That’s why I was somewhat disgusted when I heard the orange idiot who occupies the White House say, during his visit to the UK, that immigration is changing Europe’s culture, which in the slang of the nativist right is code for the threat of Islam. And I say somewhat, because there’s not much that’s truly surprising in the words of a narcissistic, wilfully ignorant and deeply insecure clown.
As a native Portuguese whose family has been in Portugal for at least four centuries, whose native language has as much as one thousand words of Arab origin, whose native land is marked by numerous Arabic placenames and where bakeries, restaurants or traditional celebrations include various dishes of Arab origin or influence, all of it a product of the Islamic period of Iberian History, I can only classify as ignorant the idea that immigration from the Middle East or north Africa is a threat to European culture. Utter ignorance, raw stupidity, ridiculous fear-mongering. Europe is not monolithic and, when it comes to the southwestern end of the continent, Islamic civilization is one of its cultural matrixes.
But that was also why, last week, I happily accompanied through the media the visit to Portugal of Aga Khan IV, spiritual leader of the Naziri Ismaili Muslims, who was received with State honours by the President and Prime-Minister and, starting from the middle of next year, will have an official residence in Lisbon, where the world headquarters of the Ismaili Imamat will be located. At a time when many call for an imaginary cultural purity, close themselves up in a siege mentality or strive to deny layers of European culture, it’s good to know that my country, despite all its problems, manages to remain open to the Islamic world, to which it owes a part of its national identity.