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Can countries impose on ‘newcomers’ their norms and cultural values?

Sep 30,2018 - Last updated at Sep 30,2018

Maxime Bernier is, or rather was, a member of the Canadian Conservative Party who decided to split off and form his own brand of conservative party, called the People’s Party, after losing the election for the leadership of the mother Conservative Party. But this is not really the point or the moral of the story.

Bernier wants to impose his own policy on the immigration issue after Canada, like other Western countries, is also reeling from too many emigrants who do not want to integrate, much less assimilate, into the mainstream culture and values. Bernier is raising an interesting, but controversial point, to wit; he wants to allow into the country only people who share the same values of Canada and to refuse admission to those who cling to their traditional values, culture or otherwise. He cited the examples of gender equality and LGBT rights. To be sure, Bernier has in mind other examples that touch on the manifestation of foreign cultural traditions that contrast with the mainstream Canadian cultural traditions and values. 

The question here boils down to the following: Can a country impose on ‘new comers’ or naturalised citizens its norms and cultural values and traditions, and by what right? We have seen "rebellions" against emigrants in many parts of Europe and it is on the increase in intensity and proliferating across the Western world because the number of emigrants is increasing and most of them maintain their traditional ways. Canada is the latest model for this “anti” non-conformist emigrants”. 

There is no simple answer to this issue as surely there are plenty of pros and cons that can be made in favour or against. Applying this issue on the local scene, would Jordanians accept "newcomers" to the country, whoever they are, to conform to the values of the country or not before they are granted permanent residency or citizenship. Do Jordanians have a right to ask new citizens or permanent residents to respect and apply Jordanian norms and values across the board as a condition for maintaining their residency or citizenship. The simple answer is yes!

If this conclusion is just and correct for us in Jordan, would it be correct when some of us emigrate to Western nations and try to cling to Jordanian traditions and values instead of integrating into the mainstream culture of their new home country. I think the ultimate answer lies in the extent to which ones traditions and values come in conflict with those of the receiving state.

Jordan is a moderate country by nature and our traditional values and culture do not contradict the mores of the West as far as one sees. But what would be the case if cultures and values are drastically different. Must the new emigrants integrate in order to be accepted or can they cling to their traditional ways as a matter of basic human right. This is what the new Canadian conservative party is trying to address, but not to the satisfaction of all sides of course.

Human rights institutions need to address this developing problem and help countries and people cope with it in a manner consistent with basic human rights.

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