Ijsbreker

Tim Hinck's thoughts on music and life- There is a lady living across the street from me. She is dying of cancer. I have never seen anyone so full of life and energy. She loves to work outside in the flowers and grass of her yard. I can see her savoring every sunny day... the way she stands up from planting a flower bulb with such satisfaction on her face and claps the dirt from her gloves with resolution. I want to be like that lady.

Name:
Location: Schalkwijk, Utrecht, Netherlands

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Compassion

If you spend any length of time in Europe these days, you can't help but notice the growing immigrant populations of every major country, and just as noticeable is the accompanying sense of unease that this brings to the local residents. As immigrants, especially from Arab/Islamic countries, pour across the borders into the Northern-European States, the locals are left with an ever-decreasing sense of cultural identity: let's just say that their comfort zone is being shaken. Two of the countries which seem to being having the roughest time dealing with this issue are France (roits and car bombs) and Denmark. When a local Danish paper 'Jyllands-Posten' recently published 12 cartoons depicting the Islam Prophet Mohammed in less-than-flattering style, the French paper 'France Soir' quickly published their own cartoon with a front-page title that read: 'Yes, we have the right to caricature God'. Other North-European newspapers have reprinted these cartoons as well: German 'Die Welt', Icelandic 'Daily DV', etc.

Many feel that these publications had very little to do with freedom of speech, and of course, much more to do with the immigrant issue, especially the Arab/Muslim-issue. A common concern seems to be the escaping sense of cultural identity as articulated by Folkert Jensma, editor in chief of the Handelsblad daily: "It's funny We now want to teach immigrants more about our identity, and we discover that we're not sure what's left of it!" Many countries have responded by standing firmly against the abolishment of customs that are part of their culture even though they may cause discomfort for foriegners: requiring co-ed swimming classes, making immigrants to Ireland renounce poygamy, or serving alcohol at political gatherings.

These types of actions are unsettling to me because they show a marked lack of compassion among fellow humans. But what is far worse, is the ignorance and isolationism of the North American countries. I recently read this blog quote:

"I can't believe that western governments are still allowing muslim immigration. Can't they read, don't they know what is happening. Even in cutesy, perfect, Switzerland, muslims are causing problems. I live in Canada , I used to love this country, but at the local mall, I see muslim women in full body covering,or head scarfs. What is going on." - Stephen Burns , Canadian blogger. [I especially love his reaction to Arab women wearing Burqa's, like the reaction of an Amazon warrior when he first sees a blonde woman.]

Unfortunately, the reaction of Americans can be even worse:

Ignorant Americans

All we can hope for is first a global education of the problem of cultural identity vs. compassion, and a swift development from kindergarden tantrums (as witnessed above) to adult sensibilities.

3 Comments:

Blogger jerry said...

It has to be near impossible to have true compassion and not give some ground on something. Cultural and self-identity sometimes don't leave a lot of room for anyone else besides ourselves or people like us or people we can control.

Keeping our cultural identity to a point where it keeps us from growing or changing (which is something all living organisms do, whether individual or society) almost turns our society into a museum, and us into specimens in jars, soaking in preservative.

Real compassion, I think, leads us to treat others as if they were better than us, or at least of high worth, and that's not something we're used to at all.

Some folk are just plain crabby, though. A church I was at in the South just got an African-American pastor. An older member commented, "What do we need a black pastor for? There aren't any blacks around here!"

It's a long road...

2/25/2006 9:59 PM  
Blogger Ijsbreker said...

It's unsettling to live in such a liberal country and then see such sudden intolerance. I think it's even more of a shock to the poor Dutchies who have always prided themselves on their acceptance, now coming face to face with the ugly truth.

2/26/2006 1:11 AM  
Blogger An Enlightened Fellow said...

I'm not sure what I think about this subject. To be sure, people should have compassion on one another. But cultural differences are glaringly real. European cultures are typically drastically different from Arab cultures. I think what is happening in Europe now may resemble what happened when Europeans invaded the Americas and pushed out the natives. At the heart of the conflict is a tremendous and valid fear that the culture of Europe is going to be permanently displaced by a new Muslim culture.

I have nothing against Muslims, personally, but I have everything against the tendency of certain Muslim groups to equate religion with government. At this early stage in the influx of Arab populations into western democratic societies, there is little danger that the European political system will be overturned in favor of certain theocratic factions, but as time goes on, who is to say that the danger will not increase?

I think that Europeans are right in treating this influx with caution, although there are ways of doing so without being racist.

2/26/2006 1:25 AM  

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