Yes, I am alive, thank you for asking.
I have been away from this blog for two reasons. First, the little boy who hated the end of summer and going back to school is still alive and well inside the old man. I combat the corresponding end of summer melancholy by trying to cram outdoors activities into my life until the days become too short. Second, my hands hurt enough to keep me away from the keyboard most of the time. I am considering switching to one of the voice recognition softwares such as Dragon. I am not too worried about accuracy. Mostly, I don’t want to have to junk my old Samsung because of space requirements or some other software feature I don’t even know exists. I listen to advice from my betters (practically everybody in this case). Ideally – ideally – I would like a program that does more than one language.
I had much trouble writing the essay below because the topic of mass migrations has so many ramifications and because it touches so many different sensitive subjects. In a way, it’s just too rich a topic. And, the more I waited, the more complicated the situation became on the ground. Please, bear with me.
Like most or many people, I have observed with grief in my heart the fast-rolling disaster of the migrants crisis in Europe. I have several reactions, not all compatible with one another.
As I wrote, on about 9/5/15 Hungary was unaccountably preventing thousands of migrants from leaving its territory. This is strange because most of them don’t want to stay in Hungary; they want to go to Germany and to Sweden. Besides, Hungary, which is relatively poor, has a fairly big anti-immigrant political party, lots of voters who want as few immigrants inside as possible. A major Hungarian politician even declared that Hungary does not want any Muslim refugees because of its history of strife with the Ottoman Empire. Something does not add up: If you don’t want them, let them go elsewhere, even give them a lift! Later (09/14/15) Hungary built a fence to keep migrants out. Smart move!
What is confusing is that the current crisis is only in part new. We have heard for years, we have seen pictures of people drowning trying to reach the Italian island Lampedusa for a long time now. Three hundred and fifty drowned there in one 2103 day alone. This first European Union territory is only day-excursion distance from Tunisia. Several years ago, I saw pictures of hundreds of black Africans acting in concert to swamp the wall of Spanish enclaves in North Africa. The two enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla are also, practically, part of the European Union. I could tell from their appearance that the fence climbers were not Syrian families but sub-Saharan Africans. Some were from Senegal, a poor but peaceful and orderly country. So, there have always been illegal emigrants to Europe motivated by the search for better economic opportunity, people who left their countries not out of desperation but drawn by hope. This first category of migrants resembles closely immigrants from Mexico, for example, who daily come into the US illegally.
So, it seems to me that there are right now two main categories of migrants (would-be immigrants) that are intermixed on the ground and on the sea and that the American press is not doing a good job of separating them, conceptually. I am possibly getting a clearer picture by superimposing on one another American and French language reports. The new migrants, a recent category – are going to Europe because they feel that they literally have no place to live. They are properly refugees; they seek refuge in an absolute sense. This is the case, no doubt, with many Syrians. Their area of origin has been destroyed by the Assad government, much of the rest of their country is aflame or under the brutal tyranny of the so-called Islamic Caliphate. The livable areas are shrinking fast. Many belong to the wrong sect and are suspected of being natural enemies irrespective of their actions or inaction. They are not welcome in the shrinking areas of livability within their country or they are unable to reach them. From interviews in both English and French and from the quality of their clothes, I deduce that a large percentage of these new migrants are solidly middle-class, well educated, with defined skills. I mean “middle-class” by my standards, not middle-class by some other, lower exotic standards. The impression is strong and clear with respects to Syrians, less so for Iraqis.
Many Syrian migrants are young men who are simply trying to escape the draft in a murderous on-going war. (The fact that they are young and male has implications for the receiving countries that I hope to consider in a related essay, following.) But migrations are always complicated. Once the path is opened by the desperate refugees just described, once bridges are built, simple economic migrants of the old style who would not have thought of moving will join the exodus. Things will not sort themselves out soon. It will become increasingly difficult to separate real refugees from traditional, conventional economic migrants. Both target principally Western countries.
The new migrants from Syria, but also from Iraq, calculate, probably correctly, that their neighbors have reached the point where they can’t or won’t take them in. Lebanon and Jordan are groaning under a disproportionate demographic burden. Two out of eight residents of Lebanon today are recent Syrian refugees. The situation is more nebulous in Jordan but the figure there appears to be about one in ten. (Think of 32 million recent refugees in the US.) Many citizens of these countries of asylum think without being able to say it aloud that the fragile political ethnic-religious equilibrium of their countries is compromised forever. Turkey says it has taken in two million Syrians. It’s not that impressive given its population of 77 million. There is a possibility it’s not just the total number of refugees that gives Turkey cold feet but the prospect that those refugees will include many Kurds from Syria whose very presence will cause more unrest among the long rebellious Turkish Kurds.
The other neighbors of Syria and Iraq, its Arab neighbors, specifically, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, and the UAE, seem to have given away a lot of money but they show no sign of opening their doors. It’s astonishing when you think of the ease and safety with which refugees could reach there as compared to their perilous journey to Western Europe. It’s even more interesting that there seems (seems) to be no great clamor from refugees to be admitted into these prosperous countries anyway. It appears that there is a consensus among Muslim Arabs: Muslim Arab refugees are not welcome in most Muslim Arab countries and they don’t want to go there anyway. Interesting! The new migrants, the real refugees believe, probably correctly too, that refugee camps in the Middle East lead nowhere, that they are still going to be there in twenty years. And, why not? Some Palestinian refugee camps are now reaching age seventy. Iraqis are in the same situation. Afghans who are the right kind of Muslim (Sunni) but who don’t speak Arabic don’t even try to go there. Instead, like everyone else, like Syrians and Iraqis, they head for Germany and Sweden because most of them are fluent in German or in Swedish or both. (Just a bitter joke.)
It’s not clear what the other neighbor, Iran, is doing. I am guessing it’s taking in Afghans in the east, same as it has done for twenty years. A country with a population size similar to that of Turkey – and of Germany, by the way – 78 million, appears to have opened its doors to no (zero) Syrian refugees. There are Iraqis living there but it’s always been so; it’s not a humanitarian response to the current crisis.
No one is asking why India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Malaysia, with over 600 million Muslims between them, have not offered asylum to 10,000 Middle East refugees, or even to 5,000. No one even dare think the thought that China, Japan, and, of course Russia, have done nothing. The Pope has drawn attention loudly and clearly to the plight of the Middle Eastern refugees. The Vatican is an independent sovereign state with the legal capability to issue visas. I have been there: There are many underused buildings and extensive gardens suitable for a tent city. The Vatican city-state already possesses all the requisite municipal services. Yet, to-date, the Vatican has taken in zero refugees although its head of state, the Pope, has urged Catholic families and parishes everywhere to open their door. Like fish, organizations rot from the head.
Notably, so far, the US has announced that it will take only 10,000 Syrians. (But in the past twenty years, the US absorbed about 70% of all defined as refugees by the UN who did find asylum. We have credibility money in the bank, so to speak.) As I write, no country of Latin America – with its surprisingly large minority of Arab descendants who enjoy much influence – has made any significant offer. Perhaps, the countries of the Western Hemisphere are too far removed from the scene of the main disaster to be prompt. We will find out in the next few days.
It’s now obvious that compassion, simple humanity is disproportionately lodged in the West, that is, in Christian and in formerly Christian societies. Not all such societies are helping but the bulk of those now helping concretely right now, except for Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey (see above) are such countries.
The refugees themselves know this, and are stalwartly heading for Western European countries – that have experienced mediocre economic growth for many years – in preference to non-European countries routinely growing at more than 6% for years. So, China and India are not taking them in which is fine because they don’t want to go there anyway. Japan has not even begun to think about it. The refugees have not asked anything from Japan. It might just as well be on another planet. Again: Refugees are trying desperately to find room in Western societies that are not even doing very well themselves, Greece, of course, but also Italy, and Spain, and France, with its rate of economic growth that may well reach 0.6 % this year, the French hope fervently. (Incidentally, it was a pleasure seeing the French Socialist government, that paragon of solidarité shamed into giving a hand by a German conservative politician. It had not lifed a finger until then. Sorry if you missed it.)
What politically correct opinion in the West does not want to say too loud is also obvious: most, almost all of the migrants are Muslims. To admit this obvious fact forces you to ask what happened. The migrant crisis is a dramatic manifestation of the widespread institutional, economic and moral failure of Muslim societies. In fact, voices of conscience in the Arab world have been more forthcoming in their remarks than have Western commentators. (And no, I am not using “Muslim” and “Arab” interchangeably. Don’t insult me, please. There may also be non-Arab Muslim voices denouncing Muslim passivity toward the crisis that I have missed. I welcome responsible additions to this essay.)
Muslim societies with one big exception (Indonesia) and several small ones (Senegal, Mauritania, etc.) have been generous in their provision of war, massacres, ethnic cleansing, and other atrocities. They have mostly failed to provide work for their young. Those that don’t sit on a cushion of hydrocarbons rarely display economic growth surpassing their demographic growth. The resource rich states are well, dependent, on factors which they cannot control, on capricious facts that discourage both collective and individual planning. Only a handful, literally a handful, of Muslim countries has been able to sustain anything resembling a democracy, any form of democracy, even using the term loosely. With the exception of Indonesia again, the most stable, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, but also Algeria, are old fashioned despotic states. When it comes to charity, the care of those more unfortunate, assistance to brethren in distress, the Muslim world is a straightforward disaster although such care and such assistance are explicit moral obligations under Islam. Muslim societies are failures on most counts. Important fractions of their populations are on a perilous march seeking a new life in the Crusaders’ heartland.
The shame, the hypocrisy!
I know, I know, it must all be America’s fault. I will have to write a part two to this essay.
11 thoughts on “Hypocrisy!”
Jacques, not sure Indonesia has quite a good record as you’re suggesting. In its short history (as far as I’m aware there is no equivalent for the Indonesian state before Dutch colonisation, though Java which I believe had a history as a monarchical state before the Dutch has a kind of core role), since 1948, it has conducted a massacre of hundreds of thousands, as the consequence ıf a coup in 1965 which forestalled a planned Communist coup and overthrew the independence and third worldist hero , Sukarno, replacing him with Suharto. Suharto conducted an invasion of East Timor in 1973 when Portuguese authority collapsed there following a leftist revolution in Portugal itself. The Indonesian invasion has been widely reported to have led to the death of one third of the East Timor population. Other horrors include the forcible incorporation of the western part of New Guinea, and a nasty counter-insurgency war there. Balancing all the Muslim horrors, I’m pretty sure all the major Christian nations have engaged in many horrors. I think your main point anyway is that now Muslim societies are not functioning well compared with the western states, none of which have a majority Muslim heritage and that is reasonable, though there are perhaps some grey areas, e.g. is Turkey worse than Russia as a society and political system, now or in history?
“No one is asking why India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Malaysia, with over 600 million Muslims between them, have not offered asylum to 10,000 Middle East refugees, or even to 5,000.”
“Pakistan hosts almost 1.5 million registered Afghan refugees – still the largest protracted refugee population globally. Since 2002, UNHCR has facilitated the return of 3.8 million registered Afghans from Pakistan.”
There are a lot of things Pakistan should be doing, but taking in more refugees is not one of them. Once you take in as many refugees as Pakistan has taken in, get a free pass on taking in anymore. The demand to take in refugees is then replaced by the demand to clean up the mess created by the several million refugees you let in. That’ll take maybe 50 years. Perhaps Pakistan can hit “reset” in the year 2065 and the demands can begin anew.
I do like the idea of having the refugees go to Saudi Arabia or the Gulf States.The fragile political ethno-religious equilibrium of such states would definitely be compromised. And think about how much easier it would be for the refugees to do the pilgrimage! I somehow doubt that King Salman is thinking along these lines, however.
Barry: Indonesia has a functioning democracy right now. France has a functioning democracy right now, notwithstanding the Vichy regime.
Turkey is not worse than Russia in terms of political institutions. It sure seems to be moving away though.
Irwan: Pakistan has not offered to take in Middle Eastern refugees.
1,5 million Afghan refugees is much less than 1% of the Pakistani population. It’s a smaller percentage than Germany will have taken in in the next year.
Of course, King Salman does not want a bunch of uprooted Syrians. It’s another demonstration of Muslim solidarity. Irony does not change anything to the basic facts.
Within months, Sweden, with one third of the population, will have accepted many more refugees than Saudi Arabia.
How can Muslims live with this?
With all due respect, that’s a ridiculous response. First of all, the 1.5 million figure is the number of Afghan refugees currently in Pakistan, not the total it’s taken in. If 1.5 million currently exist in Pakistan and 3.8 million have been repatriated to Afghanistan, we’re really talking about upwards of 5 million refugees. Since many refugees avoid census counts, we’re really talking about 5+ million where the + represents a large, if unknown number. I don’t think a developing country with a record of this kind can be criticized as inhospitable to refugees. Nor does it make any sense to expect such a country to take in any more.
Incidentally, India is not a Muslim majority country, but I would say the same thing about India as I say about Pakistan. India accepted 2.6 million refugees in the wake of 1971 East-West Pakistan War. After a gesture of that kind, I would say that a country discharges its refugee obligations. India can barely take care of the people currently living there. The idea that it can handle a couple of million more destitute people is almost too silly to be worth discussing.
Your irony detector doesn’t seem to have detected the fact that I was non-ironically agreeing with you about Saudi Arabia and the Gulf. Those are rich countries that can afford to do more (much more). I was disagreeing about Pakistan. If Muslims can live with the likes of King Salman, they obviously have a high threshold of tolerance for bad things. But it defies purely secular commonsense to insist that a country like Pakistan (or India) should be taking in any more refugees, or has any kind of obligation to do so.
Evading the fact that Pakistan took in 5+ million Afghan refugees, and focusing on the fact that none of those refugees are “Middle Eastern” doesn’t change the unreasonableness of your demand. Nor does it help your case that you think that Pakistan can be compared with Germany while abstracting from the obvious political differences between the two countries. A few obvious examples: There is no civil war in Germany (Pakistan has at least two simultaneous civil wars going), the temperature doesn’t hover for long periods in the 100s in Germany, and there aren’t rolling blackouts in German cities for 12 hours a day. The water in Germany is drinkable, Germany isn’t infested with dengue mosquitoes, and its human development rating isn’t 141 out of 182 rated countries. It seems to me relatively obvious that these facts are relevant to the refugee-worthiness of a country.
I know that you’re trying to make a clever rhetorical point about Muslims and their lack of solidarity. I don’t disagree with the fact that they lack it, but you’re making that claim at the price of absurdity: it makes no sense to send refugees to a place that is just about as bad as the place they’re fleeing, and where their chances of premature death and disease skyrocket in predictable ways. Nor does it make the least sense for Pakistan’s leaders to invite Syrian refugees to Pakistani shores–unless the point is to get a lot of Syrian refugees killed, and then, in the name of Islamic solidarity, to give them all a proper Islamic burial.
@delacroixjacques Jacques, Erdoğan is trying to be a Putin in Turkey, but the opposition is still very independent of the state and won more votes than the AKP (governing party) at the last election in June. They look set to do so at the re-run election in November despite Erdoğan’s attempts at polarisation and chaos. The opposition weakness is that thee second opposition party is leftist Kurdish rights and the third opposition party is rightist Turkish nationalist, so opposed it’s impossible to see them in government together or even part of a common majority in the National Assembly. So a government in Turkey very likely has to be be an AKP plus one opposition party coalition. Anyway, there Putinist drift in Turkey has stopped despite Erdoğan’s nasty tricks, he has failed to destroy the opposition and create satellite ‘opposition’ parties as Putin has. We can agree that Indonesia and France are currently democracies now, though you don’t have to go very far back for dictatorship/one party state system in Indonesia, established during the time that France was getting used to de Gaulle’s second coming.
@Irfan Khawaja Irfan, very useful information, but you are arguing as if refugees are economic deadweight. If they appear to be so that is because they are kept out of the normal economy in refugee camps. Presuming refugees have full rights to work, invest and so on then they are no more a deadweight on the economy than the existing population. Therefore it is perfectly rational to hope Pakistan and India will take more refugees/migrants just as it is perfectly rational to hope Germany and other European states will do the same. It is of course good that you drew our attention to the numbers of refugees that have been accepted in India and Pakistan, but this is not evidence that they are ‘full’ and can’t accept more.
[…] and Barry both have excellent posts on current events in Europe and the Near East (Jacques has a related post); be sure to scroll through all the comments in their respective […]
I share your mixed emotions on this crisis. The economies in so many countries are devastated. The government will want to expand to take care of the refugee crisis, and will not shrink once the crisis is over.
It will cost much money to care for these people.
At one point in our histories, our families were more than likely immigrants or refugees. Where does one draw the line? Good post, my friend. You are a man of great compassion.
Irwan: Cool it. I seldom try to make clever rhetorical points. I am too lazy for this and I would mostly fail. I just try to unravel complex situations in disregard of accepted wisdom and the new sensitivity dictated by silly liberals.
The point about Pakistan having taken, in the past, up to five million refugees is irrelevant except in a sort of abstract moral calculus: “We did our bit yesterday; leave us alone today.” The rest of your reasons are good, concrete: Pakistan is not in a good position to take in many refugees from the Middle East today because it’s a failed society. Of course, you could accuse me of having made idle small talk there because the Middle Eastern Refugees are not desperate enough to look in that direction anyway. What a verdict!
Of course, I endorse Barry’s comment: Refugees remain a dead weight forever if you keep them in camps . Cuban refugees sure a hell played a prominent role in reviving south Florida. Or didn’t they?
Irwan: If you line up more reasons like these, you will end up explaining why (at the risk of repeating myself) it’s perfectly normal for Muslims to risk life and limb (and newly, their very freedom) to try and live in the historical homeland of the Crusades. Where, next, Israel?
I am aware of the fact that no one really know how many of the refugees are real Muslims. I am working on a companion piece that will deal with this issue. I look forward to your re-setting my clock there too.
[…] a companion essay, “Hypocrisy!,” I pointed out that there was a good fit of preferences between the current crop of refugees […]
[…] him to try to improve his attitude.) This is what happened: NOL re-published two of my essays “Hypocrisy” and “Muslim Refugees in Perspective” where I asserted (again) that many Muslim societies are […]