Friday, April 8, 2016
The world is shuddering through its own Islamaphobia, accelerated by the Paris and Brussels attacks, the atrocities and outright genocide by Muslim extremists whom we call “terrorists” but who believe as passionately as did the medieval crusaders that they are on a sacred mission from God, and the strong cultural differences between most of the Middle East (and other primarily Muslim nations) and the West. Far and away, the bulk of the victims of this newfound terrorism are the residents of these mostly Muslim nations, but their religious, culinary, linguistic, forms of dress and often even educational differences are powerful wedges between “them and us.”
But we often forget that they are human, innocents including so many children, who have been caught-up in murderous conflicts, intentional and massive cruelty, witnessing atrocities that make professional soldiers throw up. They’ve witnessed random artillery shells, fragmentation bombs, poison gas, gangs of rapists, beheaders, mass exterminators descend upon their neighborhoods. They’ve watched as neighbors and family members have been tortured and killed, body parts strewn where shops and homes once stood… even seeing limbs lodged above them in trees and twisted buildings.
We speak of assimilation and acceptance of Western ways and values as they emerge from the horrors of their homelands, explosions still ringing in their ears, nightmares of horrific images haunting their lives and the recent memories of a journey to freedom that alone has claimed too many lives. They are sufficiently confused by the change and have not settled into their new roles, but anxious Westerns press their fears too. Yet the horrors of terrorism in the Western world are increasingly fomented, not by these terrified and desperate refugees, but by second and third generation European and American born identity-seeking Muslims who have been reared in the West with suspicion, often in hopeless ghettos. The “good citizen” Muslims, the vast majority, don’t make interesting reading, so sensationalism and opportunistic politicians who know that fear sells push the negative.
The evil of extremists can never be stressed enough. There can never be tolerance for such ultra-violence. But in confusing times, where economies in the West are horribly under-performing, incumbents do not favor in migration of new cultures with dangerous overtones into their Western-standard nations. It is a bit unfair to castigate Europe for its xenophobia, as it is being asked to bear the overwhelming brunt of proximate refugees desperate for safety, when our own politicians often act and sound worse.
But Europe has had enough. Shaking from the recent attacks, Europe has negotiated with border state Turkey for the expulsion of thousands of Middle Eastern refugees. The initial deportations have already begun. “The European Union began offloading its refugee crisis onto its Turkish neighbors [April 4th], sending back more than 200 migrants in the first stage of a plan to deport thousands that has drawn condemnation from human rights groups.
“The returns — carried out at dawn and under heavy security [pictured above] — were intended to send a powerful message to others considering the journey from Turkey to Greece via a smuggler’s rubber raft: Don’t even bother.
“But authorities braced for demonstrations or other forms of resistance from those being sent back only days after crossing the Aegean and arriving on European soil in search of a new life — part of a massive migrant wave that has tested Europe’s resources and highlighted the desperation to the east in war zones such as Syria…
“Under a deal struck with Turkey last month, all refugees and migrants who arrive on Greek shores aboard smugglers’ rafts from March 20 onward will be sent back.
“In return, the European Union has said it will accept one Syrian refugee from Turkey for every Syrian who is returned. Germany said [April 4th] that it had accepted its first several dozen Syrians flown from Turkey under the new program.
“And in a further attempt to discourage people from crossing on their own, those who are returned will be sent to the end of the line for possible European resettlement in the future.
“Europe still faces a mammoth challenge, however, in deporting the thousands of people who remain on the Greek islands. And unlike those deported [April 4th] — all of whom declined to apply for asylum, according to authorities — the vast majority of those still being held have sought legal protection in Europe.” Washington Post, April 4th. But then there are the others… who really do want a new, peaceful and safe life…
How would you feel being sent back to a hell where your life and the lives of your children have no value, where violent risks are a part of daily life? Most of us in the West have not witnessed such carnage in our lifetimes. We have no point of reference other than not wanting our daily routines challenged or threatened, however slightly. But if you close your eyes and try to picture what they have experienced, visualize where there is a very real risk that the moments you are currently experiencing may well be your last… listen to the horrifc sounds… what do you feel? Is the notion of Western hospitality, Christian charity and downright basic empathy that dead in our modern world?
I’m Peter Dekom, and I have known a lot of Muslims in my life (I am a U.S. Foreign Service brat who lived in Beirut as a child), and they remain real and cherished human beings to me… as they should to all of us.