Monday, January 09, 2006

Integration or Assimilation -- Which Is the Path of Peace?

Mohammed Afzal Khan, the Pakistani-born Muslim Lord Mayor of Manchester, has a couple of complaints. One of them concerns over-zealous Muslims who deal in coercion, violence, terror tactics and revenge. Despite the teachings of certain passages in the Koran, Khan maintains "the teaching of Islam is about moderation - the middle road." Thus, he has been a founding member of Manchester's Muslim-Jewish Forum, a group trying to foster better understanding and tolerance between the two groups.

However, Khan's second complaint is the assumption that tolerance (and the social progrees it should yield) requires assimilation.

"There is a real need for integration among communities who can be true to their own values and work together," Khan insists. "I'm not interested in assimilation. Why should I let go of something I have? As a Muslim living in Britain, I have the luxury of being able to pick and choose. Assimilation is a one-way street. I'm interested in a two-way street. Integration allows for everyone to become enriched through picking and choosing."

Even assuming Mayor Khan's motives are all the best, however, confrontation is unavoidable when there exists no consensus about social priorities or, for that matter, a common respect for freedom of conscience in matters of religion. If one man's religion bids him turn his cheek and forgive his tormentor while another's urges conversions through the force of the sword (with lethal punishment justly served for those who refuse), peaceful integration is as impossible as peaceful assimilation.

Read more from this story in the Jerusalem Post.