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."
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