New Perspectives

Immigration, Muslims, and the Future of Northeast Ohio

For years now, Northeast Ohio has had a strained relationship with the notion of immigration. In a region characterized by population decline and economic hardship, immigration is often seen as a threat. After all, when resources are scarce, many worry that new arrivals will snap up jobs or other opportunities. Add to that a post 9-11 strain of thought that conflated terrorism with Islam, and it’s not all that surprising that an anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim sentiment would emerge at times.

We’ve been here before, writes British-Canadian author Doug Saunders. In his new book, The Globe and Mail reporter reminds us, “We have forgotten how alarming the waves of Roman Catholic and Jewish immigrants from the fringes of Europe appeared to North Americans and Western Europeans only a few decades ago.” He goes on,

    Right up through the early 1950s, it was commonplace for thinkers across the political spectrum to argue that Catholic immigrants were driven by the dictates of their faith to promote fascism, violence, and religious extremism (for this was the condition of most of their home countries and the apparent fate of many of their diasporas) and therefore could not be assimilated into non-Catholic cultures. Until the Second World War, it had been considered reasonable in many circles to hold similar views, involving communism and crime, about Ashkenazic Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe.

In Saunders’ most recent book, The Myth of the Muslim Tide, he lays bear the anti-immigrant talking points that often find their way into our national and local debates about newcomers and how our communities are evolving. His primary point is that we tend to respond to every wave of immigration (and migration) with fear, hysteria, mistrust and a frequent but perhaps unintentional inattention to facts and the realities of human experience. His previous book, Arrival City, looks more broadly at the experience of immigration from the migrant's point of view, examining how migration is changing cities around the world.

Saunders will be in town April 16-18. The community is invited to join NOCMES, CSU and Global Cleveland for a public forum about our relationship to Muslim immigrants.

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Upcoming Events

Immigration, Muslims, and Our Community:
Conversations with Author Doug Saunders

Midwest Muslims, Immigration, and Cleveland’s Future
Tuesday, April 16th, 4:00pm - 6:00pm
Student Center, Third Floor
Cleveland State University

The Myth of the Rising Tide: Do Immigrants Threaten the West?
Wednesday, April 17th at 7:00pm
Cuyahoga County Public Library
Beachwood Branch
25501 Shaker Blvd, Beachwood, Ohio 44122

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