Troublesome convergences: a short comment from a continental perspective

This article compares the UK’s and Germany’s post 9/11 developments. In the situation with the UK the author claims the authorities have reneged on their promises of a multicultural society made to immigrants in the 1980s and 1990s. They justified the invasion of Iraq and targeting Muslims as part of domestic security through the “War on Terror”.

The situation in Germany is, according to the author, very different since German society never made any promises of multiculturalism. In fact, until 1999-2000, Germany did not even recognized itself as “an immigration country”. And while German proponents of the multicultural society have a very strong commitment to oppose all kinds of racism, they, perhaps without any intentions, “define a national ‘we group’ – those who share the guilt of National Socialism”, and in so doing separate themselves. The migrants then take on a role of victims rather than full members of society.

In spite of the fact that Germany refused to support the US in direct attacks on Iraq, it’s domestic debate on exclusion intensified and the national debate no longer covers the protection of Muslims from attacks, but rather the control of them.
He concludes with the statement that Muslims are being construed throughout Europe as the ultimate ‘other’, that Europeans distinguish themselves completely form that stereotypical ‘other’. In this collective self-identification based on the invention of enemies, he sees, a potential threat for violence.

Schiffauer does an excellent job in portraying both the exclusion of Simmel’s stranger, hence the separation and control of the ‘other’ and the grouping or stereotyping of a certain part of the population. Schiffauer talks about immigrants having to distance themselves vocally from the terrorists’ violence, since they are just assumed to belong to the collective responsible for violence. He also brings up a brilliant argument about a common European foe, that allows for development of a pan-European attitude among the Europeans.

What Schiffauer does address are countries like Turkey which is mostly Islamic in religion, but is also a democratic, secular, constitutional republic that is an example of how Western and Islamic ideas do not have to collide with each other, but can cooperate. Knowing that no country in Europe is considering mass deportation as a solution to current conflicts in multicultural societies, and is ready to deal with them, perhaps by looking at each other’s examples and the successes that were made along the way, a future for multicultural Europe is possible.

by Katja Minitsenka

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