ISIS

Is Western foreign policy to blame for the ‘European migrant crisis’?

Over the last few weeks, the British public have been well-informed of the harrowing experiences faced by migrants travelling to Europe in an attempt to escape the harsh realities in their homeland. As a result, the media frenzy over the ‘European migrant crisis’ has not only raised fears across the continent over the safety and wellbeing of the incoming migrants, but has also led to an increase in xenophobia towards the thousands of escapees in search of a better life. In Britain there has been a growing apprehension and antipathy aimed in the direction of migrants, swayed by a refusal to accept their newfound habitation in the European Union. This view is somewhat epitomised by David Cameron’s use of the word ‘swarm’ in describing the numbers of people crossing the Mediterranean Sea in search of security in Europe.

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But should Britain and its Western compatriots shoulder some of the blame for the recent influx of migrants to the European Union? In answering my own question, Yes. Of course the West should hold a significant amount of responsibility for the crisis.

First and foremost, while the crisis is commonly being described as an issue concerning ‘migrants,’ in reality a huge percentages of those arriving in Europe are in actual fact refugees seeking asylum. This would suggest that the people arriving in the EU are generally not in search of the financial benefits that the region has to offer – as the term ‘migrant’ has often implied. Rather, people have fled from the horrors of violent conflicts, or political and social persecution in their countries of origin.

However, most importantly the majority of the people claiming refuge have directly (or indirectly) been affected by the often self-seeking foreign policies of the West outside of the EU. The highest number of migrants that have travelled to Europe are from Syria. Since the turn of the year, over 100,000 people have fled from the destructive Syrian Civil War, which has seen the country torn between the regime of Bashar al-Assad and armed militia, including the new proponent of Islamic radicalism the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Although the West have stopped short of armed intervention in the civil war, the United States and Britain have consistently bolstered the Syrian opposition by supplying intelligence, training and ammunition to groups fighting against the government. This has only helped to excerabate the severity of the conflict, and further tarnish the lives of civilians in Syria.

syrian_refugee_photo__2014_03_21_h12m42s44__DSAfghans also constitute a significant number of refugees arriving in the EU, largely due to the fallout from the US and NATO led War in Afghanistan. The conflict – which was motivated by the September 11 attacks, has caused widespread devastation across the country. Fourteen years later the war continues to plague the citizens of Afghanistan, with the somewhat unsuccessful removal of the Taliban proving in hindsight to be a costly and ruinous venture for the West. According to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), over 2 million people have been classified as refugees since hostilities began in Afghanistan.

Like in Syria and Afghanistan, recent Western involvement in Libya and Iraq has extended the extirpation of civil society across the Middle East and North Africa, and as a result has increased the number of refugees entering the EU. In 2011, NATO intervened against the Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi following his apparent refusal to cease actions against civilians that the West considered as ‘crimes against humanity.’ Three years later, with the help of his Western allies Barack Obama would also initiate another offensive in Iraq against the growing influence of ISIS in the north of the country.

In both conflicts, the West have to some extent been successful in achieving their military objectives. With that said, the West have also proliferated the humanitarian crisis in Iraq and Libya, and have played a decisive role in worsening the living conditions of civilians. In Iraq alone, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimates that roughly 5.2 million people now need humanitarian assistance, including food, shelter, clean water, sanitation services, and education support. Furthermore, the demise of national order and security within Libya is embodied by the fact that migrants are repeatedly using its northern border as an escape route to Europe. Incredibly, in August 4000 people travelling from Libya were saved from boats off the coast of the country in what has been described as one of the largest rescue missions during the ‘crisis.’

Away from the Middle East and Libya a growing number of refugees continue to emigrate from Eritrea, which is recognised by the UN to have one of the worst records for human rights. In recent months, thousands of Eritreans have escaped to the shores of Italy in response to the oppressive, single-party state under Isaias Afwerki. However, despite the West’s insistence on protecting the liberties of people across the world – as demonstrated in its exploits in the Middle East and Libya, the plight of the Eritrean people has largely been ignored by Western policymakers and its mainstream media. This is typified by the fact that reports on the European migrant ‘crisis’ have scarcely mentioned the amount of Eritreans entering the EU or the reasoning behind their escape. Unlike in the Middle East and Libya, Eritrea does not present itself as a ‘goldmine’ of natural resources, and as a consequence Eritrea falls outside of the West’s economic and political interests.

As the members of the EU scramble to find a solution to the migrant ‘crisis,’ a multitude of people will continue to risk their lives  to leave behind the trials and tribulations they face in their homelands. Europe has now become the ‘promise land’ for many of the migrants escaping their mother countries, with approximately 340,000 men, women and children having already journeyed through cruel and unsavoury terrain towards the EU border. However, many have now perished in the most inhumane of circumstances on the road to a safer environment that they could one day call home. But will there be a robust resolution to the European migrant ‘crisis’? It is unclear. What is certain is that the West must accept considerable accountability for the plight of migrants and take the necessary steps to make certain that they are given the protection they deserve in Europe. Going forward, it is vital that the West re-evaluate the measures used in relation to its foreign policy and ensure that lessons are learned to avoid a migrant crisis on this scale from occurring in the future.

The Île-de-France attacks and the proliferation of Western ‘Islamophobia’

Before I begin, I must stress that I in no way, shape or form condone the actions of the gunmen who shot dead twelve people after storming the offices of satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, or the subsequent acts of terror that took place in the Île-de-France region thereafter. Moreover, I do not sympathise with the aims and objectives of al-Quaeda, Islamic State, Boko Haram, or any other group associated with Islamic radicalism. However, I have certainly struggled to comprehend the growing antipathy towards muslim communities – and against the integrity of Islam, as a result of the fatal shootings in the French capital. In the last few weeks ‘Islamophobia’ has heightened across the Western world, perpetuated by the reactions of politicians, various media outlets, and other commentators, leading to a profusion of verbal and physical attacks against Muslims, most notably epitomised by the Chapel Hill shootings.

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On 7 January 2015, Saïd and Chérif Kouachi would initiate a chain of attacks that would stun the world, generating immidiate attention worldwide and causing shockwaves across social media. In total, 17 people were killed with many others wounded, in what was the deadliest act of terrorism since the Vitry-Le-François bombings of 1961. The events would receive widespread condemnation from across the world, most evidently from Britain, the United States, and Israel who voiced their detestation and reinforced their aims to tackle Islamic radicalism. The French people would also rally against the actions of the terrorists, with the rest of the Western world quickly following suit under the banner of “Je Suis Charlie.”

However, despite the public knowledge that the terror attacks had been motivated by Charlie Hebdo’s controversial lampooning of the Prophet Muhammad in the newspaper’s previous publications, the West comprehensively defended Charlie Hebdo’s depictions of the ‘founding father of Islam’ in support of the liberal concept of ‘Freedom of Speech.’ This directly challenged a key Islamic principle that forbids images of Muhammad and in turn, was an demonstration of the West’s attempt to sow a dissension between Islam and Western ideology after the Île-de-France attacks. This was exemplified further by Barack Obama’s and David Cameron’s statement that they would “continue to stand together against those who threatened their (the West) values and their way of life” and along with France, they made it clear to those “who think they can muzzle freedom of speech and expression with violence that their voices will only grow louder.” There was a defiance to remove all accountability from the publications of Charlie Hebdo, and an unwavering ignorance by the West of the undeniable disrespect shown by the newspaper against a faith followed by millions of people across the world.

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Not only did the Western world largely disregard the argument that the portrayals of Muhammad were a suitable catalyst for the Île-de-France attacks, but Charlie Hebdo would also receive unprecedented support for their first edition immediately after the events in Paris – that once again depicted the Prophet Muhammad satirically. The edition of 14 January 2015 sold over seven million copies in contrast to the standard nominal amount of 30,000. This exposed the scale of the support for ‘Freedom of Speech’ and the extent of the West’s insolence towards Islam and negligence to what the religion’s believers considered as blasphemy. The wide-scale publication of the edition also served to disillusion a large number of Muslims across Europe and the United States and was yet another example of the West’s naivety in relation to the impact the publication’s success could have in fuelling Islamic radicalism further.

‘Islamophobia’ was not only confined to the events surrounding Paris but manifested itself into a number of other ways; a week after the Île-de-France attacks, 128 ‘anti-Muslim’ incidences were registered with the French Police in comparison to a mere 133 in the whole of 2014. In fact, many of the incidents included shootings, attacks against mosques and threats or insults, many of which received minimal or no media attention. This illustrates the considerable disregard for the welfare of Muslims in France and is evidence of the contrasting approach to acts of terror when Muslim communities are on the receiving end. Furthermore, there were many reports of Islamophobia in Germany, United States and other parts of the Western world.

As predicted, the Île-de-France attacks invigorated the far-right movement, with the likes of Marine le Pen and Geert Wilders using the events to rationalise their anti-muslim agendas. There were also other high-profile episodes of ‘Islamophobia’ on social media; for example, Rupert Murdorch’s comments on Twitter that suggested that Muslims must be held responsible for the acts of terror. This is unsurprising given the racist nature of some of Mr Murdorch’s statements in the past, and the fact that Twitter and Facebook has been used as a fitting avenue for the flourishing of ‘Islamophobia’ as per an investigation by the Independent. The views of terrorism ‘expert’ Steven Emerson, who falsely claimed that Birmingham was a completely ‘Muslim city’ and that in areas of London (and I quote) “there are actually Muslim religious police that actually beat and actually wound seriously anyone who doesn’t dress according to religious Muslim attire,” only reiterates my argument that Western ‘Islamophobia’ is on the rise.

Arguably the most identifiable instance of ‘islamophobia’ was carried out on the 10 February 2015, commonly known as the Chapel Hill shootings. Merely a month after the Île-de-France attacks, three innocent Muslims were shot dead by Craig Hicks in another incident of terror. In what has largely been reduced to an ‘isolated dispute over parking,’ there is sufficient evidence to suggest that the murders conducted by Craig Hicks were motivated by hate and his aversion towards the religion of his victims. Again, unlike the Île-de-France attacks, the Chapel Hill shooting was also given minimal attention from Western media, and received a deafening silence by the very politicians who argued so valiantly against the atrocities in France. An American news company even went as far as interviewing Craig Hick’s wife, during which she was given the opportunity to defend her husband’s actions, and proclaim his efforts in ‘championing the rights of others’ despite considerable reports of his ‘gun happy’ and extreme atheist tendencies. Undoubtedly, it would be hard to imagine Western media ever interviewing the wife of an Islamic man after orchestrating a potential hate crime, particularly in a world where Islam is often feared and repudiated.

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As demonstrated, there has been a dramatic rise in ‘Islamophobia’ in recent weeks since the Île-de-France attacks that have once again served to stigmatise and vilify Islam and its worshippers. A concept that has solidified in Western culture after the events of September 11, ‘Islamophobia’ has resurfaced to target muslim communities and reinforce the historical divisions between the Islamic and Western Judeo-Christian civilisations. Can we foresee an end to the cultural persecution of Islam? Maybe, however if if remains the West’s objective to antagonise an entire religion for the actions of an isolated few, the world may not see a cessation of ‘Islamophobia’ for a considerable time yet.