By Ameer Ali –
With hundreds of thousands so far, of Syrians, Libyans, Iraqis, Afghans, Pakistanis and Bangladeshis, flocking into Europe in waves, the receiving countries are caught in a painful dilemma. While natural feelings of human compassion and love compel them to accommodate as many migrants as possible and cater to their immediate needs the host nations are also facing on the other hand the prospect of a political backlash from ultra-nationalists and xenophobic extremists. Using rising resource-cost as a possible argument there may be ceilings placed on the volume of intake. Such limitations though understandable will not close the door for illegal human traffickers.
In spite of this dilemma Europe should face the undeniable truth, i.e., these immigrant waves are a blowback for Europe’s via NATO’s collusion with the American super power to invade, bomb and destroy parts of the Middle East and South Asia, all in the name of a never ending war on terrorism and exporting democracy. Terrorist attacks continue to shatter peace in Iraq and Libya while sectarian fights and proxy wars make democracy a distant dream if not an illusion.
This meddling with the Middle East by the Western powers goes right back to the break-up of the Ottoman Empire and to the creation of artificial nation states with scant regard to the religious, ethnic and tribal sensitivities of the people concerned in the region. Kings and Sultans were picked from families of minority groups and planted as head of states to rule over the majority. Mostly through hereditary succession or army coups rulers were changed but always with the approval of their foreign backers. Even elections when they were held as in Egypt for example it were a farce.
Some of these parvenus who got elected eventually became dictators and tyrants lacking any legitimacy from the majority of citizenry. Pure economic and hegemonic interests made the Middle East a hunting ground for the West and Europe has been in the thick of it. The millions of refugees that are congregating at the border of Europe is the blowback of the Great Game.
Millions of innocent people in Iraq, Libya, Syria and Afghanistan have lost everything they had and have no choice but to leave their home country. Where will they go?
Europe is their obvious choice because it was with Europe that the world of Islam became familiar with through political, commercial and civilizational contacts from even before the time of the crusades. It was from Europe that colonization of Islamdom began and it was to Europe that the local elite and bourgeoisie went in search of prosperity and recognition after decolonization. They went voluntarily but the ones going now are forced out against their wishes. This is the new burden of Kipling’s ‘White Man’.
While Europe faces the painful dilemma what faces the Muslim world is utter shame. What we are witnessing is hijra in reverse. When the Prophet of Islam migrated from a then enemy territory, Mecca, to a friendly territory, Medina in 622, that event, hijra in Islamic terminology, not only marked the birth of the Islamic calendar but also set an Islamic precedent, which later became a religiously sanctified institution that encouraged the Muslims to migrate to Darul Islam or territory ruled by Muslims if they found life became intolerable in Darul Harb or territory ruled by non-Muslims.
Today’s scene is hijra in reverse, from the land of the Muslims to the land of non-Muslims. The so called infidel has become the ansar or helpers and believers the muhajir or emigrants. What a turn around and what a shame!
The irony is that no Muslim nation among the fifty seven members of the Organization of Islamic Congress has the capacity or willingness to receive them. Even if any of them come forward I wonder whether the refugees would prefer to live in another Muslim country because of the parlous state of affairs in the Muslim countries.
For Europe the challenges are many. Accepting the refugees is one thing but how they are treated is totally another. One thing is certain. That is, a majority of these refugees once they enter Europe are not going to return to their home land even IF things improve there. Already xenophobia and Islamophobia are raising their ugly heads in France, Britain, Germany and other European countries. It is heartening to see that at least the government of Germany is taking a tough stand against these negative elements. One should remember that Germany had the least involvement in European colonization.
With sluggish economic growth and rising unemployment and homelessness the refugee population will certainly add to the economic burden. On the other hand if the refugees are left to live in ghettoes with living conditions at bare minimum they, like the Algerians in France, can become the recruiting ground for radical Islamists. All in all it is a tough choice for Europe.
Australian government after with reluctance has decided to take in 12,000 with preference for Christians and other minorities, which implies that the number of Muslims in that total will be a minimum. Paradoxically, Australia is too happy to join the U.S. to bomb a Muslim country but too unwilling to take in Muslim refugees.
In the midst of all this the pathetic attitude of the affluent Muslim nations such as Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States cannot be pardoned. At least they should be generous enough to open their national wallets to aid financially the settlement programs of European nations. After all, the Saudis, Iranians and the Sheiks from the Gulf are significant contributors to what is happening in Libya, Syria and other parts of the Muslim world. The sectarian violence that is raging in these countries and the extremist groups like the IS and Al-Qaeda to name only a couple, would not have arisen without the overt and covert support from the Sunni-Shia patrons. The rich countries stand condemned by the world community.
*Dr. Ameer Ali, School of Management and Governance, Murdoch University