Monday, November 08, 2004

Each unhappy family

The murder of Theo Van Gogh reminded me of this article, published in the Toronto Star while I was in Canada for Succot. It gives some fascinating background on how Holland, to some extent, brought its immigrant problems on itself:
[A]s the country's economy boomed during the early 1970s, it went in search of temporary guest workers willing to labour in factories, on farms and dockyards. Men from poor, rural areas of Turkey and Morocco flooded into Holland.
The Dutch government was a generous host, extending unemployment benefits, welfare, health care and housing subsidies to its guest workers. Hundreds of immigrant associations were financed by the state to help them maintain their cultural identities. It was thought that this would make it easier for the workers to return home.
The assumption that guest workers would leave Holland persisted even when their families began to arrive. Their children were encouraged to attend primary schools in their first languages with Dutch authorities believing this would make their eventual re-integration that much smoother.
It wasn't until the 1980s that the government came to understand that most migrant workers had no intention of leaving.... [In the early 1990s] "doubts began to develop about the effectiveness of facilitating immigrant cultures and of creating separate provisions for them."
Those doubts, however, were not discussed in public until 2000 when Paul Scheffer, an author and historian, published an essay, `The Multicultural Tragedy,' in one of Holland's major newspapers.
For Scheffer, the multicultural tragedy involved the rise of an "ethnic underclass" detached from Dutch culture and society. He argued that the insularity of immigrants, particularly Muslims, would eventually undermine Holland's liberalism and social cohesion.
I guess it's important to remember that while people talk about the problems integrating 'Europe's Muslims,' each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.

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