Fred Maroun
A believer in peace and human dignity

The Syrian refugees and the question we dare not ask

Last week I listened to a radio call-in show where Canadian Muslim voters were asked why they vote in lesser proportions than other Canadians. One seemingly educated man who spoke very good English explained that he did not vote because “all parties support war against ISIS (Daesh), and that is creating the refugee crisis.”

That short sentence has been haunting me ever since; in it, the caller managed to make several obviously erroneous claims:

  • That all Canadian parties support military engagement against Daesh. In fact only the Conservative Party, currently in power, supports it while other parties propose other measures, such as humanitarian aid. This claim indicates that the caller opposes any hostility towards Daesh (obviously all Canadian parties denounce Daesh), not just military action.
  • That Canadian parties support war. In fact, Canada and other countries that are part of the U.S.-led coalition fighting Daesh became engaged military against Daesh three years after the Syrian civil war started, and their objective (regardless of how much one might disagree with their methods or their timing) is to stop the violence, not to wage war.
  • That Canada’s involvement created the refugee crisis. In fact, the number of Syrian refugees had reached about 2.5 million before Canada’s military involvement.

The caller who has been living in Canada for a while (a requirement to become a citizen) and who is obviously not isolated from Canadian society (since he listens to a mainstream radio show in English) has clearly not adopted Canadian mainstream thinking, and he likely receives most of his news from non-Western sources. Even more worrying is the fact that he appears to have strong sympathies for Daesh, one of the most evil organizations of modern times.

Unfortunately, this case is not isolated. A recent opinion poll indicates that “42 per cent of Canadian Muslims believe the contrast between the West and Islamic cultures was irreconcilable.” A report by Times of Israel indicates that despite being welcomed into the West, many Syrian refugees still firmly hold anti-Semitic views and believe that Israel is the “enemy #1”. Anti-Semitic attitudes in Europe are already at a peak not reached since the rise of Nazism. What will be the effect of the addition of massive numbers of mostly-Muslim refugees in the West?

Germany has already accepted almost one million Syrian refugees, and Western countries are pressured to take in much higher numbers than they already have. As the Washington Post reported, “The Arab world’s wealthiest nations are doing next to nothing for Syria’s refugees”, and with Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey having already taken in large numbers, the West had no choice but to step in. It is the humanitarian thing to do, and it is the right thing to do. The world turned away Jewish refugees while Nazi Germany was massacring Jews; such horrific callousness towards people in need cannot be repeated, but that does not mean that the West is ready to absorb many refugees who have been brainwashed for generations to hate Jews, Israel, and even the West.

For this absorption to be successful and not damage our liberal values that are already under threat, we must be more forceful and blunt in defending those values. Freedom of religion is sacrosanct, but idiocy is not a religion. While the West prepares to spend billions on settling the refugees, it must also be prepared to spend money fighting regressive social attitudes held too often by the refugees. Pseudo-religious traditions, such as the wearing of the niqab or burqa, female genital mutilation, and anti-Semitism, must be fought ruthlessly.

In the radio show, no one challenged the caller’s pro-Daesh comment, and instead one of the hosts tried to convince him that he should vote for the party that is closest to his beliefs! Such gutless attitudes cannot continue if we are to preserve the liberal democratic values that we cherish. Taking in refugees is the easy part. The real test will be whether we preserve the moral values that caused us to accept refugees in the first place.


Note on 2015/09/17: The comment about the victims of the Holocaust should not be taken to imply similarity between the victims of the Holocaust and the Syrian refugees.


About the Author
Fred Maroun is a Canadian of Arab origin who lived in Lebanon until 1984, including during 10 years of civil war. Fred supports Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state and to defend itself. Fred supports a liberal and democratic Middle East where all religions and nationalities co-exist in peace with each other, and where human rights are respected. Fred is an atheist, a social liberal, and an advocate of equal rights for LGBT people everywhere.
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