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What do we mean when we speak about integration? It seems a simple question; there is, however, no single or simple answer. And despite the fact that the term ‘integration’ originally has positive significations, it has increasingly been used in a negative way to describe and demand the integration of one social group “immigrants and refugees” into the host societies and economies in Europe.

In the Diwan Al-Falsafa on ‘Integration’, we would like to discuss with you the signification, connotations and reputation of ‘integration’.

The main questions we would like to discuss with you are: what does integration mean in general, and what does the integration of immigrants and refugees in Germany mean in particular? Does ‘integration’ mean  to be  open to the new culture, to accept different social norms and to respect laws and political values of the host country? Or does it, furthermore, mean adapting to, or even becoming identical with,  the “other” – the local citizens – and thereby giving up one’s own culture? Or is this expectation the receptive society places on “foreigners” to integrate into their society not only a one-way street, but indeed rather a dead end?

Shouldn’t we therefore talk about integration as an interactive and mutual process between the receptive society and its immigrants and refugees? And if integration is an interactive process, what should the two sides do to make it successful? What are the criteria for a “successful integration”, and what are its obstacles?

Dr. Salam Said is an economist and currently works as scientific coordinator for the Tunis-based project  ‘For Socially Just Development in MENA’ of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung. She has published numerous articles and essays in books on the socio-economic development in the Arab World and on the significance of the academic edication of Syrian refugees.

Dr. Housamedden Darwish is a philosopher and specialized in hermeneutics and the methodology of social and human sciences. He worked at the University of Tishreen/Syria and received his doctoral degree from the University of Bordeaux III in 2010. He is currently an Assistant Professor at the Department of the Oriental Studies at Cologne University and a Research Associate at Faculty of Philosophy at Duisburg-Essen University.

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