Diversity: the case of multiculturalism and integration

by Korab Mahmuti, Our Future Europe 2014 participant from Kosovo

When we think about diversity, we consider the things different to ourselves. In previous times, racial discrimination was the most expressed behavior of opposing diversity. Now that we seem to have passed such discrimination, an older type of discrimination comes into foreground. It is the discrimination on opinions, opinions that express ideas, beliefs or causes.

It is in human nature for people to seek supporters for their opinions. This makes them look more secure about their own opinion and creates communities as well. It is important to note that opinions should not represent hatred toward others. As long as people discuss opinions and are open to others’ suggestions, this kind of diversity will only affect things in a positive way. However, this is not always the case. Sometimes, diversity is punished in the name of another opinion. This contributes to an ill-representation of ideas and leads to conflicts.
Learning about discrimination
Unfortunately, in today’s Europe and especially in the Balkans, diversity is not always seen as a good thing and it is often opposed or prevented by others. The main manifestations of such behavior are directed to cultural, religious and social diversity. I will try to explain them through concept of multiculturalism and integration in EU.

Multiculturalism is one of the most commonly used terms, but also one of the most misused and misunderstood ones. According to Chu, “Multiculturalism is the co-existence of diverse cultures, where culture includes racial, religious, or cultural groups and is manifested in customary behaviors, cultural assumptions and values, patterns of thinking, and communicative styles.” (Chu, Defining “Multiculturalism”, 2005). We see that the definition includes a lot of conditions, which means that it can be easily disrespected. Protecting the values of multiculturalism was and is one of the main aims in the current political environment. But, to elaborate further, we must consider two types of multiculturalism: inner and outer multiculturalism.

What I mean by inner multiculturalism is the multiculturalism expressed inside the countries alone. This is the most sensitive type of it. It is so sensitive that even Angela Merkel, chancellor of Germany, said that in her country “Multiculturalism experiment has failed” (Merkel, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CX-NgfbvJtc, accessed on 15.11.2014). What makes it such a sensitive concept is that it is closely related to immigration policies. Usually, the diversity here is expressed between locals and foreigners. Differences between them include cultural, religious and social ones. From the social point of view, foreigners are perceived as people that gain the benefits of their country of stay, but make their contribution in their native country.
From the cultural and religious points of view, they are seen as complete outsiders from a system of life that the locals have always embraced. These kind of situations generate conflicts. Since each country has its own specifics, it is really hard to draw a general model for solving such issues. Considering Germany for example, it is documented that there live around four million Turkish people, and many of them do not even speak German. One of the ways to deal with this is to provide better integration for foreigners while protecting diversity. However, this should be a dual step. This means that the country should offer them this opportunity and the foreigners who want to be in that society should make some efforts to at least have knowledge about the culture they live in. This is the only way to change a manifestation of parallel worlds within the same country.

The other type of multiculturalism is outer multiculturalism, which is expressed between different countries. In the EU, this is seen mainly as social and financial diversity and much less as cultural diversity. The concept of unfairness is the one that dominates the discussions. On the one hand, we have countries with a very good economy and on the other hand we have countries with a much worse economy. Being under the umbrella of EU made some of the countries to provide welfare for underachieving countries (Greece is a well-known case). The problem is that people from aid-providing countries seem to be unsatisfied with the idea of using a portion of their money in this way. On the other hand, people from countries who get help, look to this as a bad deal, as they will have to return much more in the future than they get now. This can only be fixed by governments, so that the diversity remains, but the conflicts are lowered.

From the above examples, we can infer that in the multiculturalism context, there must be employed a middle way between protecting diversity and promoting integration in order this concept to prevail.