By Enrique Tessieri
One of the biggest challenges to Finland’s new integration program is how effectively it promotes what it sets out to do. How passionate are we Finns about ethnic and minority equality in this country if the most important piece of the puzzle is still missing: the big picture and place new Finns and their children have in our society.
Migrant Tales believes that integration programs like the Perussuomalaiset’s (PS) Nuiva Manifesto would do more harm than good: It would create ghettos and punish people socially who are visible minorities. Moreover, the PS’ manifesto is more of a political statement that exposes the ignorance of its supporters.
Reading many of the thousands of comments on Migrant Tales, it is evident that some Finns and Europeans still believe that one-way integration is the only way to promote the integration of immigrants and minorities.
One of the first important steps that an integration program should take is change the anti-immigrant culture and language prevalent in a society. The term tolerance, or suvaitsevainen, is widely used in Finland but even more-effective terms that officials, politicians and the general public could begin using are mutual acceptance and respect.
Like any good government program, it must be one that is effective. But what does Finland’s integration program aim at accomplishing? Is it facilitating and speeding the integration of immigrants into our society or promoting the opposite due to lack of resources?
Jonathan Lawrence writes on the New York Times her views about how Muslims should be integrated in Europe. Her views are very much what Migrant Tales has been promoting on numerous blog entries.
She writes: ”Granting Muslims full religious freedom wouldn’t remove obstacles to political participation or create jobs. But it would at least allow tensions over Muslims’ religious practices to fade. This would avoid needless sectarian strife and clear the way for politicians to address the more vexing and urgent challenges of socioeconomic integration.”
Thus one of the biggest obstacles to the integration, or adaption, of groups like Muslims and others in Europe has been our unrealistic and ethnocentric expectations of how other cultures should adapt to us.
Certainly we can promote as much ethnocentrism as we wish in our society, but the big question is what impact will it have: Will it integrate or exclude?
One of the most important matters to keep in mind when speaking about integration policies is that acceptance and respect must be a two-way process. This means that since we live in a culturally diverse society, it is important that everyone accepts and respects each other.
There is nothing new about this type of behavior. It is how we should treat people in our culture.
If we have the right, and have fought for greater acceptance of minorities like gays and women’s rights, why would we want to undermine the rights of other groups? The fact that we can make lifestyle choices in our society is what makes our society so great.
Another fallacy of the anti-immigration groups is that they believe that people don’t change. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Cultures change constantly because they are highly adaptable. Free will ensures that we can never be ruled like robots.