Give Refugees the Tools to Adjust

Shane Shuma '22, Contributing Writer

In 2015 the European Union began escalating its acceptance of refugees as a civil war raged in Syria. Four years later, Britain is facing a crisis as it attempts to leave the EU and Euroscepticism has made many gains in Europe’s earliest member states as parties such as the Brexit Party, Alternative for Germany, Italy’s League and France’s National Front, continue to gain momentum. The rise of these parties can be attributed to economic fear of the working classes in these countries and cultural clashes that have resulted in bigotry. The refugee experiment in Europe has failed, and it will take much effort and self-reflection to handle its fundamental issues.

I want to start by saying that responsible refugee migration can be a very positive thing and it is the responsibility of developed nations across the world to help empower and uplift the world’s most desperate people. However, when done incorrectly, it can lead to cultural divides, instability, and nativist tensions. It is best for every party involved that migrants are placed in homes that provide protection, mesh well with their beliefs, or have the resources to help address significant cultural differences. One of many significant cultural differences that have caused problems between citizens of European nations and Islamic migrant communities are gay rights. For example, Britain, like most developed nations, has strong protections for members of the LGBTQ community and guarantees a universal right to marriage. In countries such as Syria and Pakistan, two countries that send many migrants both economic and asylum seeking, being a member of the LGBTQ community can result in either discrimination or in some case the death penalty or a life sentence. When migrants with fundamentalist Islamic beliefs come to a country with secular laws it will be a point of contention that must be addressed.

There has been a rise in homophobia and sexual violence in Britain since it began taking more migrants from Muslim communities while simultaneously failing to provide adequate outreach to them to help them adjust into society. According to a Channel 4 News survey in the UK, half of all British Muslims think homosexuality should be banned and another 23% believe Sharia Law should be implemented. Hate crime offences against members of the LGBTQ community have increased 144% since 2014, according to the Guardian. The Independent reported that in Newcastle alone 700 girls had been sexually assaulted by Islamic grooming gangs, however these issues are rarely reported by a media class that is more scared of offending the wrong people than informing the public about the country’s challenges. This bigotry that has been allowed to fester in some Muslim communities is nowhere to be found where some of the most progressive Muslim populations call themselves home. These cultural divides are clearly not entirely the fault of Muslim migrants, but of the governments that failed to make it clear that their secular institutions and values must be respected.

This article is not an attack on Muslim migrants, as it has been shown time and time again that they love the countries they live in, follow the law perfectly, and work hard to provide for themselves and their families. The article is meant to highlight the dangers in allowing people in from countries with significant cultural differences regarding human rights while not being able to reach out to those communities and make it clear that secularism must be a priority. Instead of downplaying or covering up struggles between native and migrant communities, European governments should have highlighted them and done outreach. Now, migrants are in danger as government inaction has allowed far-right parties to stir up bigotry and fear whether founded or unfounded has led to indefensible attacks of Muslims. Last week Germany’s far right made massive gains in Eastern Germany with no signs of slowing momentum. If the safety of both Muslim and secular communities in Europe is to be ensured, it is time their governments and societies began working to address their differences instead of ignoring them.