Back to blog

Should assimilation be a requirement for citizenship?

See blog

Readers' comments

The Economist welcomes your views. Please stay on topic and be respectful of other readers. Review our comments policy.

falsonomine

An interesting case on a tough question. I just want to offer one thought: The more diverse a society, the more its members must follow some basic rules and values. Otherwise the society cannot remain stable and prosperous. This appears to be clear. What these values are and who is competent to identify them is much less obvious. On can only pull the old "more discourse" card and hope for a healthy debate.

Tom Meadowcroft

What is a country, in this day and age? In the past countries were often made up of people with a common heritage, essentially a super-tribe. They shared a common aristocracy, a religion, a culture, a language, a way of life. While we've moved beyond aristocracies (mostly), and we at least espouse openness to other religions, cultures, and languages. What remains, I think, is a common sense of mutual obligation and respect which lead to freedom and its responsibilities, the desire to defend the nation from outsiders, and to mitigate hard times when they come for individuals. To cement those values we have certain rituals. Shaking the hand of the government official is an important symbol of accepting the notion that the immigrant is joining a new team, with all of the benefits and obligations of that team. If she is not prepared to shake that hand, then she has not accepted her new role as a French woman, and does not deserve to be recognized as such.

Peace Love and Understanding

It seems very important to people that we not feel the cognitive dissonance of experiencing different beliefs and cultures, no matter how immaterial those differences are in reality.

It is not healthy to feed this avoidance impulse by requiring that everyone be the same. It is bad for the individual who avoids and never learns how to deal with the different and to find the similarities beneath from a place of authenticity.

I see where you are coming from. The handshake itself is of little importance to me. It is what it signifies.
.
One of my students explained to me that she would prefer not to shake hands. And so we never did. If it is important to her, no problem. Although I think that scientific thinking is fundamentally at odds with believing in supernatural, omnipotent beings who created the universe, it is not my role to cure her of her religion, only to teach her scientific research.
.
But I know my student works hard and didn't just come over to receive benefits. I don't know that for the Madame in this story. She may work very hard, do her utmost to speak French, and volunteer at the local school. And, like my student, feel strongly about adhering to an ancient tradition from her homeland. Were that the case, my feeling is that she should qualify for citizenship.
.
But without that context, the story of marriage in Algeria and naturlisation in France at the earliest opportunity, along with a refusal to shake hands, provokes an image of a very traditional woman with little education who may not speak much French, has no formal job (though she may clean, cook, wash and raise children) and hardly ventures outside her own cultural circle. In other words, an economic migrant with little to contribute to her new home country. I may be prejudiced here, but such people do exist.
.
In which case the French would still be deprived of the "cognitive dissonance of experiencing different beliefs and cultures" you talk about. And so, by and large, would she.
.
What I find tragic is that such migrants may erode support for admitting refugees from war torn countries like Syria, who are now mostly kept in dreary camps in Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan, and other countries that have little capacity to offer these refugees a useful future.
.
Alas, immigration and naturalisation laws are crude tools to distinguish the worthy from those who only seek personal benefit with little intention to contribute to their new home society. And so a handshake can make the difference, as a symbol for the likely willingness to adapt and respect the mores of the host country.

ashbird in reply to Sense Seeker

@Sense, Permit me to enter the conversation in this thread.
.
What is fascinating , to me, are the meanings ascribed to different "ways of doing things".
.
You had a student who explained to you she preferred not to shake hands. Out of respect for her "preference", you never did.
.
In my case, I was the student (when I first arrived in America). My difficult then - and it was an excruciating difficulty for me - was not address my teachers as "Professor so and so". I noticed my fellow America students called them by their first names. I was horrified. I continued to address all my professors as "Professor" because I simply could not bring myself to call them "John", or "Mary". I just couldn't! I am far removed from those years now, I still address all my teachers by their professorial titles if my role in context is that of a student. Some cultural habits are really hard to change. And I pride myself as being adaptive!! Isn't that terribly disingenuous of me? In think the answer is Yes. But I simply don't know how to change that one.
.
The other "way of doing things" is hugging. That took me a while. At least 3 to 4 years. These days, when I am with my cultural compatriots, we don't hug, not really, not that much, particularly between the 2 genders, even if we were the closest of buddies, and I mean really really close, like friends for decades, since childhood. However, if there are "nativist" Americans in the room, we hug, just to "do what the Romans do", or "go with the flow", so that the "nativist" Americans are comfortable. And, of course, when one on one with a nativist, we certainly do hugs, or return a hug when there is the slightest hint they expect a hug.
.
So that's how some of these "gestures" shake out in time, for me and us.
.
I think @Peace has a point about what is underneath the gesture that is "authentic". That is looking at a level beyond what is "custom". To read what is beneath the surface requires a good bit of observational ability, particularly in interpersonal situations. The ability is not necessarily had by all people.

nickcox

France's policy of" laicitie" is indeed a good one and should be followed elsewhere in Europe in my opinion.
Thankfully Europe is becoming more secular as old beliefs in religion fade away.However it is no coincidence that France suffers more attacks from Islamic extremists than other countries in Europe.Secularism has its costs, but needs to be defended at all costs.

ashbird in reply to nickcox

One way to defend it - secularism - is perhaps to educate the uber-religious their way is not the only way.
.
The effort will take years and generations.
.
Won't happen overnight, as insulated, and in most cases such as the one reported in this article, totally fanaticalreligious nuts (a rude word would be "lunatics") would use their "religious faith" as both a shield and a sword * in their ongoing daily relationship with the rest of the world and the people in it.
.
If you don't believe this statement, read a couple of "the usuals" on Erasmus, TE's very excellent column on Religion and Public Policy.
.
You will begin to appreciate how enormous this education task is. The resistance to change, and the need to feel they are special and superior in everything whatsoever in life, that all other people not one of them (indeed sometimes you wonder whether "them" is only one - the one singular person) are inferior to them, stretching from knowledge of treatment of physical diseases to the pursuit of spiritual fullfilment, are trenchant.
.
If you remove that shield and sword from them, they will suffer a total psychic collapse. Hence the resistance. Most tellingly, these are the same folks who, wherever they go, want to prove they know everything about everything without knowing anything, the authority of their claim being none other than "God", and they tell you they commune with this "God" daily in a special chamber through some special Ghost. They will tell you ALL doctors don't know what they are doing, only Holy Ghost does. They will also tell you secular law for the conduct of a country's citizenry - that includes the US Constitution if we are talking about USA - have no business regulating the conduct of citizenry (be it a transgression in tort or in crime). They will tell you the only LAW there is for this world is the Law of "God" - theirs , which, incidentally recently increased from 10 Commandments to 11 Commandments (11th Commandment says coveting your neighbor's wife is perfectly fine, adultery is not a sin, and driving without a current drivers license is punishable by locking up the offender and making him wear pink underwear). Some Americans do not like to hear these things, which are reported by reporters, with video cams, and documented on the actors' own Twitter messages. But just because they deny them doesn't mean they didn't happen, don't happen, and are not happening.
.
Strange - the deniers. But certainly amazing in view of their not being blind but are, both at once.
.
Back to the original topic of this blog topic - All that the Madam X needed to do was acknowledge the welcoming handshake of the Immigration Officer by extending her hand and offer a smile, not a shield.
.
_______________
* And this includes not just Muslims, but Roman Catholics, Greek Catholic, Protestants of this that and the other "brand" (there are, last count, 400+ brands), and all other uber-religious nuts - a fanatic is a fanatic regardless of what stripe.
.

Big Henry

If you don’t wish to abide by our common norms madam, you don’t have to. You just can’t have our passport. You can keep the one of the country of which common or uncommon norm by which you wish to abide. You will not force your backward and stupid custom and tradition on us. You don’t like it? Get the hell out!!! Who’s stopping ya?!

guest-aammewej in reply to Big Henry

A participant in this forum wrote, "If you don't wish to abide by our common norms madam, you don't have to."
.
Therein lies the principal hypocrisy of many immigrants.
.
Consider Hispanics. They hate living in the nations (in Latin America) created by their culture and illegally enter the United States, a nation built on Western culture.
.
Yet, these Hispanics refuse to assimilate into Western culture and flaunt their own heritage. The Hispanics even have a month (i.e., National Hispanic Heritage Month, from September 15 to October 15) devoted to their culture, the very culture that created nations (in Latin America) where they hate to live.
.
Also, Hispanics commit murder at 3 times and 6 times the rate at which European-Americans and Asian-Americans, respectively, commit murder.
.
Ethnic or racial groups who reject assimilation threaten the foundation of Western society.
.
There is more information about this issue.

jouris in reply to Big Henry

If you don’t wish to abide by our common norms madam, you don’t have to. You just can’t have our passport.
.
So if she refused to shake hands because she is a germaphobe, she would also be right out? After all, extreme fear of germs isn't normal....

Bharat..

It is not a matter of how important assimilation of others into the mainstream is. people of different colour and looks can never be part of the mainstream in a complete way. Plus defence and survival of our group is part of our DNA. This groupism is an important reason why we survived against the neanderthals or the denisovans .
.
It is more important that we live peacefully with each other and that we leave each other alone as long there is no hint of hatred and violence there.
This sounds like apartheid, But in our case the law gives them equal rights. They do not have separate areas - like parks and public facilities. They do not have separate hospitals. Everyone has the same vote - one per person

Groups do mkix socially and it is upto different groups if they want to intermarry. In Business and work, you will find that different groups dominate different areas - happens in the USA and happens in a pluralistic society like India and Malaysia plus Indonesia.
..
two criterion dominate that society - Acceptance of others as they are and absolutely no-proselytising.
..
In this context my tale is that of one of the first groups of montheistic people escaping the Islamic inmvasion of Persia coming to live in India.
The first boat load sent an emissary to the local prince and asked for asylum as they do
The Prince sent a message back welcoming them on the condition that they would never proselytise .
These Indians are the most important group in India
...
It is upto the majority to accept people as they are. Try not to change them. Law and order must prevail of course
But - this is all it - acceptance by the majority of quirky ways and try not to changing each other
The incomers will values that- mostly - and the majority will find this to be a better way of living life

Bharat.. in reply to Bharat..

An important aspect of mixing/ assimilating into the main stream is to NOT to have separation at a young age - absolutely no Church denominated school nor a madrassa.
Happened in Birmingham last year when one proselytising group started dominating the school board. Staff were changed and bias had become more important. This group is not in to academics and also school kids started going on trips to places that can only qualify as 'religious'
Therefore other kids left for better pastures.
It started looking like a religious school. And that is a problem - it causes a separation of kids a young age. If you cannot ban them then use financial means to decrease the numbers.
I was shocked when I noticed the first hindu schools appearing in the UK.
This is not a norm in India Hindu kids are sent to good schools and non-denominational. I cannot ever remember a denominated religious hindu school when I was growing up

Big Henry in reply to Bharat..

Balderdash. Yeah. The French should allow some ridiculous and stupid tradition to abrogate common courtesy. Yeah, right. She can’t have her cake and eat it. Want to avoid shaking hands? Move to Iran or Saudi Arabia. This here be the West homie. We shake hands. We boogie. We love whoever the hell we want, irrespective of gender. You don’t like it, get out!!

Sense Seeker

"Madame [...] married a French citizen in the Algerian town of Nédrona in 2010. Five years later she applied for French citizenship through marriage, as she is legally entitled to do."
.
One wonders if the marriage was based on love. We cannot judge this from the information provided, and it is not legally relevant.
.
Sensibly, the law accommodates French citizens who want to marry persons who don't have that nationality, and if they live in France, the spouse should be entitled to citizenship (after 5 years, in this case).
.
However, rather than a matter of love, this could also have been a business transaction in which someone with the French nationality (perhaps a previously naturalised Algerian) provided access to France to an Algerian who wanted to emigrate to France, to enjoy the economic benefits but without an intention to work and contribute to society, this would be an abuse of French immigration laws. This is not what these laws were intended for.
.
That is a very possible scenario that fuels FN and disgusts even many left-liberal Europeans.
.
In this case, behaviour that is rude in French culture provided a means to distinguish people who want to be French from people who simply want to live in France. It is a pity that the law cannot see into the heart.

ashbird in reply to Sense Seeker

@Sense, I think the customs and mores in different cultures, regardless which, and all over the globe, do frame certain "normative boundaries" in interpersonal behaviors. I can understand if Madame X, as a knee-jerk reaction, recoils from touching any male person other than her husband, flesh to flesh - which is what a handshake is. But 5 years of living in France by any reasonable standard ought to have de-programmed her on that conditioned knee-jerk response. If she just got off the plane, and some strange man approach her to shake her hand, that is different. I guess the point is immigrants from anywhere to anywhere need to make an affirmative effort to fit in in the country they have chosen to emigrate to. Again, that really is out of politeness more than anything else. It is not about right or wrong, superior or inferior.
.
Furthermore, in the situation described in the report, it wasn't a stranger on the sidewalk who approached her, extended the hand to invite a handshake. It was an immigration officer representing the country that just granted her formal citizenship (and all the rights and privileges attending) who extended that hand . To say "My religion forbids me to shake hands with a man who is not my husband" is going too far. Way too far. There is a reason why Muslims who behave like this are not welcome by their host countries.
.
Additionally, the unwillingness or flat refusal to learn and adapt to the ways of the new country only serves to isolate and insulate the immigrant community and perpetuate a kind of "host-country-phobia" (I don't know how to coin a clever term for this, for the moment, let's just say it suffices), the mirror image of xenophobia. Why carry so much phobia of this that and the other if one wants to survive? That is what I meant, several exchanges with you ago under 2 different blogs, by the Law of Survival, i.e., Survival of the fit. "Fit" demands willingness to learn new things and adapt. Adapt or go the way of dead wood - And no complains if that is what the complainant has chosen.

jouris in reply to ashbird

But suppose her refusal was due to extreme (and, it must be said, irrational) fear of germs. That's definitely not normal -- i.e. does not conform to the norms of society. But somehow I don't think it would be considered a problem.
.
So when we are at a point where the same behavior is OK, or not OK, depending only on what motivated the behavior? I think that's a clue that perhaps things have been taken a bit too far.

ashbird in reply to jouris

Ayaya, jours! I expect better from you on that!
.
If the problem is fear of germs, then the fear is pervasive, across all religious markers. The person would not shake hands with ANYONE, period, not even with the King of Saudi Arabia. Howard Hughs was one of the most famous germ-phobist in the annals of psychiatry. His phobia got worse and worse in his old age. TO the extent he would not allow any caretaker to touch him, and that included his personal physicians and nurses (he did hire them!) . He basically starved to death, for there was no means to feed him, not even via IV, as long as he remained conscious and still retained the power - legal and otherwise - to say NO to any type of flesh to flesh touching. By the time he lapsed into a coma, all medical intervention were too little too late.
.
The name of the ailment is OCD, classified in DSM IV and IV-TR under Anxiety Disorders. Fascinating. I wrote an extensive paper on that for my professional niche.
.
The woman in the story, I bet you, though that FACT does beg to be verified by FACTS, have no difficulty shaking hands with her own Muslim friends - in other words, the refusal is selective, i.e., fully volitional. She was rude. Period. (As any OCD person with a germ phobia would be considered rude too if he/she refuses to shake hands with an immigration officer who just officiated his/her naturalization ceremony - that's why we call these things - there are many many many others called by different names and under different rubric based on different pathoetiology - "dysfunctional". In this case, if the phobic person lives in a cave on top of Mont Blanc or Everest, and have only snow and rock for company, and are able to find a way to live (i.e., get food, get clothes, do toilet, etc.) there would not be any "dysfunction".

ashbird in reply to jouris

jouris again,
.
Re "supposing her refusal was due to....." , I hope my reply was not interpreted as a rebuke of folks suffering from OCD, an Anxiety D/O in current clinical formulation. Far from it. Clinical cases abound where the Sx are so severe as to significantly threaten a person's ability to meet the normal demands of day-to-day living. A very very famous writer of science fiction and film director was a Harvard MD who never practiced medicine one day in his life. His phobia was blood. An Ivy-Leaguer attorney's OCD Sx were so severe he literally could not continue to practice in a law firm (His "thing" was household dust. He was compulsive about vacuuming his apt. As his Sx escalated from mild to moderate to severe, he began to spend more time vacuuming his apt than reporting to work in his office. He finally ended up sleeping on park benches where there was no possibility for him to see household dust.) All of these are real cases, and very sad cases. I don't want to rule out the possibility of the lady's suffering from germ-phobia to the point she cannot bring herself to shake hands with anyone. That of course is possible. The point is, if that is what she suffered from, and was the reason she could not bring herself to shake hands with the citizenship official, she would need to seek treatment for her Sx, not as a Muslim (that has nothing to do with anything), but as a person who carries a "problem" that hampers her day-to-day functioning in any society under any system - germs, as you know, are everywhere.

jouris in reply to ashbird

(Sorry for the slow response. That day job again....)
.
Whether germaphobia or religion, the actions are based on aa belief which cannot be proven to an outside observer. Which is a similarity, even though one is classified as a pathology and the other is not.
.
And I have to take issue with your statement that she was rude. Certainly it is possible to be rude when declining to shake hands. But, at least in the accounts that I have read, she politely declined to shake hands, and explained why. The problem, as far as I can see, is not that she was rude but that the French government disliked her explanation. If anything, I would say they are the ones being ill-mannered.

ashbird in reply to jouris

So glad to hear from you back, jouris.
.
Once again, please don't let the term "dysfunction" throw you off. The quirks and peccadillos in OCD honestly are not conceived as a "pathology" in the lay sense of the word. Many people (I would say majority) have one kind of specific phobia or another. They are perfectly fine (in fact, many are high-achievers), they just are afraid of some things (like many children are afraid of the dark). Not a big deal. When the severity of the fear interferes with everyday living, that's when it becomes a problem.
.
I must have read the article in a hurry. I commented with the impression that she just refused to shake hands b/c her religion forbids man-and-woman touching. If it had to do with fear of germs and she explained to the official and the official refused to accept the explanation, then he is the ass, not she.
.
Anyway. What to me is most important right here right now is we can agree to disagree, that matters more as far as blogging in a community forum. That makes us real , versus a sycophant to one another. I really really think that is very important.
.
Thanks again for reply. I feel better for it.

jouris in reply to ashbird

Actually, I think it was because her religion forbids that. (My reference to germophobia was meant merely as an illustration of a non-religious reason that would be generally acceptable for exactly the same behavior.)
.
Perhaps I am more accepting because I have, for several years, worked with a woman whose religion (Orthodox Judaism in her case) is similar. It will (barely) tolerate her shaking hands with a man outside her immediate family. But beyond that? No. (Indeed, I think she had never even hugged her husband before they were married -- which seems extreme to me, but apparently was OK by them. At the wedding, the men and women were on opposite sides of the room, separated by a curtain. I still have this image of the groom, dancing on a table, held up by his buddies so he could at least see her dancing on the women's side. And that was after the ceremony!)
.
She isn't rude about it; although we do try to give folks who join the company a heads-up so that they don't just try to give her a big hug on meeting. And it's definitely not a lack of acculturation, in a family which has been in the US for several generations and is well quite integrated. It's just a matter of a small quirk; and no doubt you and I have a few quirks which would be seen as odd by some of our fellow citizens. Vive la difference! as the French would put it . . . but not, apparently, in this case, ;-)

ashbird in reply to jouris

Thanks for this, jouris.
.
Different cultural customs, whether generated by religious or extra-religious beliefs, have for ages been the source and cause of inter-cultural and interpersonal misunderstandings, sometimes with no consequence, other times with some consequence.
.
I myself was the "bad actor" in the first year I arrived in America a million years ago (it feels that). It was my first year as a sophomore transfer student from a culture very different from America's . It was "Homecoming Day"(we didn't have this where I came from). A most sweet American boy, also sophomore, invited me to be his Homecoming Day date. I had understood from the usual girl chatters in the girl dormitory a date means dinner date. No one told me Homecoming Day date means you watch a Homecoming Football Game, then have dinner, then go to a rowdy (rowdy to me, sorry) concert after dinner. I accepted the date because he was real sweet, handsome and polite, no long hair and washed. The day before the date, I found out accepting a Homecoming Day date meant you accepted all 3 things on the day's agenda and it is a big deal to be invited. Not all girls had a date, I subsequently learned. Well, stupid and rude me, I quickly called the boy I would love to do dinner but not the Football Game nor the Concert (I didn't say "rowdy" to him). What happened after that was he invited another girl to the Football Game and the Concert, so he wouldn't have to waste the money on the concert ticket (the FB game was free to students) and had someone to sit with during the game. He and I had a very nice dinner at one of the most expensive restaurant in the small college town. It was weeks after that in the girl dorm gossips I learned how RUDE I was to handle the date the manner I did. RUDE to the sweet boy. And RUDE to the "replacement person" too!! All because I didn't know better about the rules and customs at the time (I recall I had arrived in early September, and the Game was hardly much time after that). To this day, I carry a pang of guilt with me. That was my first lesson in intercultural differences.

OnePalestine

Refusing to reciprocate a friendly gesture as a handshake in an official ceremony is unislamic & blatantly rude in my mind as a Muslim. It’s is mostly cultural social conservative & shortsighted traditions & has nothing to do with Islam. Islam welcomes exchanges with all religions and people & couldn’t disallow men & women shaking hands.

deminister

Not France, but the religions that people belong to are deeply illiberal. It is about time that the followers of the guy in the sky are treated precisely as a non believer would be treated when discriminating minorities or refusing to assimilate. Unfortunately Europe has seen a sharp rise in ultra right groups who undermine democracy and their way of life even more than Mohammedans or evangelicals. The reason that the ultra right is back and will eventually cause new mass ouder is that Europeans were far too kind to followers from religions and citizens from countries that simply refused to integrate. Chapeau therefore for the French courts.

Unliberal

Why is always the host country the one that is expected to accommodate? Look at Sweden. They are having so many problems with the Muslims refugees. And who the public opinion is blaming? Why, the Swedes of course, for "failing" to better integrate their immigrants.

I say, bump them all out!

leonmen

Probably sociologists can make a case that the more homogeneous a society is the smoother it will operate. Unfortunately most areas of the world are not particularly homogeneous like Finland or Japan are and are not really cosmopolitan like the US where no one ethnic group is dominant and being tolerant to those different from you is the only option otherwise chaos will prevail.
The Muslim immigration will not assimilate if assimilation means intermarriage because they are mostly religious and intermarriage is forbidden in sharia law. Maybe in two or three generations things will change but very slowly.
They will also have values that are not Western especially concerning sex, alcohol, female obligations, male obligations, social etiquette and dress codes . But unfortunately many of them also have attitudes that they are in some sort of culture battle with non Muslims and its their duty that their values will prevail over the rest. This will never be conducive to assimilation.
These are the facts . Those that believe that most Muslims can be socially engineered to be like Europeans are in for a rude shock.

.

leonmen in reply to leonmen

(cont......)

For the non Muslim immigrants assimilation will take place probably within one generation in particular if they are respectful and proud of their new home. Almost no country has homogeneous societies and all varied religious and non religious life must be accepted with respect as long as it does not impinge on others. Certainly a religious Muslim woman refusing to touch a male hand must also be respected . But as I stated before this behavior is not conducive to assimilation.

Houshu

Citizenship and assimilation is like chicken and egg, it's not always clear which one should, or ought to, come first. Citizenship is binary, you either are or not. But assimilation is gradual, even generational, and the part that scares the 'deplorable' the most is that assimilation is often bi-directional. Sometimes it even scares the enlightened ones, such as Nobel Laureate, darling of the west, Ms. AnnSung SuKy...
hehehe....

ashbird

My thought on this Q is of course assimilation is a requirement, not imposed by the government of the country an immigrant wants to become citizen of, but imposed by the immigrant him/herself.
.
What is the point of emigrating and immigrating if the idea is to transplant yourself utterly unchanged? The thought itself defies logic, and is very rude to the country you emigrate to. That is all. You would expect the same if the immigrant-emigrant positions are reversed.
.
I think what "assimilation" means also needs to be more deeply explored. Does assimilation mean you abandon everything you grew up with, all the things that have formed you? Certainly not!!!
.
To me, assimilation simply means your broader your outlook, and you enlarge your repertoire of behavior in your daily interactions with people who may be unfamiliar, without fear, and without pre-judgement. It is almost like you acquire a second wardrobe. Different wardrobe for different occasions. That really is about it.
.
I think the woman was very rude. Why should the country she wanted to become citizen of bend backward to suit her?
_____________
.
A separate issue, from my personal experience, has to do with "over-assimilation", if there is such a thing. Evidently there is. Sometimes folks in the second wardrobe country don't like it. They accuse you of misappropriating their culture, presumably on some bizarre theory of "proprietorship". It is very strange. Some downright resent it.

Bharat.. in reply to ashbird

My father migrated from a country where them is a variety of different people. We have many different rent religions, including Christians and Jewish people from over 2000 years ago.
St Xavier came to India centuries ago and made a few conversions . Jewish ships were wrecked on those shores and they became part of our culture.
Northern and southern Persians migrated there escaping the political uncertainties of those times
Sirian Christians live there. Baghdadi Jews live there
Many an Englishman calls it home
So many different people from so many different places

The only criterion for living there is of non-proselytisation . Until recently, groups used to marry within their own culture. Outside marriages were unknown
And of course marriage is the ultimate in mixing
.
Overall , over the centuries there was always peace and goodwill and social mixing between different people
The only tension was with prosetylising groups. They spread intolerance and unacceptance between themselves and others.
..
it is this proselytising that causes the real problems - not the lack of assimilation

It would be acceptable in India as quirky, but acceptable when a lady does not shake hands with a man

ashbird in reply to Bharat..

Thank you for your personal story re your family's immigration history.
.
I know a little about how different religions could co-exist and get along with one another swimmingly well. Where I came from, things are pretty much the same.
.
Until the first proselytizer would come along.
.
I could not agree with you more on religious proselytizing.
.
Apart from being the most egregious form of trespass on the inviolable personal boundaries of believers in other religions, religious proselytizing causes societal wide discord, sometimes , I don't need to tell you, violence, including the blood-spilling kind.
.
Personally I think religious proselytizers are psychologically very sick people. Sick to the bone. They believe their religious belief entitles them to stick their noses in other people's private affairs, on the theory that their religion is superior to all other religions and therefore they have the right. They will tell you their spiritual fulfillment is superior to yours too, as if they know what yours feel like. [Yup! They would say the same, if social convention permits, about your sexual orgasm].
.
Proselytizers are very problematic individuals. Sanctimonious to the nth degree. On top, willfully and pridefully ignorant. In the name of their "God", some of them end up with other people' land and other people end up with their Bibles (cf. Hawaii). They are also officious intermeddlers. They frequently walk away after they mess up other people's lives without feeling a pang of responsibility and accountability. Many folks like that carries either an Axis I or Axis II mental illness or both. Major clinical cases. It is Pope Francis who says "Proselytizing is solemn nonsense. You have to get to know people who are different from you." Proselytizers don't care, however. All they want to do is to prove they are better than you. When push comes to shove, they are the one band of folks who have little to show for any item on their boast-list, whether in ability or in virtue , except, of course, they say they have a guaranteed ticket to Heaven.... and they demand that you be their neighbor. Cute!

leonmen in reply to ashbird

"I think the woman was very rude. Why should the country she wanted to become citizen of bend backward to suit her?"

Unfortunately ashbird by calling her 'very rude' you are in fact transposing your social norms onto her. It might be that touching male hands has absolutely nothing to do with her religion (Islam) and then in fact she is very rude and is only trying to score political points. Certainly if she was a religious Jew this behaviour would stem from her religious customs - are social mores more important than religious customs ? Religious Jewish men wear head coverings - they must at all times cover their heads. Does that mean that a religious Jew is very rude if he leaves his hat on in some ones house? Likewise for an Indian sheik with his turban?
It is very easy to be the laid back liberal in theory but unfortunately even with this group when reality calls it is so much more difficult to be 'liberal' in practice.

ashbird in reply to leonmen

I don't see the examples you gave the same way at all.
.
Your examples are akin to burkini, which the article also mentioned, and the difference between them and the handshake in this story is distinguished (in article).
.
Here an immigration officer who just presided the ceremony of naturalization, extended his hand to a newly naturalized person as a welcome gesture. She refused to extend her hand, leaving his hand in mid-air. I cannot think of anything more rude.
.
It takes one person to wear whatever cultural garb on the head and on the body. It takes 2 people to do a handshake.
.
NO, I do not think a religious Jew is rude at all if he leaves his hat on the mantel of his social host's house (which in fact happened in my house. He took it off for and instant to apply some ointment on his scalp and put it back on right away). Or a religious lady leaves her rosary on the coffee-table. I don't know why you see those acts as the same as refusing a handshake. Perhaps are perceptions are different. To each his/her own.

leonmen in reply to ashbird

One of my in-laws (a very religious Jewish woman) does not shake my hand. At first I was put out. Now I'm used to it. I am surrounded by religious Jews and Muslims. In Israel if a woman Jew or Muslim wants to bathe with all her body covered its her choice. There are also separate pools and beaches. No one gets fussed if Muslim women wear full body dress and many Bedouin women even cover their faces. Religious married Jewish women shave their heads and wear wigs, others cover their heads completely with a scarf or hat. It is just getting used to the various customs and live and let live.
I am only upset when Muslims try to stab or blow up Jews because someone has told them that living with Jews is apartheid or condoning a Nazi state. They believe that without Jews their lives will be wonderful - seemingly they don't look what's happening in the neibouring Arab states. Denial and self delusion is also part of human nature.

ashbird in reply to leonmen

Ah.... I can fully appreciate why you would be put off by your personal first-hand experience. I would be too, for sure.
.
I had no idea religious married Jewish women shave their heads and wear wigs!!!! That's very uncomfortable, I would imagine! And I can't understand myself how a person can swim with the entire body covered with cloth. For one thing, it's very very very cold when you emerge from water and the wind happens to be blowing!!! I know many American Reformed Jews in my college and grad school years. To me, they were all brilliant!!! At least 2 men who came to be my mentors (one of them told me to be a "cultural ambassador" - an idea I was to adopt 25 years after its utterance) were my grad school professors (one law school, one psych school). There is something in the Judaic culture's emphasis (at least that is my impression, I could be entirely wrong or terribly biased but that is the "exposure" I had in my own life experience) on scholasticism and preservation of culture that I find most agreeable. Not to mention what they survived as a people. Now when I made that statement, it implied no politics whatsoever. I don't understand politics anyway and loathe to take part in it. What I do know is before and after WWII, a wave of Jewish migration that arrived in America consisted of a whole generation of men and women who supplied at least 30% of the faculty in America's Ivy League's and other first-tier colleges. That is a FACT. Some of the thinkers in my own field of clinical psychology I admire the most are Jewish (Alfred Adler, Leon Festinger, Lawrence Kohlberg, Erich Fromm, Abraham Maslow, Karen Horney... and, of course, Sigmund Freud (he emigrated to England instead). And I haven't even begun to name the scientists.... and then the classical violinist and pianists who filled the faculty of Juilliard and Curtis and Oberlin.... Now that they are all dead, there appears to be a near vacuum in equal caliber intellect, talent and ability (except, quite honestly, some Chinese - I know the KKK-type will want to slit my throat for saying this, but that too is a FACT). Well, I guess I am very biased. But when all you ever come into direct contact with is first-class people instead of KKK-type gangster and hooligans and bizarre cavemen who'd call anyone who disagrees with them a moral decrepit Liberal, an almost inalterable bad impression begins to form about these folks. I speak openly. I hope I did not say and have not said anything to offend you.

leonmen in reply to ashbird

No ashbird thank you for those comments. Yes Jewish people in the diaspora, because they are a minority, probably study harder and are more liberal in their outlook. I like liberals and am one myself but sometimes their love of humanity sometimes borders on very naïve indeed. I am mostly skeptical of people and life, but naivety doesn't bother me , as long as it is well meant. What does send me crazy is 'double standards' a weakness of human nature that shows those guilty of it having a total lack of introspection. In my opinion this is the modern immorality. It plagues society and it is encouraged especially in the social media. This is why it gets worse all the time. I think on almost every modern controversy - religion, Zionism, Islam, feminism , race etc. etc. double standards are screaming out and blocking and intimidating the voices of reason and experience. Indoctrination and propaganda seems to be the new deal in a world of instant 'knowledge' gratification .

Bharat..

Met a Greek fellow professional once.he lives and works in a town which is predominantly Seventh Day Adventist (it seems that these people do congregate - less assimilation )
He had also converted to this church.
And he told me that no matter what he did, he was never trusted by the authorities there
..
A question of non-assimilated not accepting some one who was trying very hard. His skin colour and his demeanour gave him away
.
Although I am assimilated as much as I can be, I do believe that non-assimilation with peace between these groups, is okay and may even be positive. It is this mixing of people looking at life in different ways that brings about new ways of doing things and innovations plus discoveries.
I also tend to beleive that Islamic people were accepted as they are (hijab and all ) before 9/11
It is 9/11 and the resulting terrorism that changed out acceptance levels .
..

guest-aaawwwmj

Yes assimilation should be required, though it may take a few generations.
.
The "host" country must assimilate into the culture of the their guests, or those brought to the country, - perfect example is rap music - else segregate them like the US does with the American Indians.
.
Give it about 40 years and we will have a European country called
.
Turkmany or Gerkey.
.
.
NSFTL
Regards

Michael Dunne in reply to guest-aaawwwmj

Not sure what is meant by the reference to Native Americans in the current tense, but people may want to note that "Today, 78% of Native Americans live off-reservation, and 72% live in urban or suburban environments." (today being an article in 2017 ).
`

Michael Dunne in reply to guest-aaawwwmj

Seems like additional tangents.
`
Not sure about the years being dropped there - I assume that modern trend of living off-reservation had unfolded in the post-war era, like by the late 1950s/1960s.
`
If working back from those years, then the segregation like policies of the Jackson era and subsequent history would fit that 140 year time frame (Not including "Indians taxed, folks passing themselves off as white, etc. ).
`
And of course there is the question of people of mixed heritage, since a good number may have never resided on a reservation. An important question since self-identification of having a more diverse background kind of turned up starting in the 1960s.
`
Otherwise, likely most reservations lands were never held by many states out west, due to the fact the Federal government tended to monopolize land transactions with Native Americans, and a good number of those states were created out of Federal territories.

Swiss Reader

In a democracy, citizens don't just happen to live there, but they are a part of political institutions, arguably the most important one as they select directly or indirectly all other branches of government. It makes therefore eminent sense for a successful democracy to require newcomers to be well assimilated, before giving them the rights of citizenship. That's even more important if the immigrants in question arrive from disfunctional, despotic or anarchic countries.
.
Furthermore and beside the matter of citizenship, a consequent policy of assimilation of immigrants is the best way to counter racism and xenophoby. Let's welcome people who want to work for their life and contribute to our economy, but at the same time demand that they conform to local norms of polite behaviour.

I think too much focus is spent on the nuances of the immigrant's assimilation, when the real impact on a country is their progeny.

Most first generation immigrants have difficulty fully assimilating. BUT, their children who grow up in the culture have a much better chance. And by the third generation, they are fully assimilated. Obviously there are exceptions, but for most immigrant groups throughout history, this has been true.

You are quite right; efforts towards integration and assimilation of immigrants shouldn't be limited to the first generation. Schools are the most important vehicle of assimilation. Problems start when in some schools a majority of kids come from the same foreign origin; then assimilation fails and instead we get a counter-culture of resentful youngsters, compensating their inferiority complex with violence and petty crime. Many terrorists are recruited from second-generation immigrants of such a background; the Parisian banlieue is a prime example. That's why it's so important to avoid the ghettoization of immigrants.

lynninaustria

Shaking hands is a small thing, but refusing to shake hands with a particular person is an affront.
Even if the woman did not mean it as an affront, but simply obeyed religious laws. She expects France to accept her culture, but is not ready to reciprocate.
If I go to Iran, I am willing to cover my head as a courtesy. I expect the same courtesy from people coming here. To me, religion is the culprit. Laicité is the French answer, and it is a good one.

Certainly religion is a culprit, but so is provincialism. Two sides of the same coin.
.
Why is shaking hands so important to you? Before this instance, if you were to list all of the traits of a French citizen, where would shaking hands be on the list?
.
Isn't it also polite to respect individual preferences. If somebody doesn't want to shake your hand, wouldn't it be polite to respect their choice? If it is indeed a small thing as you say, why do you think it is an affront if someone does? So you are saying shaking hands is a small thing, but refusing to do so is a big thing?
.
Yes, it is polite of you to cover your hand when you go to Iran. But do you think that a woman who visits Iran and chooses not to cover her head should be thrown out/denied citizenship?

jallain. in reply to A Reasoned Voice

Since you asked the question, yes, my answer would be that shaking hands is (on most occasions, at least) a small thing, while refusing to do so is indeed an affront (to us in the West, at least).

If the woman valued French citizenship, then she could easily have made the "sacrifice" to shake the official's hand. It is a simple way to signal a "thank you" to the country which granted the nationality.

Sargio in reply to A Reasoned Voice

Shaking hands is a small thing but refusing to shake someone's hand because of their sex is an afront to western (not only French) values.

As a thought experiment, imagine a German man shaking hands with all of the men in the room (men of all races) and refusing to shake hands with the women.