Saudi heart beats for Syrian refugees at wrong time, wrong place, wrong reason. Won’t stop conversion to Christianity

Saudi Arabia has responded to the criticism levelled against it for not absorbing Arab refugees by offering to build two hundred mosques in Germany. The offer is as gratuitous, as self indulgent and as jarring to German or broader European sensibilities as it is insulting to both refugees and their host societies.

Wajahat Qazi September 12, 2015 11:46:38 IST
Saudi heart beats for Syrian refugees at wrong time, wrong place, wrong reason. Won’t stop conversion to Christianity

Saudi Arabia has responded to the criticism levelled against it for not absorbing Arab refugees by offering to build two hundred mosques in Germany. The offer is as gratuitous, as self indulgent and as jarring to German or broader European sensibilities as it is insulting to both refugees and their host societies.

In the final analysis, the refugee crisis and hosting these benighted and blighted victims of wars and conflicts is all about values- how states and societies deal with humanitarian disasters and what this reflects about these societies. In this sense, despite the reaction and resistance to the unprecedented refugee flows into European shores, and despite the issues that accepting refugees and immigrants have led to, the West stands out as a beacon of hope, generosity and concern for human rights. Alas, to the contrary, the Muslim world has nothing to show for what is an Islamic ideal: compassion and generosity-ideals that Muslims must demonstrate both in word and deed.

The Saudi offer comes in the midst of churn and much soul searching within European societies: this churn and angst pertains to Muslim immigration and immigrants into Europe. For all practical purposes, Muslims in Europe live in isolation from their respective host societies- an existence that can only be called a marginal, marginalized and a ghettoized one.

There are multifarious reasons for this in which both host societies, their governments and Muslims are implicated. These reasons need not detain us but what is pertinent and significant is that over time a reaction amongst European societies has set in against Muslim immigrants, immigration and even Islam. Populist political groups and parties, defined by xenophobia and laced with Islamophobia seized this broad discontent against Muslim immigrants played this up. Some even went to the extent that Europe- the bastion of the West- was morphing into ‘Eurabia’. That is, an entity that was or had been swamped by Arabs.

Saudi heart beats for Syrian refugees at wrong time wrong place wrong reason Wont stop conversion to Christianity

AFP image.

While there is much negative stuff to be said about the European host societies attitudes, stereotypes and prejudices that fed these attitudes, and the flawed intent and design of integrating Muslim immigrants, European Muslims also do not come out smelling of roses in the whole saga. There have been instances of reverse discrimination, proselytization and at times violence by some Muslim immigrants to Europe.

The overall social and political atmosphere and environment is then charged- emotionally and politically- about Muslim immigration into Europe. In this charged environment, the current wave of refugees from the Middle East swamps European shores. The Germans , disavow their ‘muddle’ and inertia and take a bold and beautiful stance on refugees but lo and presto, the Saudi’s drop their bomb shell.

The question is what explains this bizarre Saudi offer?

The reasons or the premises behind the offer may pertain to the news that many Muslim refugees have been converting to Christianity after arriving on European shores. The Saudis may be wanting to undercut this development and offer the potential refugees places of worship. But will this pre-empt conversion and will this help these refugees in the long term?

Unlikely is the answer. The refugees or at least some of them are converting because of prosaic bread and butter or survival reasons. They have undertaken and braved an arduous journey fraught with peril and they do not want to and cannot go back. The boats have been burnt; whoever offers them a safe haven and the promise of a better life or even survival, they will for instrumental reasons offer their allegiance to them.

This reminds me of a quote attributed to Ayatollah Khomeini, who once reportedly said, 'revolutions cannot be sustained on empty stomachs’. This point is obvious as it is profound. Survival issues can, as history demonstrated time and again, trump faith and religion; this appears to be happening again on the shores of Europe. Would the offer of building Mosques then help the refugees? The answer is obvious.

From a long term perspective, this can potentially even create problems for the refugees who will be granted asylum in Europe. They may be viewed and seen as protagonists of the Wahhabi ideology- an ideology that the Saudi state is wedded to and also promotes. Issues of integration and citizenship will arise rebounding negatively on these refugees.

What then could the Saudis have done?

The country and its rulers could have opened the gates of their country to the refugees. Failing this, and given that they have oodles of money, the Saudis could have offered to fund the expenses accruing to European states in housing, clothing and feeding the refugees. Now this would have been prudent, not have jarred with European sensibilities and not provoked a reaction from European societies. Last but not the least, this may have corresponded to the real spirit of Islam.

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