12:00 AM, July 26, 2018 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:35 AM, July 26, 2018

Immigrants don't change culture but they surely can win you the World Cup

Immigrant rights advocates and others participate in rally and demonstration at the Federal Building in lower Manhattan against the Trump administration's policy that enables federal agents to take migrant children away from their parents at the border. Photo: AFP

If there was any doubt about President Trump's racist inclinations, it was fully removed by his pontification to the European leaders about, what he thinks, the negative consequences of immigration on Europe. Every time the US president opens his mouth on any subject, with the exception, perhaps, of real estate business, he betrays an abject ignorance on practically everything under the sun. And every time he does that I am reminded of what an illustrious predecessor of his, and he belonged to the Republican Party also, had said about the dangers of speaking out of turn, which was that, “It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and to remove all doubt.”

It may be worth quoting President Trump's comment about immigration and Europe, whose leadership he managed to rub the wrong way with his characteristic injudiciousness. In an interview with The Sun in June, the US president blamed immigration for the changing culture of Europe: "I think allowing millions and millions of people to come into Europe is very, very sad. I think you are losing your culture." And he said the same thing later at a news conference with the British PM, face to face, warning Europeans to be careful of the "changing culture" as a consequence of immigration. The reality is that, and that is acknowledged by all except the ultranationalists and rightists, the UK would not be what it is today without immigrants.

Trump's utterances on culture is surprising on many counts, particularly the fact that such a thought was expressed by one who has both German and Scottish pedigree—being the grandson of a German, and the son of a Scottish immigrant to the US. And he has fathered a male progeny whose mother happens to be a first generation immigrant from Slovenia and has been a US citizen since only 2012. The American author James Jones had once advised the Americans to read their text books, and nobody more than the US president should take that to heart, particularly on history.

The issue of migration has been the topmost in the mind of President Trump. He has doubled down on immigrants from the very first day he took office, banning immigration from a selected list of Muslim countries. His cabinet ministers have used the scriptures, very selectively, to justify the policy of separating children from parents seeking asylum in the US from across its southern borders. That being the case, it may be worth looking at the scriptures to put the matter in a historical and scriptural context.

If migration is a crime, which Trump thinks it is, then the blame of the original sin must fall on the two who transgressed the Lord's Command and thus endured forced migration. Ever since Adam and Eve were forced to migrate to the earth, human history has been the history of migration, of seeking newer lands for greener pastures and for following the command of the Lord, as did Abraham when he obeyed the order of his Lord to leave his home which was in present day Iraq. Immigration to a Christian kingdom, whose king Najashi knew his scriptures well, contributed to the survival of Islam at the very seminal stages of its existence. And the Islamic calendar commences with the immigration to Medina. Interestingly, all the revealed scriptures talk about protection of the immigrants.

Contrary to what Donald Trump thinks, migration has enriched and embellished languages and enhanced the capacity to adapt. But coming from one who is regrettably oblivious of how the American colonialists and their successors have decimated the American Red Indians, to the point where they are now penned in so called reservations, the fear expressed is not surprising. Neither is it new. Two hundred years ago Benjamin Franklin was worried about too many German immigrants “swamping America's predominantly British culture.” Migration from Ireland was discouraged because they were looked down upon as "lazy and drunkards"— Poles, Italians, Russian Jews were the “new immigrants believed to be too different ever to assimilate into American life” at the beginning of 20th Century. Their contribution to America belies the misgivings.

Unfortunately, people like Mr Trump forget that the US is about migration and migrants. According to a US author, writing in 2002, “An authoritative 1997 study by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) concluded that immigration delivered a 'significant positive gain' to the U.S. economy. In testimony before Congress last year, Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan said, 'I've always argued that this country has benefited immensely from the fact that we draw people from all over the world.'”

As for Europe, the notion that there are "original people" from whom the present day generation is originated has been proven wrong by a research report published in The Independent (UK) in February this year which says that immigrants have been "moving and mixing" across Europe since ancient times. The liberalists believe, in view of the spurt of refugees in Europe that Europe's cultural, ethnic and religious diversity will increase in a transformative way in the years and decades to come. As for the Sub Continent, its cultural richness is the result of intermixing of people of various races creeds and ethnicities.

Modern day migration is a fact of life and the natural order of things. And the pull factors are just as relevant now as it was 1,50,000 years ago. Mr Trump, immigrants don't change culture but they surely can win a country the World Cup. The French would swear to that.


Brig Gen Shahedul Anam Khan ndc, psc (Retd) is, Associate Editor, The Daily Star.


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