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Due to the ever-new modes of transportation and means of communication available today, the world is now known as a global village. In this global village human immigration is becoming an increasing phenomenon worldwide. In almost every part of the globe we find people of different backgrounds, languages, colours, creeds, nationalities and different religious beliefs living together. This diversity, on one side makes our world colourful, charming, attractive and very lively, however, on the other hand the world is facing some challenges for the peaceful and harmonious coexistence of diverse human society.
Many countries have shown their concerns about the increasing immigration and in particular immigration of Muslims into the Western societies. Questions are being raised that is it possible for Muslims to remain loyal to their faith and with their adopted countries? Can Muslims become part of the Western societies?
Once immigrants have settled in a new country, what should be expected of them in terms of their degree of integration with their hosts? This is an issue becoming very debatable and there is a crucial need to bring out the realistic solutions for the better and progressive integration of immigrants.
I understand the concerns of the Western countries, and it is true that under the influence of certain ignorant and extremist clerics, some Muslim individuals or groups have a very prejudicial and irrational attitude towards Western nations and non-Muslims. The truth is that this irrational attitude of theirs has nothing to do whatsoever with the true teachings of Islam and practices of the Holy Prophet Muhammad. Islam has presented such luminous and realistic principles that their implementation can create integration between diverse groups in the real sense.
Before I come to the point of integration of Muslims, it is appropriate to point out two main opposite opinions as far as integration is concerned. There are some who want immigrants to become a complete part of their new culture, even if this means abandoning their customs, language and traditions. The Fourth Caliph of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community very rightly describes the shortcomings of this opinion, highlights the beauty of diversity, he says:
“This would be an attempt on par with turning a bouquet of varied flowers, as if by some wizardry, into just one particular flower. We understand from various societies and social systems and the societal evolution that each newcomer brings with them distinct colours and fragrances. This happens in all countries and happens from all sides. To erase the distinctiveness of the outsider and declare the sole existence of just one ‘flower’ in the bouquet, be it a rose or jasmine or some other flower, but not to allow mutual existence in the bouquet is not the correct way to create compromise and uniformity. This mode of action is contrary to the natural societal evolution and nations cannot gain from it in any way.”
However, the opposite scenario is also unrealistic and impracticable. When immigrants refuse to assimilate into the host culture and cling on to native languages and traditions, they effectively create a sub culture apart from the one in which they live. This in turn creates difficulties for them and leads to isolation.
For a progressive, prosperous and tolerant society, a very realistic and practicable approach is highly essential. As far as integration of Muslims into the Western societies is concerned, it is also a two-way process and both the immigrants and the locals have to play their positive and responsible roles.
Both parties should try to live by the principle of give-and-take and show flexibility and benevolence for each other. Everyone should try his utmost to always put responsibilities and obligations before his rights, and should become the one who gives, and not who always takes. As the Holy Prophet Muhammad, peace be on him, advised that “the upper hand (of the donor) is better than the lower hand (of the receiver).”
I believe that respect towards the law of the land, faithfulness and loyalty with the adopted country is a cornerstone of effective integration. The Holy Prophet Muhammad particularly emphasised that love for one’s nation is a part of faith for any true Muslim. When loving your country is a basic element of Islam, how can any true Muslim exhibit disloyalty or betray his nation and thereby forgo his faith? In terms of Ahmadi Muslims, at our major events all members of the Community, make a pledge and promise to give up their lives, wealth, time and honour not just for their religion but also for the sake of their nations and countries. To be integrated it is necessary to believe the country you live in is your own and you must desire for it to succeed. This is true integration.
Freedom of expression, freedom of faith, equality, justice, human dignity and equitable opportunities also play a vital role in the establishment of tranquil and serene atmosphere.
Mutual cooperation for the common good, sharing and adopting all positive aspects of each other, and joining hands against every evil will also lead to a positive coexistence. Knowledge of each other’s cultures, customs, traditions and local language are also necessary to break the barriers of misunderstanding, fear and isolation. All the people should show mutual respect and tolerance, and care for the sentiments and feelings of others. Their talks and discussion should exhibit the true sense of community and words should be selected very wisely. The rights of poor and needy, the rights of neighbours, the rights of streets, the rights of the community should all be honoured.
The current Head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community explains that: “Muslims have been taught that in order to integrate with their local societies and develop mutual respect, they should seek to learn about all of the good aspects of every society, every region, every city and every country. It is not enough to simply learn about such values, but Muslims must endeavour to adopt them into their own personal lives. This is guidance that truly inculcates togetherness and a spirit of mutual trust and love.”
Better integration also requires that immigrants must enter with a willingness to integrate with the local people, whilst the locals should be ready to open their hearts and display tolerance, open-mindedness and forbearance. They all should try to truly live by these two golden principles that “wish for others what you wish for yourself” and “love for all, hatred for none”, because these are the essence and golden principles for a harmonious and peaceful integration.