Here is an example of why marginalization of minorities is bad for the whole of society.The largest minority group in France are immigrants from North Africa, namely Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia. Coming initially from former colonies as cheap labor, they settled in low income run down housing complex in poor suburbs.While the French society puts pressure on immigrants, accepting nothing less than full assimilation (not mere integration), that society never accepts foreigners who have a different language, different religion, different skin color, and different customs.The result is a no-win situation that leaves many youth feeling alienated. They only have mediocre education if any, have no permanent jobs, and have no hope of keeping up. Many succumb to drugs, crime, or religious radicalism.Moreover, some policies of the French government has further ingrained the feeling of ill-will among North African immigrants, such as the banning of the religious headscarf (Hijab). All the above has precipitated the crisis that is unfolding now as violent protests, riots, vandalism, confrontation with security forces, and more alienation, all happening in poor immigrant Paris suburbs these days. The situation is getting worse every day, and you can see coverage of 2005 France Urban Violence on Wikipedia. Here is a brief overview from CBC News with good analysis of the background to these riots. There is a good timeline at the BBC as well. Kuro5hin has a well researched and balanced article too. The French Ambassador to Washington said that it has nothing to do with the role of Islam in France. The riots have also spread to other countries in Europe as well, such as the Netherlands and Belgium. In Canada, we pride ourselves that we are a cultural mosaic, and not a melting pot. Each group retains its cultural identity while being a full member of the larger Canadian society. Integration, and not assimilation, is key. It is sad to observe that this same attitude is present in French speaking Quebec as well.This ethno-religious-linguistic divide has to be bridged. Pretending that all is well and there are no problems is just as bad as alienating the immigrants or deepening the divide by demanding assimilation, sharp rhetoric, and other means.Like freedom and democracy, a multicultural society takes effort from all sides. It will not happen on its own.
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