The two “ghost ships” discovered sailing towards the Italian coast last week with hundreds of migrants – but no crew – on board are just the latest symptom of what experts consider to be the world’s largest wave of mass-migration since the end of the second world war.
Wars in Syria, Libya and Iraq, severe repression in Eritrea, and spiralling instability across much of the Arab world have all contributed to the displacement of around 16.7 million refugees worldwide.
A further 33.3 million people are “internally displaced” within their own war-torn countries, forcing many of those originally from the Middle East to cross the lesser evil of the Mediterranean in increasingly dangerous ways, all in the distant hope of a better life in Europe.
“These numbers are unprecedented,” said Leonard Doyle, spokesman for the International Organisation for Migration. “In terms of refugees and migrants, nothing has been seen like this since world war two, and even then [the flow of migration] was in the opposite direction.”
If I read his point correctly, the “displaced persons” to whom he refers are those Jews who survived a nearly-global effort at their extermination. But let’s not dwell on that now.
“We know people who died – they used to live with us,” said Qassim, a Syrian refugee in Egypt who now wants to reach Europe. “But we will try again to cross the sea because there’s no life for us Syrians here.”
In Egypt, up to 300,000 refugees from the Syrian war were initially welcomed with open arms. But after Cairo’s sudden regime change in summer 2013, the atmosphere turned drastically, leading to rampant xenophobia against Syrians and increased arrests and detentions of those who, for understandable reasons, did not carry the correct residency paperwork.
The situation is even worse in Jordan and in Lebanon, which now houses more than 1 million Syrian refugees – more than a fifth of the country’s total population.
Those cheerleaders out there who told us that the so-called Arab Spring was the dawning of democracy…what have you to say for yourselves? Like everyone else, I looked at those young attractive Arabs in Tahriri Square—but I also looked at the dark hordes massing behind them. I couldn’t have imagined it being this bad, but I knew it wasn’t going to be good.
We in the West may be shallow and fatuous, but we can survive simple-minded liberal pieties (if only just). Egypt can’t. They went from strongman (Mubarak) to strongman (al-Sisi) with just a spot of bother (Morsi and the MoBros) in between. And they should count themselves lucky.
Don’t get me wrong: General al-Sisi is not my ideal leader. But he may be Egypt’s.
Many have called for a reformation of Islam, but for the leader of the largest Arab nation to do so has world-changing implications.
Here are the key parts as translated on Raymond Ibrahim’s blog:
I am referring here to the religious clerics. We have to think hard about what we are facing—and I have, in fact, addressed this topic a couple of times before. It’s inconceivable that the thinking that we hold most sacred should cause the entire umma [Islamic world] to be a source of anxiety, danger, killing and destruction for the rest of the world. Impossible!
That thinking—I am not saying “religion” but “thinking”—that corpus of texts and ideas that we have sacralized over the years, to the point that departing from them has become almost impossible, is antagonizing the entire world. It’s antagonizing the entire world!
Is it possible that 1.6 billion people [Muslims] should want to kill the rest of the world’s inhabitants—that is 7 billion—so that they themselves may live? Impossible!
I am saying these words here at Al Azhar, before this assembly of scholars and ulema—Allah Almighty be witness to your truth on Judgment Day concerning that which I’m talking about now.
All this that I am telling you, you cannot feel it if you remain trapped within this mindset. You need to step outside of yourselves to be able to observe it and reflect on it from a more enlightened perspective.
I say and repeat again that we are in need of a religious revolution. You, imams, are responsible before Allah. The entire world, I say it again, the entire world is waiting for your next move… because this umma is being torn, it is being destroyed, it is being lost—and it is being lost by our own hands.
“Boo-yah!” as the late Stuart Scott would say. “Ain’t that a kick in the head,” as Mark Steyn would quote Sammy Cahn. But you need to be a strongman—preferably a general—to say it.
I wish our metrosexual-in-chief had.
PS: I would not be truthful if I did not credit the one success of the Arab Spring: its source, Tunisia:
Tunisia is rightly hailed as the lone success story of the Arab Spring: the only country that has threaded a path from the uprisings of 2011 to genuine multiparty democracy today. Yet the future of freedom in Tunisia is far from assured. With the election of a new parliament and president in recent weeks, the most important experiment in Arab democracy is entering a difficult and potentially perilous new phase — one in which greater U.S. support and attention are urgently needed.