By Ameer Ali –
An inconvenient truth behind West’s current immigration policy is that it is shaped by the power of anti-Muslim and Far Right lobbies. The entire debate about controlling the intake of immigrants emerged in the wake of Muslim refugees arriving by the boatloads after the American invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan. The exodus started then continues till today through recurring episodes of violence perpetrated by both state and non-state actors. The shores of Europe, Britain and Australia are the favoured destinations of Muslim refugees.
The refugee problem in general and exodus of Muslim refugees in particular also coincided with a rising wave of discontent over economic difficulties resulting from a globalising neo-liberal economic ideology. This ideology, in the name of promoting economic growth through private enterprise, market competition and technological innovation relegated issues of equity and distribution to the margin of economic policy making and assumed that those issues would be handled best by the market itself through the so called trickle-down effect. On that assumption welfare economic models and economic safety nets structured on Keynesian foundation were systematically dismantled in all major economies starting with the US. This switch over to a free market, free trade and free enterprise ended in a vicious game of survival of the fittest and the largest The consequence was widening income disparities, falling wages, lack of job security, weakening of all countervailing powers and colossal environmental neglect.
When economic adversities mount rulers always look for scapegoats “Muslim terrorists” and “Islamic terrorism”, products of Western imperial misadventures, fitted the candidacy. While the traditional left and right in politics embraced economic neo-liberalism with differences in its modus operandi, the far right on the other hand while surrendering to the same ideology blamed the newly arriving Muslim immigrants and Islam for all problems confronting the Christian world. Its anti-Muslim stand and Islamophobia provided a new twist to West’s age old anti-Semitism. The idea of multiculturalism celebrated by inclusive political regimes was scorned by the Far Right in favour of a socio-political milieu ruled by Judeo-Christian values. At least one of its politicians in Australia even called for a ‘final solution’, echoing the Nazi leader.
A number of Far Right parties such as the National Front in France, Independence Party in UK, Party for Freedom in the Netherlands, the Danish People Party and the One Nation Party in Australia among several others, and all of them in the West, structured their political campaign on the populist issue of stopping and turning the boats and saving the West from Islam’s threat. Paulin Hanson’s One Nation Party for example, was the direct result of anti-Muslim paranoia linked to the influx of refugees from war-torn Middle East. She was not mincing words when she said that Australia was in danger of being swamped by Muslims and Islam.
The rising popularity of these parties clearly threatened the erosion of electoral support to the traditional centre-right and centre-left parties. Donald Trump’s victory in US Presidential Election was clearly won on an anti-Muslim platform. He translated his policy into action by banning Muslims from seven Muslim countries, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen, even though none of them ever posed a threat to the US.
It therefore became self-evident to traditional parties that they too should change track if they were to arrest losing further and win back if possible the lost support to the Far Right. The dilemma is how to do it without openly advocating Islamophobia. Controlling immigration and strengthening border security are two areas that promised an escape route. Political opportunism has driven main stream parties in Europe and the West to hide their Islamophobia behind a seemingly neutral agenda on immigration, citizenship and national security. The running battle over limiting asylum seekers into Europe and emergence of coalitions between main stream parties and anti-Muslim groups reflect the political success of Islamophobia. This trend is clearly witnessed in Belgium, France, Switzerland, Italy and Austria. Germany too which is relatively more benevolent towards Muslim refugees is forced to toe a hard line. In Australia, the success of the Far Right is manifested in the progressive decline of Muslim immigrants into the country, which has more than halved from 40.5% in 2013-14 to 18.9% in 2016-17, and Chip Le Grand in The Australian (27 August 2018), reports that “Scott Morrison’s elevation as Prime Minister is expected to further reduce Muslim immigration, with the former immigration minister a prominent supporter of Australia prioritising Christian refugees ahead of Muslim asylum-seekers”.
Islamophobia is subtly colouring Western democratic political platforms. It is therefore not surprising that even in Asia, wanton and state sponsored atrocities and injustices against Muslims such as the “textbook ethnic cleansing” of Rohingyas in Burma and recent disenfranchisement of millions of Assamese Muslims in India do not seem to raise any concern among Western political leaders. Even acts of Muslim devotional benevolence towards national causes is tainted with sardonic malign when reported by mainstream media. For example, when thousands of Muslim worshipers in Sydney recently prayed for rain in sympathy with drought stricken farmers in New South Wales, it was reported by one newspaper as “praying for a rain bomb” (emphasis added).
The tightening of Muslim immigration into Western countries will increase the suffering of millions of innocent Muslims who have become collateral in a vicious three cornered power play between Western imperialists, Muslim tyrants and Jihadists. Can the rest of the world afford to ignore this sickening human tragedy?
Dr. Ameer Ali, School of Business and Governance, Murdoch University, Western Australia