In his essay "Nationalism in an Era of Record Migration" journalist Omar al-Muqdad quotes Simon Weil writing from wartime England in 1942, "To be rooted is perhaps the most important and least recognized need of the human soul."
Recently resettled himself (he came to the United States in 2012, and became a U.S. citizen this past Spring), Mr. Muqdad reflects on reflects on the relationship between nationality and citizenship in an essay written for the series "Dispatches from the Global Crisis in Refugee Protection" published by the Center for Migration Studies. He sees nationality as being a "cultural concept" that binds people on the basis of shared identity. Against the backdrop of the largest number of refugees in our globes' history, he observes how "Many migrants end up reinventing homes and homelands in the absence of territorial and national bases. As a result, the idea of a homeland becomes more of an internal feeling and set of memories of a place where the displaced can no longer live.
Noting the tensions in Western states' policies to immigrants and what he refers to as the "prevailing account of contemporary politics" which sees rising nationalism and populism as related to growing inequality and social exclusion, he lays out the challenge for liberal democracies:
"Liberal democracies need to figure out how to harness the diversity they need for economic and social growth, while reaching out to citizens who feel left behind. A good place to start would be to stop claiming that immigrants and refugees represent an economic burden. Instead, political leaders and the press should address the underlying cultural fears of natives, examine the ways in which nationalism — with its preoccupation with state boundaries and us-versus-them distinctions — can be rescued, and seek to make their societies more inclusive.
For the complete essay, visit the Center for Migration Studies website here.