Food for Thought: Tolerance for the Intolerant Entering Europe?

 The following article should serve only as a short introduction to a future, honest discussion over the issue of immigration into Europe. Optimistically (and with the help of commenters), the conversation should evolve into a broader discussion of immigration as a concept, Islam within majority-Muslim states, the moral and practical clashes of Europe and Islam, and perhaps attempts to formulate solutions for how to better accommodate those escaping the horrors of war, disease, famine, and other crises without crumbling our own understandings of culture and society. It is impossible to write an article successfully without defining such key words revolving around this debate, including what exactly we mean by ‘immigration’, or ‘borders’, or ‘values’, or even ‘Islam’. Consequently, each subsection requires a rich dialogue, substantiated by empirical evidence and theory as its bedrock, to act as a checks-and-balance system to such a debate.

Borders are necessary. No borders generates unstructured chaos in both the metaphorical and literal senses. On the other hand, completely open borders would regulate the flow of a dilution of a nation-state. A middle ground must be found within this dilemma; a balance between justice and mercy. The central dialogue over immigration into the West revolves around the competing virtues of justice [for Europe] and mercy [for immigrants]. Arguably, by this point in time, the balance has shifted in favor of mercy, outweighing equity for Europeans. A complex system cannot endure a drastic change so briefly, therefore encumbering the fragility of the European federal system (one that already is far too broad and far too diverse in opinion) would only exacerbate domestic tensions. 

Europe makes the following mistake by spreading its arms too wide open: it fails to distinguish between foreigners who understand Europe’s values, and foreigners who have their own set of ethics. The assumption here is that individuals who have lived in states which have not developed functional individual rights (in comparison to Europe) can by some means promptly adhere to European laws without shedding their customs. More so, one must look within these polities, and consider that if they have not been governed well, or governed corruptly, for long periods of time, the very values held collectively are flawed. Thus, how can an individual, originating from an environment with an impaired value structure, simply be relocated to a foreign destination and assume they will coexist accordingly? In what way can Europe know for certain this individual will somehow demonstrate a hidden, but supposedly inherent, inclination towards democracy and whatever freedoms define Western society? To be accepted by Europe does not translate into breathing the same air as Voltaire and Locke (Murray, 2017).

A shift in perspective is required. The long list of terror attacks in Europe the past years were carried out under one banner, and despite the debate over Islam’s radical nature or not, these attacks are not a result of a Western failure to properly formulate integration policy. Of course almost all these attacks were not perpetrated by immigrants. Of course almost all these immigrants are escaping horrors foreign to Europe. But what about underlying sympathies for the terrorists’ motives? What about the reactions in both Europe and the Muslim world to the attacks? These questions reveal far more about the conflict of values between both ‘blocs’. For instance, as a counterfactual scenario, what would be the retaliatory response by the Middle East or Islamic African nation-states if ‘radical’ Christians perpetrated such heinous attacks in their states? It would be a disservice to those discriminated by the authority of such states to suggest these states would simply criticize the adherents of ‘radical’ Christianity and adopt a multicultural public image, as Europe has done. Moreover, one should look at the Muslim response within Europe to such atrocities, such as one in four Muslims within the UK having sympathy towards the perpetrators of the Charlie Hebdo attacks (Saul, 2015). 

If the murder of cartoonists breeds ‘sympathy’ within a subsect of our population, the values underpinning such a group should be cautiously investigated, considering its contradictory position to Western norms. Therefore, when discussing the inclusive language with which we communicate with immigrants, perhaps rigidly conveying the language of exclusion, and what will not be tolerated in the Western community, is warranted, in order to best assimilate them within a climate of free speech (arguably, the cornerstone of the West, and what binds us to reason and civilization). One must be just as cautious when advocating for the improvement in transgender, or gay, or women’s rights whilst simultaneously promoting the absorption of Muslim immigrants into Europe: such concepts are likely to be anathema to these immigrants, whose lives hinge on principles conflicting with such rights. Additionally, with regards to intolerance, one need look at the dangers of Muslim communities within Europe, and how gay Muslims, or Muslim reformers, or apostates are targeted by the intolerance of other Muslims (Carrell, 2016).

This article is not founded on bigotry, or on an aversion to diversity. Of course most people escaping the horrors of war, disease and famine only seek safety for their family and to prosper. But what of the insidious nature of ideology, especially when inserted within a dissimilar culture and political system with irreconcilable viewpoints?  Rather, this is a plea to fellow Europeans over if this continent - this community - is understanding the deeper risks of rapidly absorbing migrants. Are we willing to accept people whose societal, cultural, and religious values are perfectly antithetical to our own? 

The ‘cultural baggage’ of Islam’s views towards women, homosexuality, apostates, forced female circumcision, the Jewish community, or even representative democracy and political freedoms, is untenable under the umbrella of ‘Europe’, which is rooted in values of freedom from oppression and a strict code of moral truths. Therefore, if these foreign principles are adhered to, beyond the point of reason or what Europe should tolerate, one must contemplate what is left of Europe?


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3.Murray, D. (2017) The Strange Death of Europe: Immigration, Identity, Islam. London: Bloomsbury.

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