In the wake of the Parisian attacks, controversy is heating up over the “anti-Islamization” PEGIDA marches in Germany—and the questions of immigration, integration, and racism across Europe. The Financial Times reports:
In Dresden, a record 25,000 supporters of Pegida — Patriotic Europeans against the Islamisation of the West — marched through the eastern city in Europe’s largest protest over immigration and the growing presence of Islam on the continent.Shouting “We are the people” the marchers easily outnumbered about 7,000 counter-demonstrators, according to the police.However, in other German cities Pegida allies were swamped by their opponents. In Berlin, just 400 Pegida demonstrators were confronted by 4,000 counter-demonstrators. In Munich, Hannover and Düsseldorf, Pegida marches drew only a few hundred versus, 20,000, 19,000 and 5,000 respectively for their opponents.
It’s unsurprising that the issue is coming to a head in Germany, which has the highest right-left differential on views of Islam in Europe, according to Pew. As the BBC points out, the marchers are a mixed bag, ranging from concerned voters to seriously questionable, neo-Nazi types. That’s not entirely the marchers’ fault (though they certainly bear responsibility for the company they keep): almost no mainstream party in mainland Europe will touch immigration with a ten-foot pole.The result, as Mark Steyn and Andrew Stuttaford have been pointing out at National Review, is that when, “the political culture forbids respectable politicians from raising certain topics, then the electorate will turn to unrespectable ones.” The respectable Swedish center-right, for instance, has just committed itself to a minority role in a left-wing government until 2022 to keep the Swedish Democrats, an anti-immigration party with neo-Nazi roots, out of office. The SD is now the only party discussing immigration at all in Sweden, however, and so is likely to grow. Germany’s not that bad off, yet, but it’s only the nascent AfD—once seen as a small, almost upper-crust anti-Euro party but now a bit more ambivalent about its relationship with the populist protests—is challenging the consensus.That’s unfortunate, not least because Europe really does have immigration and assimilation problems—as the immigrants, who often face discrimination, experience alienation, and are shut out from many of the guarantees of European life, will tell you themselves. (See this excellent Patrick Weil piece from the TAI archives on life in the banlieues, for example.) Europe writ large has not found a way to offer its immigrant populations the same opportunities given to “natives” (a distinction that often stretches to the second or third generation), but at the same time it has been largely unwilling to decrease the volume of immigrants or discuss new measures for integrating them.America has some answers to offer from our experience as the “melting pot,” but they’re not as simple as we often like to tell ourselves. As Reihan Salam recently pointed out, our assimilation of the massive “Second Wave” in the late 19th and early 20th centuries (one of the most successful such endeavors in history) involved a heated national conversation, decades of assimilation efforts that bordered on indoctrination, and the effective banning of immigration for two generations. But the end result was something that pretty much everyone could live with: the acceptance of the once heavily contested idea that you could be both ethnically Irish and patriotically American, or an observant Jew and patriotically American, or (as they will tell you in Dearborn, Michigan) Muslim-American.Most European countries do not have an organic equivalent to this cultural assumption, nor do they know how to start cultivating one now. It remains to be seen whether the reaction to the Hebdo attacks will mark the beginning of a real discussion, or further procrastination and the deepening of divisions.