Nicoletta Enria argues that we need to work more than ever on integration in Britain
On the morning of the 3rd of December when I read that the UK decided to launch an “offensive operation” in Syria, my heart sank.
When I moved to England from Italy I had this utopian vision of England as a land of never-ending tolerance and compassion, which was mirrored in its politics, compared to the disastrously corrupt politics my home country is suffering. In the wake of the recent terrorist attacks in Paris, Europe is grieving, and seems to be looking for someone to blame. They achieved exactly what ISIL hoped to achieve – to make people feel unsafe in the comfort of their own home. However, what scares me the most isn’t ISIL, but the radicalisation of young Europeans.
The aggressive reaction to the attacks by bombing Syria has just masked the problem of radicalisation, integration (or lack thereof) and extremism abroad, feigning a sense of safety and unity at home. Shifting the problem further away from us, whether it is to cope with the grief of the Paris victims or fear of terrorist threats is irresponsible. A general assumption swept over Europe that this kind of hatred and mercilessness is something that simply cannot be European. People immediately turned to the refugees escaping this very extremist violence and assumed that this violence could only have come from a land far away. We seem to somehow be overlooking the fact that only one of the eight attackers was in fact Syrian and the rest were European.
We need to take a good hard look at our own countries, and what within them is radicalising and ostracising individuals to such an extent. This fear of the “other” constructed by pushing the blame of all terrorist attacks on foreign cells is ostracising certain European citizens and excluding them from what a European identity is perceived to be.
As London was mentioned by ISIL as a potential future target for their arbitrary cruelty, Britain has been brought into this discourse. Britain, like France, has many years of experience with migration and boasts a multicultural and multiethnic society. However, rigid and homogenous conceptions of British identity are pushing some British citizens outside of what is perceived to be the “norm”. The image of the three-armed gunmen entering the Bataclan in Paris being under the age of 25 is something I just can’t get out of my head. What is enraging youths and ostracising them to an extent of such extremism? If we take this perspective we realise the importance of integration today.
To begin with maybe we should consider programmes to connect with the bitter, young individuals exposed to online extremist recruitment, and put in place genuine efforts aimed at creating a modern British identity inclusive of all citizens. Most importantly, policy needs to distinguish between radicalised criminals that need to be labeled as a real security threat and the broader group of marginalised and culturally isolated second-generation immigrants that should be targeted by inclusion-oriented policies.
A generally European problem of integration, combined with the catastrophic decision to bomb Syria, is further constructing this European wall of acceptance and the number of people both metaphorically and physically allowed in is always decreasing. Now is the time to change this.
Featured image Credit: Wikimedia Commons