Laila Lalami’s timely essay on the intolerance faced by European Muslims gives reason to wonder if Europeans have really learnt from their bloodstained history.
A few years back, as a resident physician, I came across an affable Frenchman whom I asked why a disproportionate number of immigrants in France found it hard to succeed in French society. He replied in a quite matter-of-fact manner by saying that many of them lacked the necessary skills to contribute to the French workforce. Lalami’s mention of the dismal unemployment rate amongst French Arab graduates--27 percent, contrasted with a mere 5 percent for the population at large--is arguably the most powerful rebuttal to that flawed notion. If immigrants in France with advanced degrees are routinely barred from employment positions on account of their heritage, surely discrimination rather than a lack of skills is what prevents them from being genuinely empowered.
By the same token, if the French openly exclude and discriminate against their minorities, then how can they realistically accuse them of not "integrating" into their host societies?
The apologists for racism in all its forms, on both sides of the Atlantic, who smear immigrant newcomers without fully understanding the multifaceted risks, benefits and responsibilities of immigration certainly have plenty to answer for.