The New World Disorder
What was hailed as the “Arab Spring” in 2011, has turned five years later, into a horrific nightmare impacting the Middle East, and Western Europe. Scholarly books and essays have been published seeking to explain the failure of the rise of democratic regimes replacing authoritarian governments that had plagued Mideastern countries since the end of WWII.
The New Yorker Magazine published on 3 January, 2017, “All Roads Lead to Aleppo” by Jon Lee Anderson. It’s one of the best essays that I’ve read about the Syrian “Intifada” that began spontaneously in March, 2011, at Der’a, a city south of Damascus.
Mr. Anderson summed up the “Fall of Aleppo” in the opening paragraph:
“With the evacuation of the last of its armed rebels and their families, last month, the Syrian city of Aleppo is once again in the hands of the Assad government. Aleppo had a prewar population of more than two million people; it was not only Syria’s largest city and its industrial powerhouse but had an iconic place as one of the world’s oldest continuously inhabited cities, with a history dating back some eight thousand years. Before the war, Aleppo’s wealth of ancient buildings and its cosmopolitan mix of sects and peoples—Sunni Arabs, Shiites, Kurds, Turkmen, Alawites, Circassians, Chechens, Greeks, Assyrian and Armenian Christians, and even a few Jews—made it a matchless place in the modern Middle East. It remains to be seen what, of all that, has survived.”
I’ve known Aleppo for a long time. Living in Alexandretta, in northwest Syria, in my early days, I remember how well-to-do Aleppo families used to spend their summers at our resorts in the province.
I can add a few details about Aleppo. Syrians claim that Abraham stopped in Aleppo, on his way from Ur of the Chaldees, to Palestine! Besides being a commercial and industrial city, Aleppo was known for its educational institutions. One was “Aleppo College,” an American institution that served as a preparatory school for Syrians who eventually completed their education, at the AUB (American University of Beirut).
The Jewish presence in Aleppo was the largest in Syria. Most of the Jews ran businesses that supplied Syrian merchants with needed goods imported from Europe and the USA. After the birth of the State of Israel in May, 1948, most of the Syrian Jews left Aleppo.
I applaud Mr. Anderson as a reporter who braved many dangers to give us eye-witness accounts of the battles. His description of the savagery of some of the combatants, is blood-curdling.
Much as I appreciated the essay, I was greatly disappointed with the last paragraph:
“Indeed, partly because of the Syrian conflict and its ongoing fallout, the future of the European Union itself is now in question. With the mass influx of refugees has come an upsurge in anti-immigrant sentiment in Europe that mirrors that of the American alt-right in its bigotry and sectarian hatred, especially toward Muslims. The killing of civilians—in Europe and elsewhere (Tunisia, Bangladesh, Egypt, Turkey)—by Islamist terrorists has, at the same time, become a terrifyingly frequent occurrence. Throughout the West, a mood of ugly xenophobia is spreading. Thus far, it has given us Brexit and Trump. In the upcoming French elections, will Marine Le Pen be the victor? Will the next terrorist outrage in Germany be the end of Angela Merkel and usher in a mood of social intolerance?”
I’m mystified by Mr. Anderson’s outbursts and strong critique of “Europeans and Americans and their anti-immigrant sentiments, their bigotry and hatred for Muslims.”
Indeed, Europeans and Americans are scared for their lives. Air travel has become a burdensome adventure since 9/11! Do I have to make a catalogue of all the Jihadist attacks in France, Belgium, Germany and the USA? As to, “Hatred for Muslims?” Where have Muslims been attacked in Europe or the Americas? It’s not “hatred,” it’s a genuine concern for one’s life and safety!
Ever since the end of WWII, when large Islamic communities have settled in the West, there is an indisputable proof that Muslims, far from assimilating, make demands on the societies that had welcomed them; demands if accepted, would alter the very Western traditions of tolerance and pluralism that have marked Western civilization.
A liberal Kuwaiti columnist wrote on 9 July, 2010 (months before the Arab Spring) a very frank and thought-provoking article about the Muslim communities of Western Europe. He exhibited a sympathetic understanding of the Europeans’ concerns that Muslims show no interest to assimilate. Rather, they form alternative communities that replicate the culture of the lands they had fled from! Here are excerpts from the article: “Muslim Migrants in the West & Their Refusal to Assimilate”.
The author defended the Europeans’ right to be concerned about the growing numbers of Muslim migrants, and their negative impact on society. “Not only they refuse to assimilate, but their loyalty remains with political Islam, rather than to the lands that had welcomed them!”
The article published in the daily newspaper, al-Qabas, was entitled, “The Islamization of Europe.” It criticized those Europeans who defended the rights of the Muslim communities to live in harmony with their own traditions; even though Muslim countries do not accord religious minorities these same rights.
He continued, “some call Europe the ‘Aged Continent;’ however, Europe is the mother of modern civilization, the center of its culture, and its living conscience. Europe has always been willing to welcome refugees, and political dissidents who can no longer live freely in their homelands. On the other hand, why should we criticize Europeans, if at the same time, they seek to maintain their democratic identity and their freedoms by protecting themselves against the inroads of the Islamic mind that seeks to alter their identity, their way of life, and the very core of their religious beliefs?!
“We need a sense of impartiality and balance to understand the reason for the reaction of Westerners vis-à-vis the growing number of Muslims who have settled among them. It has become a veritable Islamic cultural and demographic invasion. Furthermore, they find themselves unable to deal with this situation, in in a proper and democratic manner.
“The number of ‘Islamic Ghettos’ is increasing around European capitals; in some historic cities, these ghettos occupy around one fourth of the area, such as in Amsterdam, Marseille, and Malmo [Sweden]! The Hijab (head covering) and the Niqab (complete body covering) have become familiar sites. Mosques grow as mushroom on every corner; with the number of their attendees exceeding those attending churches! The unemployed in the Muslim areas, keep increasing; contributing nothing positive to the country’s economy; while at the same time, becoming a burden on the social services!
“I’m not writing these lines against anyone specifically; I’m simply expressing my protest aimed at those who defend the rights of Muslims in Europe to live in according with their convictions; while at the same time, we don’t grant minorities among us, especially the Europeans, who are expected to live in a manner that we have chosen for them!”
How I wish that the closing paragraph of “All Roads Lead to Aleppo” manifested more balance, and that the author had consulted some reformist/liberal Arab sources, so that he would not have made those wholesale accusations against Westerners. They do have legitimate reasons for their apprehensions vis-à-vis the growing numbers of Muslim communities in the West.
To be concerned about one’s own life, is not to be equated with xenophobia. Of course, not all Muslims are terrorists, but most terrorists tend to be Muslims. Daily they murder fellow-Muslims in Syria, Iraq, Yemen. As I finish this article on the 7th of January, the Associated Press reported:” At least 43 people were killed Saturday when a car bomb went off in a busy market in a rebel-held Syrian town along the Turkish border, activists and rescue workers said.”
In the final analysis, John Lee Anderson could have delved into Islamic history. From its very beginnings, when Muhammad came to Medina, in 622 A.D., Islam changed from a religious faith, into a political regime that claimed its governing principles were divine. That gave license for the Prophet’s raid on the Meccan caravans, and ultimately his victorious entry into Mecca in 630, two years before his death. The Caliphates in Medina, Damascus, Baghdad, and Istanbul, were marked with world conquests, intrigues and violence. Sacred texts from the Qur’an, glorify “Death in the Cause of Allah!” This ingrained motif, or impetus motivates Jihadists in their senseless attacks against innocent Muslims and non-Muslims. To omit these facts, doesn’t help our world to respond to this “New World Disorder.”
The URL for the Kuwaiti article: http://aafaq.org/news.aspx?id_news=8549#