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Tuesday 26 September 2023 Dublin: 13°C
'Walls to stop immigrants would have made my own existence impossible'
“I have always considered myself as a world citizen: Tamil by ethnicity, German by heart, Dutch by fondness, Irish by spirit, Italian by love.”

I HAVE LIVED in Ireland for almost five years, but I was born and raised by parents who found their safe haven in Germany in the 1980s, after fleeing from Sri Lanka.

Germany allowed me to grow up in a multicultural environment, dive into different cultures, experience different religions and secure a prosperous life.

Being a Hindu, my parents sent me to religion classes in Christianity, encouraging me to learn more about the religion which permeates the German culture.

I grew up to understand my role as a new German in a multicultural society mindful of our common past. The multicultural environment I grew up did not distort Germany’s character: on the contrary, I firmly believe that our different cultures, traditions and views cross-fertilised each other and made Germany a stronger society.

Violence and hate 

The world as we know today sees the re-emergence of nationalism in a fashion that I had thought was in its demise.

I believed that nationalism was a phenomenon that would be tamed by multicultural understanding, multilateral cooperation of open states, the mutual enrichment of customs and the enlightened discussion about a tolerant society.

I was wrong.

I now see the rise of the right-wing in Germany, which is now in the German Parliament and, according to the latest polls, has overtaken the German Social Democrats and is ranked second behind Angela Merkel’s Conservative Party. This development is not only highly worrying, it is scary. At public gatherings the AfD party talk about “discarding” German politicians with migration background.

The fearmongers who claim Christianity and the traditional German culture is under attack are creating a ground for violence and hate.

They openly call for the deportations of Turkish migrants and denounce them with the most despicable vocabulary. They agree on cooperation with even more extremist organsiations outside the German parliament.

The parliamentary group leader of the AfD speaks of “hunting” the German government. Another leading AfD politician uses Hitler-resembling rhetoric to announce the re-emergence of the Thousand-Year Reich.

The ‘other’

In the annual state of the nation speech in Hungary, the Hungarian Prime Minister said: “We must not allow the ground to be cut away from under our feet in moral or ethical debates, because we must defend Hungary as it is now.

We must state that we do not want to be diverse and do not want to be mixed: we do not want our own colour, traditions and national culture to be mixed with those of others. We do not want this. We do not want that at all. We do not want to be a diverse country.

All of these words, actions, policies induce a climate of fear, hate and violence against the ‘other’, a refugee, migrant or anyone who doesn’t belong to majoritarian, ethnic, white Christian community.

I have witnessed the far-right demonstrations in Charlottesville (USA), Warsaw (Poland), Bologna (Italy) and elsewhere, celebrating the rise of white power.

I have read, in disbelief, the vilification of religious groups and ethnicities, while racially-charged entry bans were drafted and signed into effect. Discussions about walls to prevent “illegal immigrants” from entering and infiltrating the purity and sovereignty of western states leaves me shivering – it would have made my own existence impossible.

I have always considered myself as a world citizen: Tamil by ethnicity, German by heart, Dutch by fondness, Irish by spirit, Italian by love.

Tolerance and understanding

The other day I had lunch in a restaurant run by an Indian/Pakistani family on the compound of the Dublin Mosque, a building which was originally the Presbyterian Church in the Roman Catholic Ireland and converted only in 1983 to a mosque.

Later on, I had the privilege to lecture students from all over the world at Griffith College in international law: our students come from Nigeria, Turkey, Poland, Brazil and many other countries.

Diversity is our strength, not our weakness. Nobody wants to diminish the character of Europe – rather, it is about reinforcing the European idea of multicultural understanding and strengthening the bond of peace.

While I am very concerned and even fear the current hostile climate, I have hope. I have hope that reason wins over fear. I have hope that a society that roots its inner core in mutual understanding and tolerance, will overcome divisiveness.

Dr. Thamil Venthan Ananthavinayagan, Ph.D. (NUI Galway), LL.M. (Maastricht University) is a lecturer for International Law, Griffith College Dublin.


Thamil Ananthavinayagan
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