The term “migrant worker” was born to define the individuals who left their home countries in search of work abroad. Many of the early migrant workers in Britain arrived from India and Pakistan, while in France they arrived from Algeria and other states in North Africa. These migrant workers were typically from low-income backgrounds, leaving their home countries with little to nothing in belongings, and hoped to achieve more prosperity through their work abroad.
World War II indefinitely changed the world and its effects continue to be felt to this very day. It massacred millions of people, turned countless cities and villages into rubble, created weapons of inconceivable destruction, reshaped national lines on the globe, took the lives of some major political powers while giving birth to others, and so much more. In its aftermath, the world took on a new outlook and set about rebuilding itself better than ever before.
The war’s long-lasting effects
The now dismantled European colonial powers became the nation-states we know them as today, allowing many of their former colonies to gain independence after the war and become nation-states themselves (1). Not only did this reshape the map of our world, but it also brought on a massive shift in the global economy.
The former colonial powers now had to treat their former colonies as equals and trade with them in such a way, instead of treating them as part of themselves and doing as they pleased. The former colonies, in turn, had to learn to operate independently under new and previously untried conditions.
Nations such as Britain, France, and Germany needed foreign manpower to aid them in their reconstruction (2), having lost a substantial amount of their own in the war, while nations such as Pakistan, India, and Algeria needed economic stimulation to aid them in building their economies as newly independent states. Policies were introduced and deals were struck between nations, which allowed the newly independent states to send their citizens to the former colonial powers to aid them in their reconstruction while giving the newly independent states a way to receive some monetary stimulation.
The term “migrant worker” was born to define the individuals who left their home countries in search of work abroad. Many of the early migrant workers in Britain arrived from India and Pakistan, while in France they arrived from Algeria and other states in North Africa (3). These migrant workers were typically from low-income backgrounds, leaving their home countries with little to nothing in belongings, and hoped to achieve more prosperity through their work abroad.
The original plan for the migrant workers was for them to stay in their foster countries for as long as they were needed to supplement the labor force, after which they would return to their home countries once again (4). Many of them chose, however, to remain abroad, having built better lives for themselves and started families, while having realized there was not much for them to return to in their home countries, financially speaking. As the years passed and the global economy became more and more centered towards the Western world, a trend started where individuals from low-income backgrounds migrated as workers into Western countries with hopes of prospering.
The children of these migrant workers were born and grew up in the Western countries their parents had migrated to. The parents knew they had moved to these foreign nations only for economic prosperity, and therefore wanted to retain their cultural traditions while also remaining practicing Muslims and teaching their children to be so. Being in a new, non-Islamic environment however, this was not as simple a task for them, as it had been for their own parents’ in their home countries. Along with that responsibility, they also had to work hard to prosper and to adjust to their foster countries.
So instead of being able to teach their children about Islam and their culture while being aware of the new environment they now inhabited, they stayed with the ways their own parents’ had used in their own childhood, being too occupied with making ends meet to be able to do otherwise.
Instead of teaching Islam based upon its fundamental principles and explaining the deeper ideas behind its guidelines and rulings, the children were instead simply told about its above-the-surface do’s and don’ts, while being told to pray and practice Islam because they simply had to do so. This would have worked well in their home countries with the predominantly Islamic environments that were present there, as they would have helped automatically acclimate their children towards the Islamic lifestyle.
In their new foster countries however, the opposing Western ideologies, feelings, and ways of life were strongly present and readily explained in every aspect of their lives outside of their homes. Therefore, when conflicts arose in the children’s’ minds between their Islamic upbringing and their Western lives and environments, it was much easier for them to understand Western perspectives.
This unfortunately led some astray from Islam, while making others heavily question Islam and its teachings. Surely this was devastating for their parents who had moved abroad for economic prosperity, but not accompanied with a loss of their identity through their children.
As more and more Muslims continue to migrate to Western countries for economic prosperity even in contemporary times, the responsibility of raising the future generations as righteous and practicing Muslims is more important than ever. Along with that, the economic success of the West has led to the westernization of many other parts of the world. Even predominantly Islamic countries have begun following Western business, educational, and societal practices, prompting us further to strengthen our knowledge and belief in Islam to ensure its longevity throughout the generations yet to be born.
What can we do?
Firstly, we must begin to realize and accept the current state of the world. The westernization that is undergoing and planting itself deeply within the roots of society. Only once we have done that, can we begin to properly understand it and act upon it successfully.
Secondly, we must accept that it is our duty and responsibility to ensure the longevity of Islam throughout the ages. It will not be as easy for us, as it has been for our more recent ancestors, as we have to do so in a growingly opposing global environment. That should however not deter us in any way, and if anything, should serve as motivation to a greater subsequent victory.
Thirdly, we must educate ourselves thoroughly and in-depth regarding Islam, while continuing to follow its practices as we always have. Only if we know about it well enough ourselves, and show that we follow it through our actions, can we successfully pass it on to our children.
And finally, we should always keep in mind that Islam is a peaceful religion, and that our goal is to strengthen our belief and practice in it as Muslims, while respecting and giving space to all of those who have chosen a path different than ours.
1. Britannica: Western-colonialism and Decolonization.
2. National Archives: Citizenship and Immigration.
3. Wikipedia: Immigration to France.
4. Bbvaopenmind: Muslims in Europe.