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Immigrant Nations - Paul Scheffer

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Genre: Society / Author: Paul Scheffer / 300 Pages / Publisher: Polity Press / Released: 13.05.2011

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      28.11.2011 15:01
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      An academic look at immigration issues turns out to be marred by Islamophobia

      Paul Scheffer, a Dutch academic, sets out to address the "problems" caused by immigration from developing countries to Western Europe and the US. Immigrant Nations was first published in the Netherlands in 2007 but has been translated into English this year.

      This book is a development of earlier pontifications on tensions between Dutch born people and Muslim immigrants, starting in 2000, and continuing after the political rise and assassination of populist and racist Dutch politician Pym Fortuyn.

      In size and appearance, Immigrant Nations looks like an academic textbook, and it comes complete with over 50 pages of endnotes, bibliography and name and subject indexes (in a 400 page book). I would argue though that it is less academically trustworthy than it looks, and that this is a polemic whose author sets out to back up his arguments by quoting other sources, rather than carrying out balanced research.

      As this is a Dutch book, much of his account of immigration to Europe looks at the Netherlands, though he also includes quite a lot on Britain and France. His emphasis is on the failure of immigrants from developing countries, and especially Muslims, to integrate. I do not feel confident to argue with him on the European countries described, but there are lots of examples of the problems with his approach in relation to Britain, which makes me suspicious of the rest of the book.

      This is hardly a balanced account of the integration of immigrants (and especially those from Muslim developing countries) in Britain. Significantly, why does he only focus on cities like Bradford where communities are very divided? Why not look at more diverse communities in Leeds or London? Also, what about immigration from Eastern Europe, other English speaking countries like Australia and New Zealand (where my own grandparents were born within Irish immigrant families by the way), or at those of other religions, for example, Christians? I would question the academic rigour of anyone who quotes the well-known Islamophobe (as well as holder of a wide range of other prejudices) and Daily Mail columnist and broadcaster Melanie Phillips without mentioning that lots of people in Britain do not share her views.

      One final comment on this book which is not about the content - the English translation is into oddly colloquial English, using a lot of contractions, and it reads oddly in a non-fiction book of this kind, for example "the man who'd welcomed me", "there's a need", "it's easy to see". I think "who had", "there is" and "it is" would be more appropriate.

      On the positive side, I found this book very thought provoking and interesting to read, but I am very concerned by what I feel is an attempt to make racism, xenophobia and Islamophobia sound academically respectable (and I say that as a white atheist of both Catholic and protestant descent).

      I was hoping for a book which offers a real analysis of the issues raised by immigration, and also, as the writer claims to favour integration of immigrant communities, suggests how our societies could offer immigrants and people still living in the country they were born in a better future. This is not it!

      I received a free copy of this book to review through the Amazon Vine programme, and this review appears on Amazon and elsewhere under my username.

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    • Product Details

      This book is a major reassessment of how immigration is changing our world. The policies of multiculturalism that were implemented in the wake of post–war immigration have, especially since 9/11, come under intense scrutiny, and the continuing flow of populations has helped to ensure that immigration remains the focus of intense social and political debate.