Somewhere in the Qur’an it is said (in my own words): “If you kill one man, it is as if you’ve killed Mankind. If you save one man, it is as if you’ve saved Mankind”. I’m not a Muslim. I’m an Atheist.
Over the past weeks, I’ve had discussions in real life as well as in the virtual one about the subject “refugee”, in light of the Ukrainian war. Over 3.5 Million Ukrainian refugees have fled into the EU, and the World is rallying to help. And yes, I myself feel mobilized to do something. As such, my girlfriend and I have made that road trip to Eastern Poland with humanitarian goods and returned with Svetlana, Diana and Artur, only 3 of those 3.5 Million Ukrainian refugees. However, this is not about us at all.
It’s about refugees, whoever they are. The discussions mentioned above revolved around “why is everybody helping these Ukrainian refugees all of a sudden? Why didn’t they do that with, say, Afghan, Syrian or Libyan refugees? Are those not worth helping?” And those are very good questions. At least, I thought so. So, this got me thinking and doing some soul searching. It confronted me with my own conscience. And I must admit, the answers I got are purely subjective. It’s a gut feeling.
First off: a refugee is a refugee. No distinction, as far as I’m concerned. Whether you fled Ukraine, Afghanistan, Syria, Libya or anywhere else, you left behind an existence, a life. You’ve lost just about everything. You’ve been uprooted. Heading for a hopefully better life elsewhere. I wish that better life for everybody who leaves a shithole because of a war or a deadly dictatorship. But somehow, that underbelly feeling seems to make some minor distinctions after all. Whether I like it or not.
Last August, when Kabul became a new “Saigon” tragedy, I was struck with anger. Everybody could see this coming. The Taliban reclaiming Afghanistan, and much faster than the West anticipated. At least its Politicians. Many, many Afghans, such as those who used to cooperate with Coalition Forces, were suddenly trapped. Geopolitics dragged their feet although the Military were ready for a mass extraction. This is also true for my country, The Netherlands. And it made me downright furious.
But what could I do? Nothing, except write about it. This was way over my head in terms of actually doing something about it myself. And now there is this war in Ukraine. On the threshold of Europe. A mere 15-hour car drive away. Very close. Almost in our backyard. Refugees pouring out of that country en masse. Believe me, at least 99% are women and children. Hardly any men. I’ve seen it myself. The men stayed behind, also as an obligation, and are fighting the Russian Federation Army.
This time it was within reach to practically do something, albeit “a drop on a scorching plate” as we Dutch say. So, my girlfriend and I jumped in that car. Very satisfying on a personal level. Knowing that you can actually make a difference. And here it is: not just because it’s sort of close by but we also seem to feel more affiliation with those “European” refugees that seem very much akin to our own mothers, sisters and daughters. Much more so than refugees from those Middle-Eastern countries.
And, in a way, that’s not fair at all. Every life is valued as far as I’m concerned. However, there seem to be reasons for feeling somewhat less “affiliated” to those Middle-Eastern refugees. First: apparently the majority is men, not those 99% women and children. Somehow I find that strange although the why may be beyond my comprehension. Second: somehow I feel that there is more risk involved. In terms of radical “Muslims” coming in like the proverbial Trojan Horse. Not fair, maybe.
I am sure that there are many Middle-Eastern refugees who are honestly trying to build a good, hard-working, peaceful life in our neck of the woods and integrate. I welcome them and the enrichment by them of our local cultures. But, along with these upstanding individuals, plenty of others come in with less motivation to integrate as well into our society. Even to a point that these will try to turn our area into the same kind of culture and traditions that they have left behind in their own country.
I’m threading on thin ice here. I’m taking a risk with this. I may be called a racist. Especially on my city bus in Amsterdam I’ve been called that. By Dutch individuals, born here but of Middle-Eastern or more so North-African ascendance. And yes, mostly calling themselves “Muslims”. Those who really know me, are convinced that I’m not a racist at all. However, I see a risk. Especially with our overly political correct Government. I see some integration problems emerging in this kind of atmosphere.
And yeah, it’s weird. I absolutely do not feel that risk with these Ukrainian refugees flowing into our country. And this while I’m sure that there may be huge differences between their Slavic culture and traditions, and our “sophisticated” open Western Democracy. Somehow I feel confident that these newcomers will adapt way more easily into the fabric of our Nation. Time will tell. However, where these refugees come from is irrelevant, basically. This is about PEOPLE, searching for a better life…