Chinese Diaspora and Muslim Diaspora
The beginning of the 21st saw a sharp increase in the number of Muslims seeking asylum in Europe and North America due to the conflicts in the country of origin. The Syrian refugee crisis piled pressure on the international community to take action and provide relief for the refugees escaping the war in their country. It was an additional problem to the challenges of the Iraq, Afghanistan, and Yemen wars. The request for asylum in Europe and North America was met with resistance for fear that terrorists and their sympathizers would travel to these countries. However, a review of the several works of the literature shows that the trend is common in the history of immigration. As the Chinese example shows, the reasons for movement may change over time. The Chinese migration in the 19th and 20th century was to overcome difficulties such as abject poverty, famine, and political instability at home. However, today, they migrate as investors with capital to invest in various destinations of the world. Therefore, citizens move from their country for multiple reasons, but in summary, it is to improve their standards of living.
People move from their home countries voluntarily and for compelling reasons. Some individuals move from their homeland to another country because of the brutality of the government in power at a particular time. In most cases, citizens immigrate for fear of ethnic cleansing, expulsion by a tyrant leader, coercion to leave by the armed forces or mass riots that are cause death and destruction. Others emigrate because of the unsympathetic political environment, pressures of over-population, famine, and poverty. For example, the withdrawal of the British forces in Jerusalem in 1948 led to the establishment of the Jewish state and the expulsion of the Arab population. The event marked the beginning of a mass movement of Muslims from a country to seek shelter abroad for political reasons. Palestinians refer to the creation of Israel in their home country as a catastrophe as it forced them to depart from them.
Therefore, the first departure of a large Muslim population from the homeland was in 1948 in Palestine. In this case, the Arabs became refugees in the neighboring countries in the Middle East and later moved to the rest of the world. It led to a displacement of more than 3.9 million Palestinians scatter from their ancestral land (Cohen 9). According to most Palestinians, the creation of the Israel state in the Middle East was a catastrophe because it dispersed the community into exile by denying them their fundamental rights to own properties in the area. As a result, one of the largest Muslim Diasporas was born. Thus, the first dispersal of a Muslim population in recent history was through war, and the same trend continues in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, and Yemen.
The conflicts in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan have led to an increase in the number of Muslims fleeing the Middle East to North America and Europe. The crisis has caused a review of immigration laws and policies to minimize the number of immigrants entering the region. The immigration debate was used successfully to rally Britain to leave the European Union during the 2016 referendum (Trauner 257). The Syrian refugee is one of the most recent incidents that show that the reason some citizens move away from their country is to escape from the political crisis in the states of origin. The crisis brings to the fore the complications of the process of immigration. On one side, the plight of the refugees forces the international community to act to alleviate their suffering. On the other hand, countries must be careful so that that rogue elements do not use the opportunity to cause insecurity in a world that is fighting against international terrorism. The conflicts in the Middle East and the increase in Muslim refugees in need of asylum in Europe and North America show that citizens leave their countries for another in challenging times.
Muslims in the Diaspora face a lot of perception challenges in the host nations in Europe and North America. Some individuals in the west find it difficult to comprehend how they can gel with Muslims from the Middle East and become a single society. As a result, their critics advance the idea that Muslims are difficult to assimilate or integrate into a different culture. They are said to be more loyal to their country of origin than the receiving nation. They are accused of an unwillingness to follow the values and way of life of the majority. What the critics do not understand is that Islam is a way of life inseparable the daily activities of the people. Therefore, the assumption that Muslims are resistant to change is not valid. Although the Syrian refugee crisis was a severe humanitarian crisis, it brought out some of the wrong perceptions that the west holds against Muslims.
Notably, children raised by Muslim and Christian parents change their region as adults. For example, more than one-quarter of individuals from Muslims backgrounds abandon the faith in the United States (Metcalf 92). The same trend applies to individuals who are born to Christian parents. Muslims, change and adapt to different lifestyles compared to that of the parents or grandparents. Therefore, the difficulties that the Muslim diaspora faces do not prevent it from integrating into their new environment. When the cultures are very diverse, people integrate as they spend more time with the host community (Ali 185). That is why the population of Muslims in Europe and North America is always increasing. For example, American has 1%, Australia 2.6%, Canada 3.2%, UK 6.3%, and France 8.8% (Ali 186). Understanding that human beings are similar makes it easy to respect the religion and culture of other people and integrate.
Muslims in Europe are not more loyal to their home countries than the host country. In most cases, they perceive themselves as French, British, Canadian, and American before they consider their countries of origin (Brown 87). Moreover, some have settled in these nations with no intentions of going back to their home countries. Those that immigrate to Europe and North America and settle include those that escape authoritarian regimes. They aspire to participate in the democratic processes of the host country since their home nations could not provide the same (Brown 90). The newfound freedom makes some of them think of renouncing their governments and embracing the host ones fully. Therefore, it wrong to assume and insist that Muslims cannot integrate into the local community, considering that evidence shows otherwise.
Most citizens move from their home countries as laborers in developed countries. Many of them escape domestic challenges at the time of migrating abroad. In the Asian case, the number of individuals migrating was small compared to the population in the motherland (Skop and Li 290). For example, few Chinese immigrated to the United States in the early decades of the 20th century as labors. Initially, they tried as much as possible to maintain contact with their families, hoping to return in the future. However, the Chinese Diaspora continues to grow despite it being an industrial country today.
The growth of the Chinese Diaspora did not stop with the movement of laborers to Europe and America in the 19th and 20th century. From 1965 to 1990, the population of immigrants in the world increased from 75 to 120 million people (Ma and Cartier 1). The reasons for the changes are diverse, but the most common in the immigration policies of the leading world democracies, efficient transport, and communication move from one region of the world to another. Other reasons include increasing the globalization of capital and the rise of flexible production and specialization in the global economy. The development allows smaller countries and factories to compete with the largest multinational corporations. As a result, the reasons for moving from a nation to another have changed. China is one of the countries with the Diaspora in all regions of the world, and citizens are running for different reasons today than they did in the 19th and 20th century.
For example, the migration to the United States in the early years of the 20th century was to provide labor (Ma and Cartier 2). During the same period, other groups migrated to Asian countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Thailand, among other countries for trade and investments. At the beginning of the 20th century, the primary reason for leaving the country was to get better conditions of living in foreign lands. During this period, the domestic market was turbulent because of continuous political conflicts (Ma and Cartier 2). Therefore, the Chinese Diaspora moved to the respective destinations for various reasons.
In the 1950s and 1960s, Chinese nationals began to migrate again from the Asia countries because of economic and political persecution. After most nations in the region gained independence, they made policies to empower the local population at the expense of Chinese nationals. As a result, they migrated to Europe and Northern America in search of investment opportunities and better standards of living. The same trend continued as Chinese nationals moved from Taiwan, Hong Kong, and other parts of China due to political reasons. For example, the movement from Hong Kong in the 1990s was because of the fear that the region would reunite with mainstream China. In the 1960s, the immigration of the Citizens out of Taiwan was because of political instability amid economic prosperity. Citizens were always afraid of military intervention from mainland China (Agnew, 209). Taiwan, Hong Kong, and China have achieved industrialized status, but their citizens still migrate to the United States, Canada, Europe, and Australia because of political reasons.
The Chinese Diaspora is taking advantage of globalization that is shrinking the distance between major powers in the world. The movement of capital is no longer the domain of transnational corporations. Small and medium businesses, laborers, informal migrants, and individual traders can move their business abroad. The development makes it easy for citizens to communicate with their families at home while at the time growing their businesses in foreign markets (Brown 85). As a result, they do not break social ties and cultural values as they move from one region to the other in search of investment opportunities. Today, the Chinese Diaspora is moving in and out of the country regularly to create wealth and return home.
The movement of Chinese citizens may differ significantly depending on the provinces of origin. An individual moving from the Fujian province to the United States may desire to move there to get employment and enjoy the free environment that the country offers. However, an entrepreneur from Hong Kong would want to move to the United States to expand their business or to educate their children through the American education system (Cohen 120). Wealthy individuals advance to the United States to enjoy their wealth peacefully. Therefore, the reasons for Chinese immigration today are different from those of the 19th and the 20th centuries.
By 2011, there were approximately 40.3 million Chinese in 148 countries, but the majority of them were in 35 Asian countries (Poston and Wong 362). The next most substantial proportion is in Europe and North America. In the 2000s, the size of Chinese professionals abroad increased significantly in all continents. During the period, Africa has witnessed the most significant growth at a rate of 6.1 percent (Poston and Wong 366). The reason for these developments is the economic and political engagement that China has with most African governments. Moreover, the nation has enough money to fund most of the large infrastructure projects. Thus, the Chinese Diaspora is always growing with Africa being the current frontier.
In most countries with Muslim and Chinese Diasporas, these groups are a minority group experiencing various challenges. It is only in Singapore that Chinese nationals are more than half of the population. More than 73% of the people of the Chinese Diaspora live in the most developed nations in Asia (Poston and Wong 369). There is no reason to believe that the distribution of the Chinese Diaspora is likely to change in the future. However, the trends of growth in Africa are expected to continue because the Chinese government is still signing contracts for investments with African governments (Poston and Wong 369). Thus, the migration of Chinese nationals follows the policy of the government, which is the reason their population is increasing in Africa.
Chinese and Muslim Diasporas are an integral part of the Northern American and European populations. People from the two groups have been moving to other nations for centuries and different reasons. They move to look for opportunities to improve their standards of living, escape wars, and authoritarian regimes in home countries. The reception of immigrants differs in most countries because of cultural differences. Today, immigration is a challenging debate in Europe, contributing to important critical political decisions such as Brexit campaign in the United Kingdom. However, the fears in Europe are founded on perceptions that are propagated by the political elites and not facts. Therefore, some citizens make decisions emotionally that they regret later. Most Muslim immigrating in Europe and North America moved to flee wars in their home countries. On the other hand, the Chinese immigrants moved to Europe and North American to escape poverty in their nation in the 19th and 20th century. However, today, they are migrating in search of investment opportunities, education of their children, and escaping harassment at home. Nonetheless, they both share similar challenges, as is the case with all diaspora communities.
Agnew, Vijay, ed. Diaspora, memory and identity: A search for home. University of Toronto Press, 2005.
Ali, Ameer. “Assimilation, integration or convivencia: The dilemma of diaspora Muslims from “Eurabia” to “Londonistan”, from “Lakembanon” to Sri Lanka.” Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs vol. 30, no. 2, 2010, pp. 183-198.
Brown, Judith M. Global South Asians: introducing the modern diaspora. Vol. 1. Cambridge University Press, 2006.
Cohen, Robin. Global diasporas: An introduction. Routledge, 2002
Cohen, Paul A. China unbound: evolving perspectives on the Chinese past. Routledge, 2003.
Ma, Laurence JC, and Carolyn L. Cartier, eds. The Chinese diaspora: Space, place, mobility, and identity. Rowman & Littlefield, 2003.
Metcalf, Barbara Daly, ed. Making Muslim Space in North America and Europe. vol. 22. University of California Press, 1996.
Skop, Emily, and Wei Li. “Diaspora in the United States: Chinese and Indians compared.” Journal of Chinese Overseas, vol. 6, no. 2, 2010, pp. 286-310.
Poston Jr, Dudley L., and Juyin Helen Wong. “The Chinese diaspora: The current distribution of the overseas Chinese population.” Chinese Journal of Sociology, vol. 2, no. 3, 2016, pp. 348-373.
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