Could targeting women help with integration of immigrants?

NPR's Sylvia Poggioli launches a six-part series about European Muslims.


Catherine Price
January 23, 2008 1:20AM (UTC)

Here's a quick heads-up on the first of a six-part NPR series about Muslims in Europe that might be of interest to Broadsheeters. This one, by Sylvia Poggioli, is called "Muslim Women Behind the Veil of Silence in Germany," and addresses the challenges of integrating recent immigrants -- in this case, from Turkey -- into mainstream German society. She points out that many Europeans "are starting to question the notion of multiculturalism, which can lead to separate, parallel societies and a large Muslim underclass," and says that some officials believe that by focusing on Muslim women, they can "facilitate their communities' integration into mainstream society."

One of the challenges in Germany, apparently, stems from an influx of "uneducated, imported brides and grooms from Turkey, who arrive through both arranged and forced marriages." These men and women, whose cultures and religion dictate very different gender roles from those in mainstream German society, are physically living in one country but psychologically living in another culture, explains a lawyer and women's rights activist quoted by the article. Polls have shown that only one-third of Germany's Muslim population actually want to integrate. But according to Poggioli's Reporter's Notebook, in her experience reporting on Muslim societies in Europe, she has observed that more women than men want to be part of European societies. Hence the strategy to target women -- a group that stands to gain many rights by integration -- in hopes that they'll help mobilize the rest.

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Perhaps women's eagerness has something to do with this alarming statistic: In 2004, the German Ministry for Family Affairs reported that 49 percent of Turkish women had experienced physical or sexual violence in their marriage, and in the past decade, Germany has seen at least 49 honor killings. This is not to say that Europe -- or, for that matter, America -- has a perfect record on preventing domestic abuse, or that all Muslim men abuse their wives. But reaching out to these female immigrants does seem as if it would, at the very least, give them a better sense of belonging in their new homes, and could help them if they are indeed victims of abuse. Also, creating incentives for both male and female immigrants to integrate into mainstream society could do a lot in preventing the development of a large immigrant underclass that too often results in stratification, resentment, prejudice and violence.


Catherine Price

Catherine Price is an award-winning journalist and author of Vitamania: How Vitamins Revolutionized the Way We Think About Food. Her written and multimedia work has appeared in publications including The Best American Science Writing, The New York Times, Popular Science, O: The Oprah Magazine, the Los Angeles Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Washington Post Magazine, Salon, Slate, Men’s Journal, Mother Jones, PARADE, Health Magazine, and Outside. Price lives in Philadelphia.

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