Coexistence means fighting cultural frictions

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Sep. 18, 2010)
Coexistence means fighting cultural frictions
排外主義の台頭 異文化とどう共生していくか(9月17日付・読売社説)

The burqa, an enveloping outer garment, and the niqab, a veil covering the face, are worn by devout Muslim women.

The French legislature has passed a bill banning women from wearing this type of clothing in public places.

The law, prepared by the French government, will take effect in six months unless objections are raised by the Constitutional Council, an organ tasked with examining the constitutionality of laws.

Protagonists of the burqa-niqab ban have said wearing these garments runs counter to the principle of separation of church and state, and to the emancipation of women.

President Nicolas Sarkozy's government has continued to send Roma back to such countries as Romania since summer. His administration is also considering revoking French nationality for immigrants found guilty of committing major crimes.

Sarkozy's strong measures, including his crackdown on Roma communities, are a response to street disturbances by groups of young Roma and immigrants. However, the president continues to be accused of trying to resurrect his slumping popularity through these harsh measures, with a view to being reelected president in 2012.

Violation of EU rules

France's expulsion of Roma, also known as Gypsies, has drawn fire from other European Union nations on the grounds that it violates the rule of freedom of movement within the bloc. However, a majority of French people support the Roma expulsion and burqa ban.

If Sarkozy is merely trying to please the public through his antiforeigner policy, it is a sad commentary on France's national motto of liberty, equality and fraternity.

France is not the only country that apparently has become intolerant of immigrants and other minorities.

The Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States have led many Americans and Europeans to view Muslims with fear and suspicion.

Recent fiscal crises gripping some European countries, combined with a rise in unemployment, have triggered an even stronger antipathy toward immigrants. This is exemplified by ultrarightist parties making major gains in Dutch and Hungarian elections earlier this year after calling for restrictions on Muslim immigrants and a crackdown on Roma.

Rise in xenophobia

The anti-burqa movement is also gathering momentum in Belgium and Spain. Italy has also has set its sights on expelling Roma.

In early September, a board member of Germany's federal bank was dismissed for repeating racist remarks about Muslim immigrants and Jews. According to a survey, only about 30 percent of Germans thought the banker should be fired.

The rise in xenophobic sentiment also is noticeable in the United States, a melting pot for immigrants. Divisions have deepened among Americans over a plan to build a mosque and Islamic center near New York's Ground Zero. Several days ago, a Florida pastor opposing the mosque construction plan stirred up an international furor when he vowed to burn copies of the Koran.

The ongoing process of globalization obliges people to live with those who adhere to different religious faiths, manners and customs. Japan is no exception.

The coexistence of different cultures also requires efforts by immigrants and other minorities to assimilate into the communities they live in. A society that accepts such minorities must fight cultural frictions that give rise to antiforeigner sentiments.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 17, 2010)
(2010年9月17日01時34分 読売新聞)

by kiyoshimat | 2010-09-18 07:34 | 英字新聞

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