

It's worth quoting Freedland at length: "The US has a model of integration which is the reverse of France's: it positively encourages new migrants to hold on to their first culture, happy to let them hyphenate as Italian-Americans or Irish-Americans.

Freedland obviously chugs the Kool-Aid without any regard to its source and side-effects.

He should try asking the immigrants living in Texas, (i.e. the place where people think Jesus spoke English) if they are encouraged to hold on to their first culture.

Posted by: | November 9, 2005 08:28 PM

I've always thought it odd that America has this official seperation of Church and State (which is a great idea) and yet religion plays such a strong role in politics and making laws. In Britain the head of the state religion is also the head of state (though she has no real power). Religion has less effect though because it isn't so important to such a percentage of the population.

On racial integration no country has got it totally 'right'. I think both Britain and America are ahead of the game compared to France, though a lot of work remains in both countries. Racism exists in all countries, and not always involving white people. A recent riot in Britain happened between the black and asian communities. Where France has gone wrong is it does not have the level of representation of minorities and it has allowed these huge sinkholes to develop. These people are French, most of the rioters were probably born in France. Now they need to be convinced to feel french. They need the hope that they can escape those estates and have a future.

Posted by: David Patrick, UK | November 10, 2005 04:59 AM

Peter -- your agenda sounds just like Hilter's. Now, should only the blonde and blue eyed European, the Aryan race, be allowed to reproduce?
Gary -- Please watch TNT's "Into the West" and read Howard Zinn's "The People's History of the US". The centuries of terrorism against the Indigenous Native and African Americans have taken a toll, and will require them a long time to fully recover.
No one should bear the sins of another (in this case, the colonial master) but we should be patriotic to the truth and to the human race.

Posted by: jt | November 11, 2005 02:34 PM

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