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Terrorist Plots Darken Europe's Immigration Debate

4 years ago
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LONDON -- Just as it did in America, immigration dominated the headlines in Europe this summer. In the States, we had the whole ground zero mosque debate, Pastor Terry Jones threatening to burn Korans, and the seemingly endless speculation over whether President Obama really is a Muslim (or a cactus.)

Over here in Europe, things were equally lively. Sweden, long famous for its tolerance, elected a far-right, anti-immigrant party to its parliament for the first time in history. A prominent official at Germany's central bank was sacked for his provocative statements about Islamic immigrants in Germany. And then there's the ongoing saga of the Roma, France's itinerant gypsy population, who have been forcibly expelled from their refugee camps by President Sarkozy's government. In the words of my colleague, Sarah Wildman, the two continents now share a "kinship of intolerance."

Well, strap on your seat belts, because things are about to get a whole lot worse. This week, the British government revealed that up to 20 Britons are training in Pakistan to launch suicide attacks in London. Two British brothers -- along with eight Germans -- were also discovered to be at the heart of a "Mumbai-style" shooting spree planned on the UK, France and Germany. This comes on the heels of an announcement by the head of the British Security Services (MI5) last week that Britain faces a growing threat of terrorist attacks from UK residents trained in Somalia (as well as from dissident factions in Northern Ireland.) These would-be terrorists are believed to be of various origins, including Pakistani, Bangladeshi, and West African.

To have so many terrorist plots brought to the surface in quick succession (on top of heightened terrorist threat levels in both France and Sweden) is going to make a European population that's already "jumpy" about immigrants' ability to assimilate that much more anxious. It's the proverbial match brought to the powder keg.

Because it's one thing to worry that immigrants are taking "European" jobs or undermining women's freedom with their traditional dress or -- as in the case of the Roma -- constituting a social "nuisance" because they beg for money on the streets. However reasonable those fears may or may not be, they can -- and do -- have policy responses.

But that's a far cry from worrying that immigrants "want to kill us" which is -- fairly or not -- the leap that will now be made in some corners of Europe, particularly with respect to Muslim immigrants. Because a threat to one's physical safety and security is a whole different kettle of fish than a perceived threat to one's economic livelihood or social norms.

This most recent rash of incidents also raises an interesting set of questions about what constitutes an "immigrant." However you feel about the French government's treatment of the Roma, they really are illegal immigrants who come to France fleeing discrimination in their native Bulgaria and Romania, and then stay in France long beyond what EU law allows.

In contrast, many of the Britons implicated in the most recent round of plots are so-called "home grown terrorists" who hold UK passports. Like the 7/7 attackers who bombed the London transport system five years ago, these people are likely second-generation immigrants who were born and bred in Britain. They grew up and went to school here, and somewhere along the way, got radicalized.

But is there a statute of limitations on how long you need to be somewhere before you are considered native? Can people still be immigrants -- in their own minds or those of their fellow citizens -- even if they were born in the (foreign?) country they despise -- or which despises them?

That's an interesting set of conceptual questions which I'm sure anthropologists will ponder for years to come. In the meantime, the immigration "problem" on the ground in Europe is a very real and very pressing. And I can't see it getting better anytime soon.

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The Invisible Border Before all is lost and lost is all, Before our land is poor. Let you be you, and me be me, Politely close the door. For now we see our differences, Are many and extreme. We'll choose to live amongst ourselves, To live and love and dream. The time is now to realize, No moments left to spare. The freedoms that we visualize, Are hurt in lost despair. We've come from our eternity, To this place and time. The only choice is unity, One last chance to shine. Before all is lost and lost is all, Before our land is poor. Let you be you, and me be me, Politely close the door.

October 18 2010 at 2:47 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

America, you have been warned. Take notice of what is going on in Europe. Stop immigration NOW. We can't take care of our own, why are the borders open for more to enter only to become dependent on our welfare system. I am of the mind, if you cannot or do not want to assimilate you should leave.

October 04 2010 at 3:20 PM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply

No immigration........send them from whence they came.

October 04 2010 at 12:34 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

Much of Europe has paved its road to Hell, or "Paradise" by another name. Call it arrogance or optimism, but presuming every alien culture will embrace and protect your own, simply because true believers pursued "opportunity" onto your shores...reveals precisely the kind of flaw promised by prophets of those dedicated to domination. Cultures are not obliged to believe others are "created equal," or to tolerate the existence of those that preach such heresy. “Diversity" is real, that implication profound, and many practices lethal. Deny this at your peril. Europe did. The standards many nations applied to immigration--or abandoned along the way--rejected horrific history, immediate evidence, and even (their Gods help them) the furiously expressed intent of those who entered freely swearing to destroy the freedoms they found. European's imagine they opened their gates to others; Others know God has willed them this access, to begin Europe's subjection to His will. "East is East" after all. And soon (His will be done) is West. Europe did. The standards too many nations applied to immigration--or abandoned along the way--rejected history, compelling evidence, and even--their Gods help them--the expressed intent of those who entered freely fully intending to end the freedom they would find. European's imagine they opened the gates to others; Others know God willed them access, to begin Europe's subjection to His will. "East is East" after all; and soon--""God willing!"--is West.

October 03 2010 at 11:13 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

So lets see, whos fault is it that more muslims from europe are training to be suicide bombers? It is the muslim population themselves. The anti-immigration sentiment that is going around is happening for a good reason. Europe is in a far worse position than us with multiculturalism, and its tearing them apart, i think we should learn from this. The best way to combat this is to strictly watch all immigration, and don't let anyone in without careful consideration.

October 03 2010 at 3:04 PM Report abuse +17 rate up rate down Reply

simple solution. stop all immigration, it is a privilege, not a right. if those already in the country commit a crime toss them out; no exceptions

October 03 2010 at 9:51 AM Report abuse +24 rate up rate down Reply

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