Here are some thoughts.
- Integration requires mutual understanding and compromise of all those involved if it is to be even remotely equitable.
- When ‘they don’t want to integrate’ is invoked, question the extent to which one group is expecting others to change, whilst not expressing any desire or willingness to change themselves. This is immersion or dissolution more than integration.
- With the above, notice which groups are and are not expected to change. Do trends emerge?
- An interesting thought experiment of the above is to question what would happen if the alleged ‘non-integrater’ did integrate into the self-proclaimed ‘norms’ of the ‘integratee’; would that be accepted either? Or actually, is the call to integrate just rhetorical?
- At what point does integrating entail disavowing important aspects of your identity in order to be accommodated into the ‘host culture’ (which sees itself as the norm that other should aspire to, in the spirit of “Why should we be the ones to change?”)
- In mixed communities where religion plays a significant part in the lives of its members, an understanding of neighbours’ religious beliefs is a buffer against feelings of confusion and exclusion; understanding the motivations and practices of a neighbour goes a long way to recognising the values behind their practices, many of which are moral values held by people with and without faith.
- Disagreeing with and disliking somebody’s religious practices is perfectly valid, but to disagree with and dislike these practices without ever seeking to understand them is foolish, privileged and counter-cohesive.
- Learning about the faiths of others does not devalue or undermine the practicing of your own faith; nor does it undermine your stance of faithlessness if you are atheist, agnostic or simply non-believing.
- My atheism has strengthened at the same time as my respect for people of faith has grown, largely as a consequence of recognising the role that stereotype and arrogance played in the way I viewed those who subscribed to a religion previously, and by spending pretty much all of my time with people of faith.
- Misunderstanding, misinformation and misanthropy thrive when poor people from different backgrounds live side by side without knowing each other. When people struggle and don’t see their neighbours, all they see is their own circumstances, and if these circumstances are quite grim, these unknown neighbours can present themselves as the simplest, closest and easiest target on which to pin frustrations.
- Those who say that communities containing people of many backgrounds can never work are wrong, but so are people who say that this situation is organic, simple or easy. Living together with people whose backgrounds, languages, cultures and life experiences differ greatly from your own is difficult; cohesion does not happen by osmosis, and it does not necessarily evolve naturally over time. It takes work, interaction and learning, but this can be an enjoyable struggle that sustains and develops all involved.
- And one more thing.
- Being concerned about immigration doesn’t necessarily make you a racist, but nor does it rule out the possibility.