The West Faces a Refugee Dilemma
Bassam Michael Madany
As Western Europe endeavors to deal with the flood of Muslim migrants coming from the Middle East and Africa, it would be helpful to grasp this new phenomenon from the perspective of 1400 years of Islamic history.
Islam spread by Futuhat (the Arabic term for Conquests). Muslims glory in military exploits that gave them mastery of the Middle East, North Africa, and the Iberian Peninsula just 100 years after the death of Muhammad in 632 AD. The conquests continued unabated for over 1000 years under various Islamic regimes, especially under the Ottoman Turks, who embraced Islam and succeeded in bringing about the end of the Eastern Roman Empire in 1453, when Constantinople was conquered after a long siege. The Turkish conqueror of the city, which was renamed Istanbul, is celebrated as Muhammad the Conqueror.
The siege of Vienna in 1529 (only 12 years after the beginning of the Protestant Reformation) was repeated 150 years later. Its failure marked the beginning of the weakening of this Islamic Empire. By the 19th Century several areas of Eastern and Central Europe that had been under Ottoman rule began to break away. Greece, Bulgaria, Serbia, Slovakia, Romania, Hungary, and parts of Russia were once parts of the Ottoman Empire. This fact is not well known in the Western world.
For several years I taught a semester course on “Middle East History since the Rise of Islam” at Trinity Christian College in Palos Heights, near Chicago, Illinois. What often surprised me was that students who had graduated from high school and had already been in college for two years knew so little about Islam. Sad to say, the historical facts about Islam are not being disseminated properly in the West!
For example, in the spring of 2001, PBS stations in the United States telecast a documentary called “Islam: Empire of Faith,” which was then repeated in January of 2002. The documentary was filled with propaganda rather than accurate information about the spread of Islam. It is ironic if not tragic, that between these two dates the terrorist attack on the United States took place in September of 2001. One would have expected that a re-broadcast of this disinformation about Islam after that horrific event would not have taken place.
The very title of “Islam Empire of Faith” is also historically inaccurate, and the juxtaposition of “Empire” and “Faith” is illogical. No empire, beginning with the Assyrian Empire and all the way down to the modern era, has spread by faith, unless is was referring specifically to the ardent faith of the Muslim conquerors “engaged in Jihad in the Pathway of Allah.” It should be noted that both European and American scholars participated in the narration. One of the most unbelievable narratives dealt with “The Ottoman Institution of the Devshirme.”
This institution was begun by the Ottoman rulers in Eastern Europe. Every year a detachment of Turkish military soldiers would descend on a Christian town or village, stopping first at the Orthodox Church. They would request the priest to produce the baptismal list, and they would look for the names and addresses of boys who had been baptized and would have reached the age of five. Their goal was to take away these young boys from their families and bring them to the Turkish mainland where they were Islamized and later enrolled in the elite army corps of the Janissaries, who fought for the expansion of the Ottoman rule. I was stupefied when an American professor narrating that part of the documentary described this inhuman tradition with a tone of full approval, and a face that manifested no sorrow whatsoever that the Ottomans “recruited Christian children.” Was “recruited” the proper term to use here? What a blatant camouflage of an evil system that lasted so long in Eastern Europe and that has left scars on its inhabitants to this very day.
ISLAM AND THE REST
Islamic legal authorities have divided the world into two realms: Dar al-Islam (the household of Islam), and Dar al-Harb (the household of war). Dar el-Islam is that part of the world which is completely under the rule of Islam, but that may be expanded through warfare. Non-Muslim lands belong to the Household of War and may be invaded and made an integral part of the Household of Islam.
Throughout history, Muslims, Muslims lived within their own territories. Once they conquered a land it must remain Islamic, and if lost, it must be regained. This explains the vigorous Islamic resistance to the Crusades during the early years of the second millennium. To Muslims, Conquista (Conquests) are always right, while Reconquista (recovering lands held by Muslims) as took place in Spain and Portugal in 1492, is still lamented centuries later! Muslims in Andalusia, who did not accept Catholicism, were evicted from the newly reconquered lands.
It is important therefore, to realize that the presence of large Muslim communities in Dar al-Harb is a new phenomenon that began after the Second World War. Due to the loss of manpower in Europe after two world wars, along with the failure to reproduce demographically, it became necessary to “import” manpower from elsewhere. France opened its doors to people form its former colonies in North Africa, Britain encouraged migrants from India, Pakistan, and Southeast Asia. Germany invited Turks, their old allies from the First World War, to work in its factories. Vast numbers of Muslim migrants settled in the Netherlands, Belgium, Austria and Scandinavia.
In the early stages of this migration, only men were allowed to come and work in the host countries. This policy was abandoned as wives and families of the “guest workers” were later included in the migration process. This explains the rise of Muslim areas in the big cities of Europe, which they claim as their own.
During the last 75 years enough facts have been accumulated that should not be ignored. Non-Muslims who have settled in the West have assimilated since nothing in their cultural baggage was antithetical to Western traditions. However, this has not been the case with Muslim migrants!
The first generation Muslims in the West did not make political demands on their host countries; but second and third generation Muslims insisted on keeping their Islamic way of life. They don’t hesitate to make demands on Western societies expecting them to restrict freedoms of speech and of expression, such as in the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris in 2014.
I was prompted to write this article after reading an article by Salem Ben Ammar, a Tunisian scholar who lives in France and who seeks to modernize his fellow Muslims in Tunisia. Early in September 2015, he contributed a brief article entitled: “Le problème avec les migrants musulmans: réfugiés d’un jour conquérants pour toujours” (The Problem with Muslim Migrants: Refugees for one Day; Conquerors for All Time).
Here are some pertinent quotes from Ben Ammar’s article:
“The challenge we face above all is how to deal with the arrival of masses of people whose values have been formed by an imperialistic and ultra-reactionary worldview. As Muslims they have no respect except for the laws of their own religion, with the ultimate goal of imposing them on the societies that have welcomed them! In the final analysis, their allegiance can only be to the Islamic Umma (worldwide Islamic community).” [Translation mine]
Taking all the above mentioned factors, I conclude that the end result of the influx of thousands of Muslim migrants into Western Europe will eventually lead to the weakening of the countries where they have settled. At the moment they look only for shelter, food, their future and that of their children. But as Muslims always cling to their religious identity and traditions, as we have learned from the last 65 to 70 years from the presence of large Muslim communities in Western Europe and North America, we must give serious attention to the unintended consequences of this event.
How should Christians approach this problem? We certainly face a dilemma. We cannot ignore the plight of fellow human beings who are on the march, fleeing from oppressive regimes and unending civil wars. And yet we cannot ignore the cost to the host countries.
This phenomenon is quite different from the plight of refugees in the Second World War. Millions of Germans from East Prussia, which was annexed to Poland, had to settle in West Germany. As far as the remnant of the Jewish Holocaust is concerned, their home became the newly created state of Israel. It must be noted that both Germans and Jews settled within lands of a similar culture. As we noted above, this is not the same for Muslims who settled in the West.
The unending wave of mostly Muslim migrants flooding Europe is a new phenomenon which is catching the West by surprise. To date it is being dealt with in an ad hoc manner without considering the consequences. Personally, I have no easy solution to this dilemma. That these refugees need shelter as well as the necessities of daily life is not debatable. However, to find a sizable migration of people from the Middle East and Africa whose worldview is totally different from that of the host countries would inevitably have unintended consequences which cannot be considered as salutary. To ignore the problem would only postpone a realistic solution, or to use a newly invented adage: “To kick the can down the road.”
Post Script (October, 2015)
I wrote this article in September; it dealt primarily with the long-range consequences of the flow of Muslim migrants from the Middle East to Europe. Since then, more information has become available on the short-term impact of this unsettling phenomenon in several parts of Western Europe, specifically Germany. Last month, I remember seeing photos taken near the Hungarian border where migrants were seeking to get to Germany. Placards appeared such as “We Love Mother Merkel” and other similar clichés, both in English and in Arabic. Somehow, rumors had gotten to them prior to their leaving Syria and other areas of the Middle East that once they managed to get into Germany, all would be fine. Germany was that generous “Mother” that would welcome them with shelter and with jobs in its thriving factories. Unfortunately for both migrants and German citizens, things are not rosy at all. On 9 October, 2015, Spiegel Online reported the following:
“Ingolstadt's Stadttheater is typically a place for light entertainment. At the end of the month, for example, the theater will be staging "Tartuffe," Molière's comedy about religion and hypocrisy during the period of French absolutism. But last Wednesday, the 85 municipal politicians from Bavaria who gathered there were in no mood for fun. They were there for a meeting with Bavarian Governor Horst Seehofer and to report to him about how their communities are handling the many refugees who are currently flowing into Bavaria across the state's border with Austria.
“Unsurprisingly, the complaints began immediately. One participant complained that capacity had been reached while others vented their anger with Austria for simply waving the refugees through to Germany. Ultimately, though, the spotlight was shone squarely on Angela Merkel and her refusal thus far to place an upper limit on the number of migrants Germany could accept.”
To emphasize the gravity of the situation in Germany, the same issue of the journal carried a guest-editorial by Germany's foreign minister and vice chancellor, both of whom are from the center-left Social Democrats. They argued that Germany cannot accept an unlimited number of refugees. Here are a few opening lines from the editorial:
“What do we owe those who are threatened by war and violence? What and how much can we ultimately handle? At what point do we reach limits of what we can endure? Each of these questions is a legitimate one. But if the debate only runs between two poles -- "We can do it" on the one side and "The boat is full" on the other -- then the issue of refugees will split our society. We need an honest discussion about realistic approaches.”
Most likely the debate will go on, both in Germany and in the rest of Western Europe. This problem cannot be solved easily; it only points out that rather than enjoying a “New World Order” we are witnessing an unprecedented “New World Disorder” of a great magnitude that affects our entire globalized and inter-dependent world!