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Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Syrian Refugees – A Case of European NIMBY But An Understandable One

Why is it so surprising that European governments are wary of opening their doors to Middle Eastern and African migrants, most of whom are Muslim? Long before boats from Libya started crossing the Mediterranean, conservative political parties in France, Denmark, and elsewhere were warning of social destabilization and erosion of a millennia-old Christian culture.  France’s Marine Le Pen has gained prominence and electoral support because of her stand against immigration and her calls have resonated with more and more French.

Marine Le Pen


France has had a large Algerian population for decades and in recent years has seen an influx of immigrants from French-speaking West Africa.  These populations have lived in relative social and economic isolation the Northern suburbs, have become restive and belligerent; and the French government, wedded to ‘We are all French’ have been at a loss as to what to do.

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Muslim separatism within France has been an even more troubling phenomenon.  Largely because of France’s negligent if not dismissive attitude towards minority African populations, and in light of the insignificant economic gains made in their new, secular home, Muslims have cried ‘Enough’, and turned to religion, Sharia Law, and cultural isolation.  France, unlike the more tolerant US and UK, became even more insistent on its idea of égalité and banned the head scarf, insisted on ignoring minority interests and demands, and hoped that French culture would automatically assimilate all comers.

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As a result the French Muslim community – the largest in Europe – is angry, resentful, and dismissive of secularism.  In turn the native French community is increasingly hostile to a group whose solidarity defies French tradition, whose religious principles go against the grain of liberal democracy, and whose dismissiveness of French history and culture rankles.

The French can be forgiven for thinking of Roncesvalles as thousands of Muslims pour into Europe today.  It was Roland and Charlemagne, after all, who in 778 saved France from the heathen hordes. It was France who led the European First Crusade to liberate Jerusalem from the Muslim armies who had killed, raped, and pillaged Christian settlements; and to re-establish Christian hegemony over the region.  It was France which brought civilization to North and West Africa through colonization and fought bloody wars to maintain it.

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Americans criticize France and other countries of the EU for their lack of humanitarian charity and their desultory response to the plight of Syrian refugees. Yet we have none of Europe’s history, no patrimony to defend, to nationalism that goes back over a thousand years. We have been a nation of immigrants, so why the fuss?

Yet America has promised to take a scant 10,000 immigrants and we are sure to screen them extremely carefully.  Syrian passports are a dime a dozen these days, and there can be no doubt that Islamic terrorists will use this rare and unexpected generosity to their advantage. 

Much of the world calls us hypocrites of the worst order.  If it hadn’t been for the disastrous war in Iraq, the ignorant prosecution of Taliban in Afghanistan, the destabilizing support of so-called ‘democratic’ regimes during the Arab Spring, the anti-realpolitik policy of challenging Assad, Qaddafi, and the Egyptian military, there would be no refugee crisis.

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If one is to believe spokesmen of the Republican Party, the United States has a serious immigration problem. According to them illegal immigrants are taking American jobs, going on welfare, and forming anti-mainstream cultural enclaves and must be stopped. More reasonable observers look at the balance sheet, find that immigrants contribute more to the economy than they take from public coffers; integrate within one generation; and are here to work.

Wherever the truth may lie, the main point is that we have no idea what a real immigration problem is.  Our immigrants are Western Christians who have come to work, who supply a source of labor that is in great demand, and without whom lawns would not get mown, burgers would not get flipped, and lettuce would be $10 a pound. Muslim immigrants to Europe, recently radicalized and convinced of the value of religious and cultural separatism, are a different story altogether. They are as foreign as can be and defiantly proud of it.

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Europeans and Americans are proud of their tradition of liberal democracy, and we in particular feel the importance of exporting it to the rest of the world.  The rest of the world doesn’t appreciate this evangelism and American exceptionalism and feel that not only is our democracy broken, but even if it were working, they wouldn’t want it. God’s law has always trumped Man’s and never more than today when the Satanic forces of evil do not come from the Muslim world, but from America itself.

France, despite itself, is on its way to American pluralism and a multi-ethnic state; and the French don’t like it. The botched integration decades ago and are now suffering the consequences.  Thousands more Muslims, who might enter France as simple, moderate, needy families, would certainly become radicalized and dangerous.

Germany has been more tolerant and accepting of Muslim immigrants because of their history.  First, they are still expunging the guilt of their Nazi past. Second, the many Turks who live in Germany came during the secular period initiated by Ataturk and assimilated far more easily than the Algerians in France. Third, Germany, Europe’s economic powerhouse has a serious labor shortage because of one of the lowest birth rates in Europe.  It is not surprising, then, that most immigrants want to go to Germany and Germans seem to be happy to let them in.  Enough is enough, said Angela Merkel this week (September 15, 2015) and the doors are not closing.  A few Muslims are OK apparently, but all of them?

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A number of observers have criticized Eastern Europe for refusing to take refugees. Given Poland’s anti-Semitic history, they, like Germany should be welcoming needy refugees. But Poland is one of the most homogeneous societies in Europe – white, Christian, and growing middle class.  Why should they rock the boat? Why should they open themselves to the problems that Western Europe has faced?  Diversity has a price, and the Poles don’t want to pay it. Neither do the Czechs or Slovaks.

Denmark had its Charlie Hebdo in 2005 when a popular newspaper printed cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad and violent protests among the Muslim community shocked the tolerant Danes.  The Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh was murdered by Muslim extremists angry over his treatment of Islam and equally shocked – but also mobilized the Dutch population.  Both countries had their comeuppance for its religious and ethnic tolerance.

In conclusion, it is not hard to see why there is so much concern about this new, seemingly unstoppable wave of Muslim immigrants from Syria, Afghanistan, and Africa. It is all well and good to respond to the crisis with humanitarian sentiments; but countries are not wrong in assuming that their societies and governments will be destabilized.

It is likely that sooner rather than later, these new, largely inassimilable Muslim migrants will become as restive, demanding, and radicalized as their brothers in France, Denmark, and Holland.  Right wing parties will gain power and influence in Germany as well as in France, Holland, and Denmark; anti-immigrant policies and draconian measures to expel them will be put into place; the Muslim world will be even more hostile towards Europe; and the chaos in the Middle East will only get worse.

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      Denmark’s Kristian Thulesen Dahl www.slate.com

Poland and other culturally homogeneous countries which are refusing migrants should not be criticized for racism, xenophobia, or worse.  They are simply taking a hard but realistic look at the divisive if not corrosive effect that Muslim immigrants have had in much of Europe.

The case of the UK is important.  Five percent of the population is Muslim, most of whom have lived well and prospered. Most of these Muslims are Bangladeshis and Pakistanis who came to the UK decades ago and did not bring with them any of the radicalism that took root in France, Denmark, and Holland.  The brand of Islam in South Asia has been qualitatively different from that of the Middle East and North Africa. There has been, therefore, an accommodating attitude on the part of government regarding citizens of its former colonies; and a reasonable economic satisfaction on the part of South Asians. Much of the NHS, for example, is staffed by South Asians.

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Yet Britain is wary of taking in Muslims from regions which have been beset by religious radicalism, ethnic conflict, and terrorism. Like Germany and its Turks, the UK has seemingly done well by its Indians, Pakistanis, and Bangladeshis and would prefer to leave it that way.

Racism? Religious prejudice? Ethnic hostility? Hardly.  The UK, like the US has long ago adopted an inclusive, assimilative policy towards immigrants; but they cannot be compared with the countries of continental Europe which have a far different history.

What to do? Wherever migrants first settle, they will all quickly go to Germany where they wanted to migrate in the first place. Germany will refuse, and political unrest will begin in original host countries.  Individual countries are rejecting directives from the EU and are refusing to give up their sovereignty – a tendency which will further erode the union itself.

Blockades might work, but would be considered inhumane.  Settlement of the war in Syria would help, but it is unlikely any time soon. Massive investment in originating countries? Foreign aid has always been misused, misappropriated, and stolen.

There are no easy solutions; but in the short-term, countries will simply shut their doors and wait to see what happens.

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