EUROPE can’t seem to cope with diversity. Controversies over head scarves in France, police brutality in Britain, minarets in Switzerland, and the success of xenophobic right-wing parties in Austria, the Netherlands and Belgium, reveal the depths of the challenge.Here is a letter to the editor in praise of the op-ed:
As European countries try to integrate immigrants from Africa, South Asia and the Middle East, they have found the transition from a homogeneous society to a multicultural one painful. The economic fallout from the euro zone debt crisis is likely to make assimilation even harder.
In its search for solutions, Europe would do well to look to the streets — of New York City. Seriously.
The city’s alternate-side parking calendar, which sets out the holidays when street-cleaning rules are suspended (so drivers don’t have to move their cars), is actually a model for managing the challenges of diversity.
Over decades, the calendar has grown to include numerous holidays that are sacred to various religions. And we’re not just talking Passover and Good Friday, Yom Kippur and Christmas. There’s Id al-Fitr and Id al-Adha for Muslims; the Solemnity of the Ascension, the Feast of the Assumption and the Immaculate Conception for Roman Catholics; and a raft of Jewish holidays from Shavuot and Succoth to Shemini Atzeret and Simhat Torah. The parking rules are also suspended on certain cultural holidays, like the Asian Lunar New Year, Rosh Hashana and Diwali, the South Asian festival of lights.
Observing these holidays — even if only for the purpose of street cleaning — is not just a symbolic way of acknowledging religious and cultural pluralism. Their existence on the alternate-side calendar alongside civic and legal holidays, like Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Presidents’ Day, Labor Day and Thanksgiving, when schools and government buildings are closed, helps to normalize the idea of diversity.
Perhaps parking regulations are the key to world peace.
I couldn’t agree more that suspending alternate-side parking for the holidays of different religions recognizes diversity. My brother and I have used the parking calendar since our days at Columbia College, and for us it has developed into a bow to many religious holidays.
Recently, my brother called to wish me “Happy Id-al Fitr” (the end of Ramadan for Muslims), and I didn’t have to move my car. That same day, a Muslim patient came into my office, and I wished him the same. He has wished my a “Happy Shavuot,” my Jewish holiday (a biblical pilgrimage festival).
And we didn’t have to move our cars on either holiday. We both marveled at parking and peace in New York.
The other neat parking link is from Streetsblog, where they are asking readers to send in examples of parking structures degrading the pedestrian environment. Click through for nice photos and discussion.