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`Dispelling misconceptions key to integrating immigrants`

By Shazia Hasan 2015-10-08
KARACHI: `These days we find Syrians and Iraqis migrating to Europe.

During the mid-1900s people from southern Europe migrated to northern Europe in search of better opportunities. And integrating them was not smooth and easy,` said Stefano Gatto, acting head of the European Union delegation to Pakistan.

He was the keynote speaker at the inaugural session of the international conference on `Issues of radicalisation in migrant urban societies: a comparative assessment of Pakistan and Europe` organised by the Area Study Centre for Europe, University of Karachi, in collaboration with the Hanns Seidel Foundation here on Wednesday.

`Italians in the 1950s had to stay in barracks as several apartments available for rent at the time had a notice stating `Not for Italians`! But now their descendants, after two generations, are equal citizens in Italy with equal rights. Diversity is scary. But they were all Christians, it was a contained diversity.

`We also had Turks going to Germany in the `60s and `70s. Integrating them wasn`t a priority then. But it happened anyway with their second generation mixing in a bit and then the third doing even better. But it was a process. Like if you get jobs in your new country of residence, you are integrating, you are accepted. It takes a while, you can`t expect to be accepted readily by a new society. There are extremists, rights being violated and racist attacks triggering unrest among migrants,` said Mr Gatto.

`But one thing needs to be clarified. In the US, religion is very high on the agenda. Not in Europe though. There freedom of expression is bigger.

Therefore attacks on anyone`s religion are not seen as a human rights issue or blasphemy. If there is an anti-Muslim cartoon, there have also been anti-Jewish cartoons. But there is no perception of being anti-religion, it is only humour in their eyes.

`Af ter a huge angry reaction to it many Europeans believe that all Muslims are radicals,` he tried to explain the logic.

`Due to this misunderstanding and misjudgement different models to integrate Muslims migrants in European society didn`t work. What can be done is invest-ing in education, opening more markets for jobs, etc, to help integrate the migrants. Still the main thing to do here is work on the misunderstandings when many things are misinterpreted. Having a citizens`councilis also essentialhere.

We also need more strong moderate Muslim voices,` he concluded.

Earlier, Prof Dr Uzma Shujaat, director of the Area Study Centre for Europe, while introducing the subject of discussion, said that the concept of radicalisation deserved clarity. `When people resent a situation, they may be trapped in. It will give rise to radicalism,` she explained.

Kristof W. Duwaerts, resident representative, Hanns Seidel Foundation, Islamabad, said that over the past 15 to 20 years most terrorist links led to a connection to Pakistan. `There are terrorist attacks in Pakistan, too, almost on a daily basis. Radicals exist everywhere in the world, they don`t necessarily have to be terrorists. But why are there so many radicals in Pakistan?` he said.

`Some 60 per cent of people in Pakistan are around 26 years of age. And there is a big population among them who are illiterate. Then there are Mohajirs, Pakhtuns, Sindhis, Baloch here, many of whom are not happy with a variety of issues including feeling segregated. So radicalism erupts from a feeling of not fitting in and always blaming the other for your problems. The Mohajirs blame the Pakhtuns, the Sindhis blame some other ethnic group maybe and in a bigger picture, Pakistan blames India, Afghanistan and Iran for its troubles.

Then the civil leadership blames the military. This can be helped by interaction, he added.

Former ambassador Rafi-uz-Zaman Siddiqui said that radicalism spread like wildfire and de-radicalisation was a slow process.

Former foreign secretary Najmuddin Shailch said that the migrants entering Europe would be urban migrants, not rural and it was important to know how to curb the phenomena of radicalism among them as they would feel out of place, naturally.

Former minister for information Javed Jabbar, development consultant Dr Shoaib Ahmed, Dr Yaqoob Bangash of Forman Christian College, French writer and philosopher Olivier Mongin and former ambassador Anesuddin Ahmed also spoke.