It has become well-accepted in the West that Europe and the United States ought to welcome hundreds of thousands of Muslim refugees from Syria, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Based on the available evidence, that accepted perspective spells disaster for the character and safety of the West.
On Tuesday night, Donald Trump told Bill O’Reilly, “I hate the concept of it, but on a humanitarian basis, with what’s happening, you have to… It’s a living hell in Syria. There’s no question about it. They’re living in hell, and something has to be done.”
This week, British Prime Minister David Cameron announced that the United Kingdom would accept 20,000 Syrian refugees by 2020: “given the scale of the crisis and the suffering of the Syrian people it is right that we should do much more.”
French President Francois Hollande has proposed taking in 24,000 refugees, stating, “it is the principle to which France is committed.”
Germany’s vice-chancellor, Sigmar Gabriel, told public television that the nation could take up to 500,000 refugees per year. Since April 2011, Germany has processed nearly 100,000 asylum applications; Sweden has processed 65,000. More than 16,000 Syrian refugees now await resettlement consideration from the United States government.
All of this sounds wonderful when we consider the humanitarian crisis unfolding in the Middle East. Boosted by the absence of any Western leadership, ISIS has driven millions from Iraq and Syria, and Afghanistan continues to degrade into chaos. But before the West mainlines Muslim immigrants into its veins, it’s worthwhile to stop and ask two questions: First, why the media focus on the humanitarian crisis now? Second, who are these refugees?
Why The Focus Now? Europe’s refugee crisis has unfolded over the last year, but only now seems to have broken through into mainstream media coverage. That coverage sprang from a viral photo of a three-year-old Syrian boy’s corpse washed up on the beaches of Turkey. According to media coverage, the boy’s mother and brother drowned as well, while his father lived.
The photo certainly breaks your heart. But where were all the photos of gassed children from Bashar Assad’s Syria when President Obama drew a red line, and then promptly violated it? Where are all the photos of babies beheaded by ISIS? Why did this photo make the front pages?
The answer: the other photos would have driven more Middle East involvement from the West. The current photo does not. It merely demands that Europe accept more Muslims from the Middle East into its midst, without solving any of the underlying problems driving the refugee crisis in the first place. It pushes the notion that the West somehow owes membership to people who may very well reject the most basic tenets of the West.
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper rightly pointed out this week that refugee policy will not solve the crisis in the Middle East. Canada, he said, must “fight the root cause of the problem and that is the violent campaign being waged against these people by ISIS.” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu agreed, explaining, “Because of the onslaught of militant Islam in the Middle East and in Africa, Europe is facing the waves, a tsunami of people tragically fleeing from the worst crimes that humanity has seen since the Holocaust.” But the media have no interest in fighting ISIS or Bashar Assad, so Harper’s and Netanyahu’s comments take a back seat to the moral posturing of various nations competing to see who can accept the most refugees.
Who Are These Refugees? That competition to accept refugees would be fine if we knew that the refugees plan on assimilating into Western notions of civilized society, and if we knew that they were indeed victims of radical Muslim atrocities. Unfortunately, we know neither. It is deeply suspicious that major Muslim countries that do not border Syria refuse to take in large numbers of refugees, except for Algeria and Egypt.
Turkey has taken in nearly two million refugees, according to the United Nations, and keeps the vast majority in refugee camps — a typical practice in a region that has kept Arab refugees from the 1948 war of Israeli independence in Arab-run camps for seven decades. Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq have taken in hundreds of thousands of refugees as well, but all border the chaotic, collapsing Syria, and thus have limited choice in the matter. Iran has taken in no refugees. Neither have Pakistan, Indonesia, or any of the other dozens of member states of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait and Bahrain all refused to take any refugees, and explicitly cited the risk of terrorists among the refugees, according to The Guardian (UK).
These fears are not without merit, as even Obama administration officials have acknowledged: back in February, director of the National Counterterrorism Center Nicholas Rasmussen called Syrian refugees “clearly a population of concern.” FBI Assistant Director Michael Steinbach explained, “Databases don’t [have] the information on those individuals, and that’s the concern. On Tuesday, State Department spokesman John Kirby told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer that terrorist infiltration was “a possibility. I mean, you can’t, you can’t dismiss that out of hand.” He then added, “Obviously, if you look at those images though, it’s pretty clear that the great majority of these people are innocent families.”
Actually, images show a disproportionate number of young males in crowds of refugees. And those images reflect statistical reality: according to the United Nations Human Rights Commission, Mediterranean Sea refugees are overwhelmingly male: just 13 percent are women, and just 15 percent are children. The other 72 percent are men. Compare that population to the refugees in the Middle East from the same conflicts: 49.5 percent male, and 50.5 percent female, with 38.5 percent under the age of 12. Those are wildly different populations.
And they act in wildly different ways. According to The Daily Mail (UK), Syrian refugees have turned the Greek island of Lesbos into a “war zone,” and refugees in Hungary taunted police with Islamic chants of “Allahu Akbar.” Hungarian national television channel M1 reported on Tuesday that “Islamist terrorists, disguised as refugees, have shown up in Europe… Many who are now illegal immigrants fought alongside Islamic State before.”
Yet concerns about ancillary motives, repeated by Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, have made him an international pariah. Orban rightly pointed out that refugees attempting to travel to Europe are not doing so “because they are in danger, it’s because they want something else.” Clearly, this is true. The father of the three-year-old drowned child, for example, lived in Turkey for three years before attempting to cross to Greece via rubber boat. There is no record of his abuse at the hands of the Turkish authorities.
Other political outcasts include politicians who want to give priority to Christian refugees. Yves Nicolin, mayor of Roanne, France, said his town would house Christian refugees to ensure “they are not terrorists in disguise”; Mayor of Belfort Damien Meslot said Christians should get first priority because “they are the most persecuted.” But the French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve objected to this logic: “I really don’t understand this distinction. I condemn it and I think it’s dreadful.”
But of course, he and the rest of the European leadership understand such rational concerns. Even Angela Merkel, the most welcoming European leader, has acknowledged that “What we are experiencing now is something that will occupy and change our country in coming years.”
Humanitarian concerns are deeply important. But so is maintaining the character of the West, and maintaining the security of its citizens. Instead of rushing to grant asylum to hundreds of thousands of nameless Syrian refugees, the Western world should seek solutions in the Middle East — and urge the vaunted Islamic “ummah” to take in its own refugees.
Ben Shapiro is Senior Editor-At-Large of Breitbart News and The New York Times bestselling author, most recently, of the book, The People vs. Barack Obama: The Criminal Case Against The Obama Administration (Threshold Editions, June 10, 2014). Follow Ben Shapiro on Twitter @benshapiro.