Discussions about the influx of migrants into Europe have tended to focus on logistics. But, as the harassment against women, gays and Christians in asylum centers reveal, the challenge is far more complex than that, I write in a column for Project Syndicate.
Indeed, the refugee crisis in Europe is more a matter of culture than of numbers. And cultural clashes are much harder to address than logistics – especially once they leave the regulated confines of the asylum center, which can mitigate potential conflicts with surveillance and design. How will individuals who cannot share a shelter with gays and Christians without harassing them be able to integrate into liberal European societies?
The German and Swedish governments have not placed a high priority on addressing this question. In fact, both have failed to take seriously the cultural differences – on issues like women’s rights, minority rights, family honor, and individual liberties – between asylum-seekers, mainly from the Middle East and North Africa, and the European societies where they hope to live. In Sweden, in particular, a strong commitment to political correctness has severely limited public debate.
In ignoring these differences, the political elites in both Germany and Sweden are risking some of their countries’ most valuable social assets, including security, stability, equality, tolerance, and individual freedom. Yet they fail to note these risks. They act like their hard-won social advantages are inexhaustible natural resources, rather than the product of centuries of development – a product that is far more fragile than is widely assumed.
Perhaps the most obvious example of the threat European societies faces occurred in Cologne, Germany, on New Year’s Eve, when more than 600 women were sexually assaulted – and in some cases also robbed – by large gangs of men, most of whom were illegal immigrants or asylum-seekers. Only four of the 153 suspects detained were German nationals.