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See What’s On a Muslim Refugee’s Mind?

See What’s On a Muslim Refugee’s Mind?

When at the end of July 2017, the number of refugees and migrants in Greece waiting to be granted asylum or deported was 62,407 and the five Aegean islands (Lesvos, Chios, Samos, Kos and Leros) were home to 15,222 asylum-seekers and migrants, this author wrote What’s On a Muslim Refugee’s Mind,” published in the Perspectives journal of the Begin-Sedat Center for Strategic Studies.

Some excerpts from that article:

“Nearly two years later, on a beautiful and cool summer evening, I met A. at a bar on the same [Greek] island. A., a Syrian refugee, often spends his evenings bar-hopping with his western friends. Those friends are mostly romantic European social workers who, I observed several times, sport t-shirts, bags, and laptops festooned with the Palestinian flag. They are on the island to help the unfortunate Muslim refugees who are fleeing war in their native countries. 

“I’ll tell you strictly Muslim-to-Muslim,” A. said in good English after having poured down a few shots of whiskey. “These (European social workers) are funny guys. And they’re not just funny. They’re also silly. I don’t know why on earth they are in love with a Muslim cause that even some of us Muslims despise.”

“Last year, three Afghans stopped in front of my house on the same island and asked for drinking water. I gave them three bottles and asked if they needed anything else. Coffee? They accepted and sat down in the garden chairs. 

“Over coffee, they said they were glad to be hosted ‘not by an infidel on this infidel island’ but by a Muslim. The young Afghan who was dressed like a dancer from a cheap hip-hop clip on MTV said, ‘One day we good Muslims will conquer their infidel lands.’ I asked why he was receiving ‘infidel’ money for living. ‘It’s just halal,’ he answered. ‘They [‘infidels’] are too easy to fool.’

“M., another fluently English-speaking Syrian … [said]: ‘I want to go to Europe to increase the Muslim population there,’ he said. ‘I want to make a Muslim family there. I want to have plenty of children.’ I reminded him that Greece, too, is a European country. No it’s not, he answered.

“Almost all the illegal migrants on that and other Greek islands want to get to Germany, where they have heard from friends and relatives that they will be the best paid for being ‘poor’ refugees. The cliché ‘the-poor-souls-are-fleeing-war-in-their-native-country’ is becoming less and less convincing every day. True, most Syrians fled to Turkey after the start of civil war in their country. But why did they then risk their lives to squeeze into 12-man rubber boats with 40-50 other people, including children and the elderly? Because of war in Turkey?

“No. Despite political instability and insecurity for all, there is technically no war in Turkey. It is a Muslim country whose mostly Muslim migrants want to leave it as soon as possible for non-Muslim Europe.

“They reach the shores of the Greek islands, which are so beautiful that people from across the world fly there for their holidays. But the islands are not good enough. They want to go to Athens. Why? Because there is war on the Greek islands? No. It’s because Athens is the start of the exit route to the Balkans.

“Apply the same logic to Serbia, Hungary, and Austria. Like Greece, none of those countries will be good enough for the refugees. Why not? Because there is war in Serbia or Hungary or Austria? Or because ‘my cousin tells me Germans pay the best?’”

That island was Lesvos, home to a miserable migrant camp, Moria. Nevertheless Moria does not only exhibit shameful real life stories about the bitter conditions the migrants must endure. It also tells the other side of the “the-poor-souls-are-fleeing-war-in-their-native-country” banality.

Also read:  Erdogan's Consistency Problem: Good Killers VS Bad Killers

On October 1st, the Greek Reporter quoted Deutsche Welle (DW) as reporting that “criminal gangs of Syrians that are sympathetic to the Islamic State (ISIS) have established a regime of terror in the Moria migrant camp.”

The television report, partly shot in secret, shows pro-ISIS slogans on the walls of the overcrowded camp. DW said: “The only thing that seems to work is crime.”

“Gangs from Syria control drug smuggling and prostitution. Members of the gangs do not hesitate to use overt violence, using knives, and relying on Sharia law,” DW said.

It quoted German officials as expressing concern that “some [migrants] may have moved to Athens in their way towards western Europe.”

Now sit down and relax. And rethink your underdog nation romanticism and your “the-poor-souls-are-fleeing-war-in-their-native-country” banality.

About The Author

Burak Bekdil

Burak Bekdil is an Ankara-based Turkish political columnist who wrote for Hurriyet Daily News [formerly Turkish Daily News] for 29 years. He has covered Turkey for the U.S. weekly Defense News since 1997. Previously, Bekdil worked as Ankara Bureau Chief for Dow Jones Newswires and CNBC-e television. He contributes to annual national defense sector reviews for anti-corruption institutions like Transparency International and Global Integrity. Bekdil is a fellow at the Middle East Forum and regularly writes for the Gatestone Institute and Middle East Quarterly. He also contributes to Perspectives, a journal of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, Bar-Ilan University, Tel Aviv. James Cuno, art historian and President of the J. Paul Getty Trust, describes Bekdil as "a frequent critic of Prime Minister [now president] Recep Tayyip Erdogan." In 2001, a Heavy Crimes Court in Ankara sentenced Bekdil to a suspended, 20-month prison sentence for his column in which he satirized corruption in the judiciary. Bekdil's comments, quotes and articles have been published in international media outlets including the Wall Street Journal, The Economist, BBC, The Guardian, Reuters, Associated Press, Bloomberg, Los Angeles Times, The Commentator, New York Times, Kathimerini, National Review Online, Algemeiner, NPR, Washington Times, Die Presse, Haaretz, The Jerusalem Post, Toronto Star, Financial Times, Al-Monitor, Le Figaro, ABC, El Pais, Stern, Al-Arabiya, Helsingin Sanomat, Racjonalista, Defence Greece, Moyen-Orient, Courier International, ISN Security Watch and Coloquio (of Congreso Judio Latinoamerico) and the Jewish Chronicle (London). (Born: Ankara, 1966; Undergraduate: Department of Economics, Middle East Technical University, Ankara; Post-graduate: Department of Economics, University of Surrey, United Kingdom)

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