Integration potential is the new fad in Danish integration politics. Whenever a new asylum seeker turns up at our door we estimate whether he or she is most likely to join our ranks, or to remain in his or her own. The estimation is based on a display of knowledge and initiative which adds up to the simple dictum that the more you appear to need our help the less likely we are to offer it.
Fair, this is the 21st century – the century I used to think of as sci-fi – and the world has become too small for us not to know our neighbours. But getting to know your neighbour is a two-way process. Fugitives and immigrant workers aren’t the only ones that need to be integrated. Local people do too.
Islam is often described as a religion of conquest. Well, if that is the case you’d have to describe Danish integration politics as a politics of conquest as well. Only it’s practiced in a more subtle and seemingly neutral way. The Danish way. Pretend to have no strong feelings about anything, and then unleash them all when nobody is watching. I guess Freud would have called it ”a neurosis”.
So, what’s with the extegration?
Well, today I downloaded a guide to the Arabic script in six short lessons. I’m sure it’s not the best site for it, but this is what I came up with after a quick search during lunch hours.
The idea is not to become a fluent Arabic speaker, but merely to learn to distinguish the letters from each other and pronounce them somewhat correctly. I want to be able to look at books, posters and internet sites in Arabic, and see something else than the curve of an irregular heart beat. I want to be reminded that Arabic is a language, an actual language like any other language, and not just some stylized graphical representation of the word of the Prophet.
This is part of my extegration, my attempt at assimilating the rudimentaries of another culture into my own. As such, it’s really not much different from learning English. Being a Danish kid interested in computers and American gaming culture I knew I had to look beyond the confines of my own language if I wanted to pursue those interests.
Growing up in a middle-classed suburb of Copenhagen in the mid-80s, Arabian culture was exotic at most. I remember watching news features about the Iran-Iraq war, but that was as close as it got. There weren’t any Turkish kiosks or Iranian pizzerias or Pakistani grocery stores in my neighbourhood. The only foreigner I remember from back then was an adopted African girl in public school. Not so anymore.
Today Arabian culture is present just about everywhere, and we place ever higher demands on its integration, or rather – with a word we’ve come to fear as the core evil of Islam – its submission to Danish values. But how about the other way around? What are we willing to give up to be integrated into another culture? Because unless we want a full-scale confrontation, this is what we’re gonna have to do.
Extegration is the word of the day. Try it out. It might even be fun.