JOURNAL ISSUE 14
Out of Place
Mirjana Mikic' Zeitoun
Researcher from Center for Peace Studies
There are a number of significant events that have happened in Europe recently which are connected to minority issues and the minorities' integration into European society or the society of the country immigrated to.
In the beginning of the year, we witnessed large-scale disturbances in some countries inhabited by immigrants whose religion is Islam: demonstrations, violence, flag burning, rioting, and even causalities. These were the reactions to the prophet Mohammad cartoons published in a Danish magazine in September. Why didn't the disturbances occur until a few months later? Can the Prophet's image be shown? Was it a direct attack at Islam? Is it connected to the victory of Hamas in Palestine? Does it have anything to do with the current Iran nuclear standoff?...
Some European editors have, out of solidarity, started publishing the controversial cartoons as a response to the violence and as a way to stress their right to the freedom of speech, a media as well as human right. At the same time, some other facts slowly surfaced: the Danish magazine which originally published the cartoons is, in fact, to the very right side of the political spectrum, and rightist groups in Denmark have racist attitudes toward immigrants, especially those of different religions, and are opposed to their integration into Danish society.
On its cover two weeks ago, the popular French weekly L'Express International posted a girl with Oriental eyes and a confident look. While her hair was covered with a white and red veil, the girl's face was covered, all but her eyes, with the French flag, rendering the French state her niqab (a covering of the female body in accordance with Islam). Entitled "The rise of Islam in Europe," the magazine's 16-page special warned that the "rise of Islam in Europe may lead Europe to modify its own rules [and values] in order to suit the circumstances of [European Muslims], Europe's new people."1 The following week, the magazine's cover posted a Muslim burning the Danish flag; while the fire died down, a church and cross were visible in the background. In an article entitled "The Question of Mohamed," the magazine stated that "Muslims must abide by the European, international values, like all the other religious groups normally do."2
Some in the West cannot get themselves to believe that you can build an identity that is truly Muslim and truly Western at the same time. They are so obsessed with a clash between the two cultures that they don't see this happening.
1El-Ghitany, Magda. (2006, February). "Al-Ahram. " Issue No. 782. Egypt.
Last year we saw large-scale riots take place in French suburbs and then spread into the very centers of major cities. At first we heard reports of the lazy immigrants who had nothing better to do than to stage riots or demonstrations. Then it became apparent that the majority of the dissatisfied protesters were in fact third- and fourth-generation French (France hasn't signed the Framework Convention on minority rights protection - the chief European document on the subject - and does not recognize minorities; everyone is a French citizen). The youth has risen against a glum economic outlook, the feeling of ghettoization, and their inability to get jobs.
The spring riots staged by students in March, this time no doubt "true French," and the most educated ones at that, have been joined by all parts of society. The Youth Employment Law controversy has indeed proven that the economic outlook is bleak and that last year's riots had their roots in that very fact, as opposed to being rooted in Islamic radicalism, a point which the media had been very eager to prove at the time (I will not deny, though, that at moments such as this the true extremists are always trying to win people to their side, promote their ideas, and seize the opportunity from circumstances - poverty, ignorance - on both sides). Even France, with all its glorious history, the civil constitution, and human rights, has lots of work to do on integrating immigrants into its society.
A few years ago, we witnessed horrible racist attacks in Germany perpetrated by Nazi-affiliated groups and individuals: the burnings of asylum-seeker hotels or places where immigrants, especially Turkish, live. This was more evident in Eastern parts of united Germany, where the socio-economic situation isn't all too bright--workers are being laid off, the standard of living is lower, and the foreigners are the first to be blamed.
"We're facing the threat of classification. If you're Muslim, then you're considered a radical or a secular, a moderate or a fundamentalist. And depending on the rating you get, you'd be considered for residence or immigration. Your entire chance to work and integrate depends on your rating": these are the words of a man who has been living in Austria and Hungary for over 20 years.3 Originally Syrian, he now holds Austrian nationality and represents a civil rights group defending foreigners.
The problem facing foreigners--especially those of Arab and Muslim origin--is how rough new immigration laws will treat them. Most EU countries experience tensions, divisions and fears regarding Muslim minorities.
Jocyline Cesari, professor at Harvard University, told Al-Ahram Weekly that the 12 offending Danish cartoons of the Prophet Mohamed "constitute only one episode in the long chain of smearing Islam." She also said that unprecedented Muslim outrage over their publication and European "persistence" in reprinting the cartoons reflect "the implicit confrontation between Islam and Europe." Cesari added that although the cartoons will likely not be the last European offending action against Islam, "they are the first to highlight the contradictory nature between Islam and Europe as well as both sides' rejection to compromise their beliefs and values."
Nezar Al-Sayad, director of the Middle-East Studies Centre at the University of California-Berkeley, told the Weekly that a third world war--this time a religious war--is not so unlikely as a result of rising tensions between Islam and the West. According to Al-Sayad, following 9/11, not only were Muslims brought "under the gun," but Europe returned to its "exclusiveness." Unlike the 1980s and the 1990s, when most Europeans felt an affinity with values of acceptance and understanding, Europeans now feel that they want to defend themselves against "the other." The 9/11 attacks, Al-Sayad noted, definitively defeated "social justice and globalization's multi-culturalism."
According to all these events, a major point that causes confrontation between Europe and Islam is the strong affiliation the Muslims of Europe demonstrate to their religion. In Europe, Islam is seen as a competing identity: there are students in the UK , for instance, of Pakistani origin, who said that "we have never been to Pakistan but we are thrilled with what happened in 9/11" and that "we are Muslims before being European citizens."
3 Salama, Salama A. (2006, June). "Al-Ahram." Issue No. 797. Egypt
In addition to concerns about the extent to which Islamic faith undermines European concepts of national belonging, Europe is also worried by the concept of the Islamic umma, or universal Islamic nation, that precedes other forms of citizenship for Muslims.
Further, and the most important from the European point of view, Europe does not allow any factor, including religion, to overrule its secular values, like freedom of expression. Belonging to a faith is an individual right, but freedom of expression is a collective one. Consequently, most of Europe does not understand the outrage over the publication of the 12 cartoons. People with affiliations to other religions would not have done this if put in the same situation because, again, their overwhelming identity source is the nation-state. It is not that Europe does not respect differences between religions; it is that in a secular society, religion plays a very circumscribed role.
Europe is not ready to change these secular principles for Muslims.
The Rootless Cosmopolitan: Edward Said
"Anyone prevented from returning home is in exile," wrote Edward Said--as a Christian-born Palestinian Arab and critical intellectual, an addetto ai lavori if ever there was--in his 1984 essay, "Reflections on Exile."
When he died in September 2003, he was probably the best-known intellectual in the world.
His intellectual journey took him from studying Conrad to his latest book project on humanism, from Vico to Gramsci to Feuerbach and Foucault, from Bach and Gould to Schonberg, Adorno, and John Cage. He wrote about European, Arab, African, Latin American, Unites States', and Asian literatures--Mahfouz, Yeats, Melville, Gent, Austen, Flaubert, Soueif, Swift, Munif, Zola, Mann, Rushdie, Proust, Naipaul, Morrison, Borges, Maupassant, Gide, Turgenev, Keats, Kipling, and so many more.
Orientalism, Said's book, is a controversial account of the appropriation of the East in modern European thought and literature and has spawned an academic sub-discipline in its own right: A quarter of a century after its first publication, it continues to generate irritation, veneration, and imitation. Orientalism was never about the Orient and its identity and culture but was about producing the West and its identity and culture, stating that there would never be a West if the East were not invented as its antithesis, its opposite, its other. Even if its author had done nothing else, confining himself to teaching at Columbia University in New York, where he was employed from 1963 until his death, he would still have been one of the most influential scholars of the late twentieth century.
But he did not confine himself. From 1967, and with mounting urgency and passion as the years passed, Edward Said was also an eloquent, ubiquitous commentator on the crisis in the Middle East and an advocate for the cause of the Palestinians. His journey was guided by a radical opposition to ignorance and an unwavering commitment to fighting injustice.
This moral and political engagement was not really a displacement of Said's intellectual attention--his critique of the West's failure to understand Palestinian humiliation closely echoes, after all, his reading of nineteenth-century scholarship and fiction in Orientalism and subsequent books (notably Culture and Imperialism, published in 1993). This work transformed the professor of comparative literature at Columbia into a very public intellectual, adored or execrated with equal intensity by many millions of readers. This was an ironic fate for a man who fitted almost none of the molds to which his admirers and enemies so confidently assigned him. Said lived all his life at a tangent to the various causes with which he was associated.
The involuntary "spokesman" for the overwhelmingly Muslim Arabs of Palestine was an Episcopalian Christian, born in 1935 to a Baptist from Nazareth. The uncompromising critic of imperial condescension was educated in some of the last of the colonial schools that trained the indigenous elite of the European empires; for many years he was more at ease speaking English and French than Arabic, and he was an outstanding exemplar of a Western education with which he could never fully identify.
Said was the idolized hero of a generation of cultural relativists in universities from Berkeley to Bombay, for whom Orientalism underwrote everything from career-building exercises in "postcolonial" obscurantism to denunciations of "Western Culture" in the academic curricula. But Said himself had no time for such nonsense. Radical anti-foundationalism, the notion that everything is just a linguistic effect, struck him as shallow and "facile": human rights, as he observed on more than one occasion, are not "cultural or grammatical things, and when they are violated they are as real as anything we can encounter."
In this age of displaced persons, Said was not even a typical exile, since most men and women forced to leave their country have a place to which they can look back (or forward) to: a remembered-or more often misremembered-homeland that anchors the transported individual or community in time if not in space. Palestinians don't even have this. There never was a formally-constituted Palestine. Palestinian identity thus lacks that conventional anterior reference.
A cognate but experientially and existentially quite special category is expatriates. Said says that "expatriates voluntarily live in an alien country."4 The best-known group of expatriates in cultural history are perhaps the Americans in Paris after the First World War: Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Dos Passos, Stein, Miller, or Irishmen like Joyce and Beckett. Pure expatriates are those who can and usually do return, whose physical and metaphoric alienation from their mother-country is therefore not so thoroughgoing as to be permanent.
Said felt "out of place" much of his life, but he created an intellectual place, even an intellectual world, to which he could belong and to which he called upon us to join him. The new place that Said created had a new language, a new syntax, a new vocabulary to which those of us who, like him, felt out of place in a terrifyingly unjust world, could belong. The new place he created as a resisting locale came to be populated by so many of us around the world that it became a veritable place that protected us and him from the debasement of knowledge and the injustices perpetrated in the name of identities and imperial authority.
4Said, Edward W. (1999). Out of place,
The dramatic experience of non-belonging has followed him since childhood: he was a Palestinian Christian with an English name and an Arab surname, growing up in a bilingual and multireligious community which equally worshipped the cults of English and Arabic languages, Islam and Christianity. He spent his entire life on the border between two languages, two cultures. His life was marked by departures, goodbyes, refuge and exile; he understood that the journey would be long, but he also believed that all expatriates would reach their destination one day.
Perhaps Cavafy's poem Ithaka , which he loved, resonated with his own journey.
Keep Ithaka always in your mind.
Arriving there is what you destined for.
But don't hurry the journey at all.
Better if it lasts for years,
so you're old by the time you reach the island,
wealthy with all you've gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.
Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey.
Without her you wouldn't have set out.
She has nothing left to give you now.
And if you find her poor, Ithaka won't have fooled you.
Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,
You'll have understood by then what these Ithakas mean.
A Research Agenda for the Study of Migrants and Minorities
Migration and minority policy issues are now at the forefront of political debate. Both issues denote a dynamic and rapidly-changing set of sensitive political, economic and social questions. The terms "migrant" and "minority" share an underlying definitional imprecision that blurs the respective fields of study and policy-making as well as the linkages between the two. The term "ethnic minorities" can subsume a range of migrant groups, while the term "national minority" is reserved for established minorities claiming minority rights. "Migrants" are people who have been outside their country of birth or citizenship for a period of 12 months or longer, excluding tourists, foreign workers on a scheduled stay, and short-term visitors.
On the migrant side of the taxonomy, one can usefully distinguish three main groups-- economic, forced, and family migrants, with distinction based on the motivations for leaving one's country of origin. Immigration, on the other hand, implies long-term permanent residence (and often eventual citizenship) by the immigrants.
As for economic migrants, a common distinction is made between legal and illegal migrants, the former entering their new host country through a legal route such as a temporary or permanent immigrant visa or a work/study permit, the latter often being associated with illegal human trafficking. It is often overlooked that a substantial number of so-called illegal migrants entered their new country legally but lost their legal status by overstaying their visa. In principle, economic migrants have to be distinguished from those individuals who have left their country in the belief that they cannot or should not return in the near future due to risks to their safety. This category, here referred to as "forced migrants," includes not only those who have been granted asylum under the Geneva Convention or some similar status but also the other asylum-seekers who hope to be granted refugee or some subsidiary protection status. The Geneva Convention (UN Convention on the Status of Refugees 1951, as amended by the 1967 New York Protocol) defines a refugee as a person who, owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, or nationality, is unable to, or, owing to such fear, unwilling to avail him or herself of the protection of his or her home country.
In practice, the distinction between economic (voluntary) and forced (involuntary) migrants is often not clear-cut, as political and economic causes (and related pressures, such as environment) frequently impinge on an individual's decision to migrate. Thus, the freedom of choice is rarely absolute, and might be limited in both types of migration. Despite its low profile in most industrialized countries, the often-neglected category of "family migrants" outstrips the numbers involved in the other two migrant categories. In recent years, the type of immigration that is related to arranged (or sometimes forced) marriages has brought this type of migration to wider public attention.
It is estimated that there about 160 million migrants worldwide (2 - 3% of the entire global population), supplemented by an estimated 10 million illegal migrants.
In 2003. there were an estimated 17 million forced migrants (asylum-seekers and refugees) worldwide; of these, 4.1 million were being hosted in Europe. It is further estimated that the annual net inflow of migrants into the EU was about 1.7 million in 2002, with just under 50% coming from other European countries. Spain, Italy, Germany, and the UK accounted for about 70% of this net inflow. Immigrants have been a politically salient and important aspect of population change in many European countries, constituting a net increase of over 1% of population in the cases of Ireland and Spain in 2001.
Without immigration, Germany, Greece, and Italy would already have registered a population loss in 2003. In the context of an aging population and a need for certain skills, migrants make an important economic contribution.
Under "minorities," our taxonomy focuses on three main categories: national minorities, political minorities, and social minorities. The distinction underlying this classification is of a different type from those on the migrant side of taxonomy. While the category of "national minorities" focuses on a range of ascriptive markers, the other two categories bring in the political and social context in which different types of minorities operate. Due to this wider definitional framework used for the classification of minorities, there are even closer links between the various categories than there would be with different categories highlighting the inherent difficulties and limits of classifications of minorities.
A national minority describes a numerical, non-dominant group of individuals that combines objective criteria, such as specific cultural characteristics (ethnicity, language, religion) distinct from the majority of the population, with subjective criteria, such as a collective sense of community. The cultural specifics tend to form the bases of these groups' claims to certain rights or autonomy.
The term ethnic (or racial) minorities is the least precise, as in some countries it is the standard term of reference to immigrant communities. Despite the absence of a clear international definition of an "ethnic minority," a set of norms and soft-law measures has evolved over time. I prefer this: in states in which ethnic, religious, or linguistic minorities exist, persons belonging to such minorities shall not be denied the right, in community with other members of their group, to enjoy their own culture, to profess and practice their own religion, or to use their own language.
As a general rule, political minorities are supporters of the political party or parties that lost the election, and they should obey the general will of the majority.
Our basic taxonomy maps some of the linkages between minorities and migrants: national and political minorities are most likely to become forced migrants in the context of repression or war. Social minorities have an incentive to become economic migrants, though social exclusion does not always provide the means and environment for emigration.
Conversely, all types of migrants usually become ethnic/racial, religious, and/or linguistic minorities in the territories they have emigrated to . Initially, if not for an indefinite period of time, these migrants tend to find themselves on the margins of society and as the political minorities (although the latter, of course, already presupposes a degree of political engagement and mobilization).
The Interlock between Migrants and Minorities
Minorities referred to as "old" or "established" are often the result of earlier waves of migration. New immigrants often experience similar integration problems to what members of old minorities did. These problems, in turn, can become incentives for new migratory movements. In Europe's dense institutional environment, policy-making at different levels of governance is shaped by minority and migration issues. So far, researchers and policy-makers have treated both issues separately.
Boswell, C.(2003) European Migration Policies in flux: Changing Patterns of Inclusion and Exclusion.
Brubaker R. (1992.) Citizenship and Nationhood in France and Germany. Cambridge, MA: Harvard
Geddes, A. (2000) Immigration and European Integration: Towards Fortress Europe? New York:
Manchester University Press.
Kymlicka, W. and Opalsky, M. (2001) Can Liberal Pluralism be exported? Western Political Theory
and Ethnic Relations in Eastern Europe.Oxford:Oxford
Said, E.W. (1978). Orientalism United States.
Thornberry, P. (1990) International law and the Rights of Minorities. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
UNHCR (2003) Statistical Yearbook: Trends in Displacement, Protection and Solutions. Geneva:
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
The following three subjects have been intertwined in my work:
the current socio-politic situation regarding minorities and immigrants,
the example of E.W. Said and his work on the affirmation of the identity of these groups (minorities and migrants)
and a sociological framework for these topics.
In Zagreb, March, 2006.
Mirjana Mikic Zeitoun
Back to Top
Copyright for the I.U.C. Journal of Social Work Theory and
Practice is owned by the Social Work Program, Department of
Social Relations and Services, Bemidji State University, Bemidji,
Minnesota, USA. One copy may be made (printed) for personal
use; teachers may make multiple copies for student use if
the copies are made available to students without charge.
Permission must be secured from the editors for sale of any
copies of articles or for any commercial use of the material
published in the Journal.