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News ::
What If They Became An Example? (english)
22 May 2003
It is clear that by adopting a hostile attitude towards the West, whether it be in our own societies or in Western societies, we will only obtain conflicts fostering doubts, radicalism and racism...
What If They Became An Example?
Rashid Khashana, Al-Hayat, 2003/05/22

In parallel to the extremists' discourse of war attacking the "infidels," other Arabs and Muslims have tried to coexist with Western societies so as to take advantage from their democratic experience, while defending their rights and conserving their identity. Moroccans in Belgium are a telling example of how to deal with Western reality, without clashing with it or melting with it. During the latest parliamentary elections, 33 Moroccan candidates ran for seats at both chambers of the federal parliament. Although they only ended up winning three seats, they scored better than several foreign communities that are more numerous and older, as the Turkish community for example.

This is not something new, for Moroccans immigrants living in Belgium obtained 40 seats in the municipalities' councils in the past local elections. Currently, they constitute ten per cent of the elected local committees, which has allowed them to have a stronger political representation than most communities. This success stems from the fact that they accepted the rules of the game, and adopted the logic of citizenship role in all fields. Had they isolated themselves from society and followed the path of intellectual and political conflict, they would have gained nothing and would have turned their lives into hell.

The Belgians of Moroccan origin believe that they will first have to respect the duties of citizenship, by word and deed, and then follows the defense of their identity. Hence, over the past ten years, they shifted from a total absence in elected committees to a strong presence at all levels. Did this lead them to melt their identity in the dogmatic and cultural mold of the local society? No doubt that some were fascinated by the lifestyle of the Belgians, which seemed superior to that of their society of origin, and so they adopted many values and beliefs. But it is also clear that the majority is still attached to its cultural and social identity, and practices its rites, in a society that is different but that understands its specific characteristics. The rising religious zeal among foreign communities, mainly from the second and third generation, and especially among girls, is but the expression of holding on to their identity and refusing the logic of social and cultural "melting pot."

Therefore, the path of openness which involves accepting the others the way they are, and relinquishing the goal to convert them to Islam, is a certain guarantee to weaken the radical forces and the politicians who call for expelling immigrants in order to keep the "purity" of the local society.

On the other hand, by declaring war, whether directly or indirectly, on Western societies and pretending to work on changing them, will only hamper the efforts of representatives of the Arab and Islamic communities abroad into reaching positions of influence in the political and media spheres, and will generate useless and harmful conflicts with the local societies that care about their sovereignty and freedom of choice, especially at an ideological level.

During the last electoral campaign, certain Belgians of Moroccan origin warned about the 'Ghetto effect,' and their candidates adopted an attitude representative of all categories of the country's society. Hence, they mentioned issues like tax perception, employment, environment protection and other issues that concern the ordinary citizen, whereas others focused on immigrant problems and seemed to be the representatives of their country's citizens only. This what led them to fail in the elections.

In the end, it is clear that by adopting a hostile attitude towards the West, whether it be in our own societies or in Western societies, we will only obtain conflicts fostering doubts, radicalism and racism, especially if the Arab or Muslim diasporas try to use the Western states' democratic institutions to undermine the very pillars of Western society from the inside. On the other hand, accepting the other and fostering coexistence between both sides whilst respecting each side’s specificities is the only civilized choice that would guarantee the diasporas to live well and provide a sound environment for a serious cultural and religious dialogue with the other.
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