A few thoughts on immigration and Europe
Without lapsing into Steynian hysteria, I think there are real concerns about the growing population of alienated, socially immobile Muslim immigrants in Europe. In that vein, Michelle Goldberg’s review of Reflections on the Revolution in Europe is worth a read, if only because it’s one of the few time I’ve seen a liberal acknowledge the problems associated with large-scale Muslim immigration.
I am, however, generally opposed to anti-immigrant hysterics, so I think it’s worth considering the possibility that Europe’s Islamic population will not remain poor, culturally alienated, and economically stagnant. In general, societies that experience an influx of immigrants get better at assimilating newcomers over time. When I lived in Helsinki, for example, the Finnish government adopted a generous asylum policy towards Somali refugees. This resulted in a lot of tension between native-born Finns and the Somalis, as neither group had a lot of experience with cultural assimilation. Finnish newspaper cartoons would lapse into what most Americans would describe as racist tropes, drawing Somalian immigrants with cartoonishly big lips, gleaming white teeth, and massive ears. A more mundane example of Finnish-Somali culture clash is the wrapper of a popular licorice candy:
Does this mean that all Finns are incorrigible racists? I suppose it’s possible, but this is the same country that adopted a Somali-friendly immigration policy in the first place. The cartoons could speak to a disparity between elite and popular opinion, but a more banal explanation is that societies with few immigrants are generally bad (at least at first) at immigrant assimilation. Americans are pretty attuned to racial stereotypes because we live and work in a racially diverse climate; most Finns, on the other hand, were blissfully unaware that something as silly as a candy wrapper could be construed as offensive. As Finland’s Somali population becomes more politically and economically visible, however, this will probably change, in much the same way the United States has gradually become more comfortable with a diverse cultural landscape. Assimilation is a difficult process, and the emergence of large, economically-depressed Muslim minorities poses a real challenge to Europe, but I think we should consider the possibility that inter-ethnic tensions will decline as Europeans acclimate themselves to a genuinely multicultural future.