The lull in the chemical weapons crisis offers a chance to divert attention to the huge flow of refugees leaving Syria and rethink some misguided assumptions about their future.
About one-tenth of Syria’s 22 million residents have fled across an international border, mostly to neighboring Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey. Unable to cope, their governments are restricting entry, prompting international concern about the Syrians’ plight. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres, suggests that his agency (as the Guardian paraphrases him) “look to resettle tens of thousands of Syrian refugees in countries better able to afford to host them,” recalling the post-2003 Iraqi-resettlement program when 100,000 Iraqis resettled in the West. Others also look instinctively to the West for a solution. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, for example, has called on Western states “to do more” for Syrian refugees.
The appeal has been heard: Canada has offered to take 1,300 Syrian refugees; the United States, 2,000. Italy has received 4,600 Syrian refugees by sea. Germany has offered to take (and has begun receiving) 5,000. Sweden has offered asylum to the 15,000 Syrians already in that country. Local groups are preparing for a substantial influx throughout the West.
However, these numbers pale beside a population numbering in the millions, meaning that the West alone cannot solve the Syrian refugee problem. Further, many in Western countries (especially European ones, such as The Netherlands and Switzerland) have wearied of taking in Muslim peoples who do not assimilate but instead seek to replace Western mores with Shariah, the Islamic law code. Both German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister David Cameron have deemed multiculturalism, with its insistence on the equal value of all civilizations, a failure. Worse, fascist movements such as the Golden Dawn in Greece are growing.
Many more Muslim refugees are likely on their way. In addition to Syrians, these include Bangladeshis, Pakistanis, Afghans, Iranians, Iraqis, Lebanese, Palestinians, Egyptians, Somalis and Algerians. Other nationals — for example, Yemenis and Tunisians — might soon join their ranks.
Happily, a solution lies at hand.
To place Syrians in “countries better able to afford to host them,” as Mr. Guterres delicately puts it, one need simply divert attention from the Christian-majority West toward the vast, empty expanses of the fabulously wealthy kingdom of Saudi Arabia, as well as the smaller but, in some cases, even richer states of Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. For starters, these countries (which I will call Arabia) are much more convenient to repatriate to Syria from than, say, New Zealand. Living there also means not enduring frozen climes as in Sweden or learning difficult languages spoken by few, such as Danish.
More importantly, Muslims of Arabia share deep religious ties with their Syrian brothers and sisters, so settling there avoids the strains of life in the West. Consider some of the “forbidden elements” that Muslim refugees avoid by living in Arabia:
• Pet dogs (61 million of them in the United States alone).
• A pork-infused cuisine and an alcohol-soaked social life.
• State-sponsored lotteries and Las Vegas-style gambling emporia.
• Immodestly dressed women, ballet, swimsuit beauty contests, single women living alone, mixed swimming, dating and lawful prostitution.
• Lesbian bars, homosexual-pride parades and same-sex marriage.
• A lax attitude toward hallucinogens, with some drugs legal in certain jurisdictions.
• Blasphemous novels, anti-Koran politicians, organizations of apostate Muslims, and a pastor who repeatedly and publicly burns Korans.
Instead, Muslims living in Arabia can rejoice in a law code that, unlike Ireland, permits polygamy and, unlike Britain, allows child marriages. Unlike France, Arabia allows the advocacy of wife-beating and goes easy on female genital mutilation. Unlike in the United States, slaveholding does not entail imprisonment, and male relatives can carry out so-called “honor” killings of their womenfolk without fear of the death penalty.
The example of Syrians and Arabia suggests a far broader point: Regardless of affluence, refugees should be allowed and encouraged to remain within their own cultural zone, where they most readily fit in, can best stay true to their traditions, least disrupt the host society, and from whence they might most easily return home. Thus, East Asians should generally resettle in East Asia, Middle Easterners in the Middle East, Africans in Africa and Westerners in the West.
The United Nations should take note: Focus less on the West, more on the rest. As for Saudis: It’s time to welcome Muslim co-religionists under stress with open arms.
Daniel Pipes (DanielPipes.org) is president of the Middle East Forum.