Integration (isl.)

 
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(Turk. Entegrasyon)

Integration is a term with powerful sociological and political semantic content. Used in its sociological sense, the term describes the harmonious coexistence of a variety of socio-cultural groups that are distinguishable from one another based not only on ethnic and national origins, language, religion, traditions, and customs but also on political, social, and cultural identifying characteristics. In the political realm, integration involves the planning and execution of measures for the solution of problems that have resulted primarily from migratory movements. These measures are designed to permit harmonious cohabitation under changed social circumstances. From a sociological perspective, the focus is upon the harmonious cohabitation of members of the local population and segments of the population that have immigrated at a variety of levels. Language skills designed to facilitate social communication and mutual influence play a key role in integration. Consideration is given to structural, cultural, social and psychological-political aspects of integration as well: structural – this involves the legal opportunities open to migrants to achieve social status; cultural – this dimension involves mutual adaptation and a transformation in the relationships between migrants and the local population. From a social point of view, the factors involved are good neighbourly relations, collegiality in the workplace and participation in civil society. Under the psychological-political aspect, migrants should have a feeling of belonging to the society and the country in which they live; for their part, the local population should make an effort to accommodate migrants. The parties have their own respective expectations where political implementation is concerned. The main concern here is the question of who is to adapt to whom, and to what degree. In political discourse, the possible positions include integration with a one-sided orientation, pluralist integration and mutual integration. An integration understood as one-sided demands unconditional loyalty to the local culture on migrants’ part: migrants are called upon either to surrender the mentalities and habits they have brought with them, or at a minimum to modify these as, in the view of the local population, they are a hindrance to cohabitation and are disapproved. Proponents of a pluralistic approach to integration presuppose mutual familiarity and respect. This approach is based on recognition and tolerance. This applies not only to non-Muslims living in Muslim-majority societies but also to Muslims living in non-Muslim-majority societies. Under a view of integration as a mutual undertaking, notions of a ruling culture or of a subculture should play no role for anyone concerned. Here, no one should rigidly cling to identity; instead, all participants should be open to mutual influences as an opportunity to get to know one another, to exchange views and to evolve. While mutual integration appears to be a desirable approach from the point of view of integration policy-makers, there are many aspects of social and cultural identity, religion included, that make this model difficult to realise. Pluralistic integration points to the possibility of a middle course. This approach would not be directed against cultural or social identities as long as the elements that constitute these forms of identity – religion and language included – are not threatened, and so long as measures are taken on behalf of their protection and development. From an Islamic point of view, preservation of Islamic identity and the lifestyle that goes with it are of fundamental importance. There are other principles alongside this: maintaining distance from extremes, living amicably with one’s neighbours, not to cause harm to anyone under any circumstances, not to repay one wrong with another wrong, and not to comport oneself without respect towards members of other religions or the values they hold. Accordingly, Islam is not opposed, on principle, to the integration of Muslims in the society in which they live, as long as they can retain their identity. Difficulty on the part of the local population in familiarising themselves with and recognising the immigrants’ culture, and the immigrants’ emotional ties to the society, culture and homeland from whence they come, can negatively influence the integration process during the transitional phase. As these ties are connected to religion, the appearance arises that religion is the actual impediment to integration. That fact that integration has many different dimensions should not go overlooked.

Cemal Tosun

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