Earlier today Betty Cracker wrote a very thoughtful post about the Syrian and Iraqi refugees. I had been planning on doing one as well and wanted to wait a bit so as not to step on her post. There are two things that I find really interesting about what is going: 1) the responses of the various EU states, including the responses of their citizens and 2) that the most potent informational weapon we have against ISIS is providing aid to the Syrian and Iraqi refugees.
I’m going to take these in reverse order, because the second one is (sort of) shorter. While ISIS’s theology/ideology/dogma is something of a mishmash of several revivalist and reactionary Islamic concepts, at its heart it seems to be based on tawheed. Tawheed, or the unitary nature of the Deity, was the core of the doctrinal teachings of Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab. At the time that he developed his doctrine of the unity of the Deity it was quite radical. Basically, it asserts that the Deity is completely one; that any form of intercessory prayer is therefore a denial of such unity and apostasy; that any form of adornment or adoration of great men/saints is a denial of unity and apostasy (hence the destruction of tombs and heritage sites); and living among apostates is forbidden requiring the devout believer to relocate to where tawheed is practiced and enforced.
Abdul Wahhab’s doctrine also included an extreme opposition to and distrust of Jews, Christians, Shi’a and Sufi Muslims, as well as all Sunni Muslims that did not accept tawheed. It was the combination of an inflexible understanding of apostasy, opposition to non Muwaheedun (unitarian) Muslims, as well as non-Muslims; and forced indoctrination of the tribes of the Najd (the Ikhwan – not the same as the Muslim Brothers) that led to the violence of the conquests of Ibn Saud.
One of ISIS’s major recruiting points is that Americans, Europeans, Jews, Christians, Iran, Shi’a, and non-Muwaheedun Muslims are all at war with the real Islam of tawheed. They use this as one of the informational tools to hook potential recruits. In a nutshell “you are surrounded by apostates and infidels; they are at war with you; and you can not trust them.” One of the best and most easily acceptable counters that we have to ISIS is to take in more Syrian and Iraqi refugees – the majority of whom will be Muslims. As a result providing aid, assistance, and refuge is not just doing good for those in need. It also provides us with a powerful informational antidote to counter ISIS’s recruiting pitches.
On to point #1. When the EU created the Schengen Accords in the mid 1980s the purpose was to push the border as far out as possible. By doing so the original EU member states, which are also its core, sought to make immigration issues the responsibility of the newer states to the East and Southeast, as well as the poorer states bordering the Mediterranean.* The EU security concern at the time, as posed in a number of publications, was that a common, single border made commerce easier, but also could lead to an increase in crime and terrorism. The Turk on Kurd guest worker violence in Germany helped to drive these concerns.
The basic idea was that if immigration controls for poorer immigrants or for asylum seekers was pushed to the periphery, then they would be dealt with there. Asylum requests would be made closer to point of entry rather than in the wealthier, original EU states in the North and West of the EU. This would keep refugees in the periphery and perhaps explains why Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia are all fighting against centrally set EU refugee quota requirements.
There was little to no data to support these concerns. In fact the EU didn’t even collect crime data from its member states into a single data repository. The only member state that seemed to be collecting this data for the entire EU was the UK for their own comparative crime research. Subsequent testing, using just basic correlations due to undifferentiated data, indicated that those EU states that granted more asylum requests actually had lower rates of crime and terrorism. This refuted the oft cited, but never empirically supported, security concern of immigrants to the EU being responsible for the majority of the crime and terrorism within the EU.
This basic empirical refutation of the popular belief among both European law enforcement and security professionals that more immigration is equivalent to more crime and terrorism is simply wrong. Though it is still widely believed and asserted; especially by the neo-fascist parties and movements. As a result I was very pleasantly surprised to see that a number of the core EU states are stepping up. Germany is on course to accept 800,000 refugees and Britain, after some internal and external pressure on the Cameron government, is going to take in an additional 20,000. Sweden has taken in about 80,000 and France 24,000. Reports of refugees being met and provided with supplies have been numerous, though marred by some of the recent anti-immigrant xenophobia that is part and parcel of the reemergence of far right and neo-fascist parties in different EU member states.
That so many of the citizens of the EU member states are willing to reach out and provide aid and refuge, as well as pressure their governments to take action, is a very positive sign. It is highly unlikely that it will actually pressure or shame the US into doing anything as we are going through one of our cyclical bouts of nativism and xenophobia partially fueled by us losing our societal mind as a result of 9-11 and still not having come to our senses. As a political science professor of mine once said: “there is nothing as dangerous as a democracy when it’s scared.” Despite a lot of tough talk, as a society, the US has been scared since 9-11 and this fear has contributed to the warping of our domestic and foreign policies.
* Specifically Chapter 7/The Construction of a Security Dilemma: Schengen, Immigration, Crime, and Terrorism by Adam L. Silverman and Melinda Negron.