The Western world has no inkling or beginning of an idea, strategy or plan regarding the human wave breaking over it. Behind the sadness over the humanitarian crisis that has sent hundreds of thousands scrambling for shelter, any shelter, and the help extended, even and perforce temporary (water to the thirsty, food to the hungry, medicine to the sick, a place to lie down for the weary) is the elephant sitting there that most everyone pretend is not: the faith that these refugees belong to, Islam. Over the last few decades, the West has developed fear of and loathing for a religion that until the Iranian Revolution of 1979 was like any other. The blame of the terribly negative connotation it now has lies solely with the faithful themselves. Islam is no longer a religion but, in a frightening return to its roots, a political ideology based on world domination.
The masses who until thirty-six years ago—despite propaganda and more or less covert action from movements such as the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and other similar conservative, by-the-book Islamist organizations—went about their business, some practicing, some not, never demanding, any more than followers of other faiths, respect or the imposition of their own customs, mores, and cultures on non-Muslims, or judging entire foreign societies by their own standards, now do all this, with a vengeance. The French can hardly find meat not bearing the hallal label; British women are heckled on the streets by ranting Islamists who yell at them to dress more modestly; female American converts cover up from head to toe, ignorant of the plight of Saudi women who chafe under the imposed burka; Muslim women everywhere in the West defiantly cover their heads as a sign of deep piety, not realizing that this is not a cultural or religious sign but a recent trend and that in countries like Iran where women have to, they fight back by stealthily posting photos and videos of their flowing long hair and at least once in recent memory taken to the streets naked, in utter rebellion; swimming pools in European cities have days for women only (who still cover up in “burkinis,” possibly wary of the salacious looks of other women?) Then there are the prophets, the brain washers, the ideologues, who fan these flames on innumerable sites with their public defense of fanaticism and the sanctity of the Koran and the Prophet. Not a word of the first can be changed, not a hair on the second can by mentioned for fear of blasphemy. The punishment for which, quite simply, is death. All the while, moderate voices, often Muslim, rise, asking for revisions and second opinions, to no avail as the violent chorus on the other side drowns all discussion.
So yes, the West is afraid while the hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees flee both Assad and ISIS, while the Libyans, Iraqis and Africans caught in the lawlessness and violence in their lands risk a miserable death to reach countries where no one wants them, precisely because of the terrible image that Islam has created for itself. European leaders either act pious and welcoming and open the doors wide or venture into extreme-right discourse and the erection of walls while Europeans on the whole engage into their permanent reductive blame-America-for-everything stance. Of course, the awful Bush administration is responsible for the rise of the Taliban, for the emergence of the ISIS monsters, for the total disruption of countries like Iraq, Libya and others in the God-forsaken Middle East that, despite unpleasantly repressive regimes, knew a certain degree of stability. But whatever the causes of the present chaos, no one wants more mosques, more public prayers in the streets, more veiled women, more sharia, more lessons on morality.
Then we have the Iran nuclear deal. I personally am against all things nuclear, whether for peaceful or belligerent purposes. The protection of our planet and the safety of its populations should be our first consideration. Have we forgotten Chernobyl, Three Mile Island, Fukushima and the hundreds of lesser accidents constantly occurring? Aren’t we afraid of the next catastrophe? Alternative sources of energy, abundantly available, should be our only preoccupation.
Also, an agreement with a criminal regime which offers military and strategic help to Hamas, Hezbollah and Bashar Assad, a regime which has executed over 700 Iranians since the beginning of the year, which arbitrarily arrests not only its own citizens but foreign journalists and missionaries (The Washington Post’s Jason Rezaian has been rotting in a cell for almost a year, on no specific charge) is not palatable. How can there have been nary a mention of this terrible record? Obama and Kerry or their successors will live to regret not only the agreement but their silence on major issues the day the Iranians renege on part or all of the agreement, as they will.
Regarding the migrant situation, idea, strategy or plan should have been an all-out, concerted effort directed at the complex and multiple sources of the problems in the Middle East, reining in the exaggerated power wielded by the Iranian Qods force in the region, reaching some kind of accord with the murderous Syrian leader, actually pushing back against ISIS’s expansion, bringing to heel the awful Netanyahu and his irresponsible talk of an Iranian nuclear attack.
Stopping the flow of refugees has now become an impossible task and numbers will no doubt climb in the coming months and years. The Middle East is in tatters, its fleeing people come up against walls; where they don’t, it’s the local citizens who are not only worried about having to dig deep in their own pockets to fund unwanted visitors but also angered and often terrified by a religion once respectable, now a hydra rearing its many ugly heads.
At least as seen through the eyes of fans–even chastened but still fans such as myself. Signing an executive order to set five million undocumented Hispanics on the road to legalization, hurray. Refusing to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, bad for the environments and good only for deep pockets in which far too much tainted money goes as it is, hurray again. Continuing to provide health insurance for Americans who didn’t have any, yes, indeed.
The view is quite different as seen through the jaundiced eyes of the extreme wings of the Tea Party and even so-called “moderate” Republicans such as Boehner and Mitch McConnell. They consider Obama at the very least as deserving impeachment–an actual lynching would be difficult to pull off–for innumerable crimes, among which signing too many executive orders, (less than his predecessors, but we’re not talking good faith here). Read more…
The keyword here is “reasonable.” If not, I’ll drift off to total fantasyland, start imagining that peace has come to our wretched world, that countries which have recently gotten rid of their corrupt dictators will turn into perfect secular democracies on the—why not?— Scandinavian model; Bashar Assad will go poof in the air; there will be no ongoing conflict and no displaced, starving populations anywhere; Netanyahu will be replaced by David Grossman and Romney will give up both political ambition and private equity firms and go back to being a missionary in the House of Mormon. And so on and so forth.
Okay, even I, the inveterate dreamer, can’t fantasize to this extent. But here’s a daydream about Iran, beside wishing that the loathsome present theocracy would end. It goes like this:
Iran’s Supreme Leader Khamenei receives a visitation from one of the holy figures of shiism, say Imam Reza—dead for twelve centuries—who launches into a presentation (dare I say PowerPoint?) of a blueprint for the country’s energy program. In his intro, Imam Reza goes over the existing resource, fossil fuel, which he declares to be a) the cause of too many conflicts over the century of its exploitation; b) having finite reserves— which, in Iran, estimates vary, are due to be depleted another hundred or two hundred years from now—and c) a threat to our deteriorating environment, both in extraction and in use.
Then Imam Reza goes into the potential resource, nuclear energy, which Iran is working toward, and here too declares himself against it. His reasons are a) given the present political climate and the tense relations between Iran and the rest of the world, everyone will always be concerned that the country’s nuclear program is not geared solely toward nuclear energy (“and it’s not,” he adds in passing, “as you and I both know,”) and this keeps us on the brink of disaster should anyone feel threatened by our progress in the matter; b) countries pursuing a nuclear energy solution to become fossil-fuel independent court accidents that come at great cost to humans and to the environment—Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, Fukushima, and incidents on lesser sites should give us pause, and the more nuclear plants are built, the more danger threatens us all.
“So here’s what I suggest for our energy needs. First, put an end to our nuclear program. Completely, irrevocably. Dismantle present sites and invite interested parties to see for themselves. Then, assign full resources and scientists to R&D followed by implementation for alternative energy programs.”
Imam Reza enumerates the possibilities which, if acted upon, would make Iran the world’s poster child for renewable energy: Wind power (he adds that he’s partial to wind turbines, finding them most graceful), solar power, hydrogen, biomass, oceans, there’s no end of solutions, says the Imam. Several countries are working toward zero dependence on fossil fuel and on nuclear energy, he adds. Iceland, a small country to be sure, was one of the first. And now there’s Germany, Japan, others, actively pursuing that goal. And numerous countries are implementing measures that may be more gradual but follow the same thinking. You do realize that our political system is far from being accepted by the community of nations. Imagine the spectacular response, the world’s surprise and admiration, if you declare Iran’s utter commitment to renewable energies. Alhamdolellah—thank God—we have everything we need to turn our country into the laboratory of the future: the knowledge and know-how, bright scientists, wealth (which our oil can help maintain, though with seriously scaled back operations). This should be the goal for our beloved Iran.
Khamenei who has been listening respectfully speaks up for the first time, “and for our beloved Islam.” Imam Reza, his mind elsewhere, waves a hand. “Yes, that too.”