Foreword: Today I am starting what might well turn out into a series of articles about the interaction between immigration, ethnicity and religion. I happen to believe that this is a topic I know pretty well for the following reasons:
- I myself was born in a family of immigrants who went from Russia, to Serbia, to Germany, to Argentina, to Holland and then to Switzerland were I was born. I then immigrated to the USA twice, first to get two college degrees 1986-1991 and a second time in 2002. I know about immigration from the inside.
- Furthermore, I also worked as an interpreter for the Swiss Federal authorities interviewing refugees.
- As a member of the Swiss General Staff I also participated in analyses and command staff exercises dealing with the issue of how the national authorities would deal with a major immigration crisis.
- While already in the USA, I also worked as an over-the-phone consecutive interpreter often involving cases of asylum seekers and other immigrants being interviewed by authorities (courts, police, etc.).
- In Geneva I witnessed how a big mosque was built literally on my street and all the fears and changes this mosque elicited amongst the locals and I also witnessed what then actually happened over time.
- I have a graduate degree in Orthodox theology which I combine with a personal interest for Islam in all its different versions and I have the privilege to speak, at length, with many Muslims, including very well educated ones.
- I speak six languages and I have been extensively exposed to plenty of different cultures on our planet in many years of travel in Europe, Asia and the Americas.
- My own culture, the Russian one, has always multi-ethnic, multi-religious and has been influenced by many waves of immigrants from all over the Eurasian continent.
I also wrote a series of articles entitled Russia and Islam which I can refer any interested reader to:
Normally, I would not begin with such an immodest “I am the expert, trust me on authority” kind of nonsense, but in this case this is important, because a lot of what I will write below comes out of my personal and direct experience.
I should also mention that I posted a (English subtitled) video about a recent incident in Moscow (see here) which got some folks very offended at me. I wish they had waited for this series of articles before exploding in anger, but such is human nature…
Having said that, now let’s turn to the topic at hand.
Section one: basic truisms
Here I will begin by some basic assumptions which should be uncontroversial (at least I hope so!)
- People chose to emigrate for very different reasons, including poverty, violence, fleeing the law (criminals) etc.
- Internal immigration and external immigration have common features but should not be conflated.
- Being FROM a Christian/Muslim country and actually BEING Christian/Muslim are two totally different propositions and the former does not in any way imply the latter.
- To be considered as an adherent of religion X requires, at the minimum, a) being aware of its main teachings and b) living your daily life in according to at least the main precepts of this religion.
- Immigrating to country X does not mean that you approve/like/are inspired by country X or its native people, this is especially true when country X is the one which destroyed your own country of origin.
- Immigration is an extremely stressful exercise, even when done in very comfortable conditions, and even more so when done under adverse ones. Most immigrants are suffering stress/anxiety/PTSD/etc.
- In many cases, the locals/natives are hostile to immigrants, some even use them as “cheap labor” (slaves) in often terrible conditions (even in supposedly civilized societies, there were cases of such slavery even in prosperous Switzerland).
- When immigrants come not for neighboring countries, but from farther away a “clash of cultures” often happens.
- In most cases, large waves of immigrants include a percentage of true criminals which “hide in the crowd” and who then commit crimes they would not dare to commit in their country of origin.
Next, a few elements which might not be widely known
Most countries do not have the capability to enforce their laws on large groups of immigrants. Here are a few examples:
- Regular cops: they often do not speak the language of the immigrants, and they know little about the cultural/tribal customs and organization of immigrants. It is very hard for them to get confidential informers amongst immigrants. Furthermore, when cops use legal, legitimate. violence against criminals from country X, these criminals always appeal to their fellow immigrants who, alas, often side with them which, in turn, results in a knee-jerk “circling of wagons” along ethnic lines on both sides which just makes things even worse.
- Special services (intelligence, counter-intelligence, anti-terrorist, etc.): These services typically have some experts (cultural, linguistic, religions, etc.) but NEVER in sufficient numbers. Furthermore, in many countries it is illegal for these services to operate internally. Finally, to somebody with a hammer everything looks like a nail: the same way for a typical counter-intelligence officer or counter-terrorist officer, every immigrant looks like at least a potential spy or a potential terrorist. That is, of course, utter nonsense, but for the advancement of their own careers these folks will seek out “the enemy” in the most ridiculous places. The immigrants, by the way, become very attuned to these suspicions.
- The military: while they typically have the numbers, their mission and training is to engage an enemy and defeat him. When the military does intervene against immigrants, it often results in a PR disaster which a lot of seemingly innocent immigrants being abused, mistreated or even killed by seemingly “hell bent on violence” military forces.
Which leaves only one group which *might* be effective in operations with/against immigrants: specialized internal security forces such as, say, the Russian National Guard or ICE in the USA. That’s in theory. In reality, for that type of force to be effective it needs all of the following:
- An unambiguous legal status and mandate.
- A smooth collaboration with police forces, special forces and the military.
- Lots and lots of money for training, facilities, operations, etc.
- The support of the general public (natives/locals).
- The legal and material means to deal with the criminal elements hiding inside a wave of refugees.
That is very rarely the case, to put it mildly.
Next, the role of governments
I think I have already mentioned it several times on the blog that there is no such thing as a “non-government supported terrorist organization” out there, at least to my knowledge. Okay, there might be local gangs which we could call “terrorist” which are local and more or less spontaneous, but they rarely last very long and a infiltrated sooner rather than later. The late Colonel Gaddafi warned the EU that if he was removed, the gates of African immigration would open (and they did). Erdogan uses refugees on a regular basis to put pressure on the EU and it appears that Lukashenko might be emulating Erdogan’s model. The point is that if Turkey, for example, really wanted to stop the flow of immigrants cross its territory it could do so – the Turkish military is in bad shape, but that they sure could do. Ditto for Lukashenko. Yet, they (apparently) don’t.
In the countries which the immigrants want to reach, the local politicians make entire careers by being either pro-immigration or anti-immigration. They are in a tacit alliance NOT to solve anything, but to simply profit from it!
How about corporations and businesses?
Yeah, for all their typical pseudo patriotism, the truth is that immigration is a big, HUGE, business for folks ranging from the country of origin of these immigrants to corporations and businesses in the countries of asylum. And I am not only talking about drug dealers (though they play a major role too). As others have observed, corporations act in a psychopathic way and their only true goal is to make as much money as possible. They don’t give a damn about anything else, including crime, poverty, religion, etc.
Lastly, religious authorities
Well, they are typically in a pickle in many ways. You would think that if you are a cleric of religion X and there is a wave of immigrants coming from a country nominally pertaining to that religion, that only means that your flock will get bigger and better. Alas, this is almost rarely the case and, in fact, the opposite typically happens. The fact that the locals/natives do not know enough about religion X is not much of a consolation, because now you, as the religious leader of religion X in this country will be blamed for the actions of criminals, as will your fellow coreligionists and even your religion as such. Add to that the undeniable reality that some of these (pseudo-)religious immigrants use that religion to justify their actions make things even worse!
In theory, there is an easy solution for the local religious authorities: offer your services to the local law enforcement authorities. That is SUCH a naive statement, it always makes me wonder if those who believe that understand the implications of this “simple” solution! So let me spell out a few things about this:
- First, unlike the “regular” members of the religious community X, the recently immigrants might view any such collaboration as a betrayal and even the evidence that the clergymen “sold out”, which might put the religious leaders in very real risk of violence (including murder) or, at best, replacement by another person, possibly an immigrant himself.
- Second, unlike what the locals/natives seem to assume, most immigrants from country A with religion X are not at all interested in religion X or what its clerics might teach. Again, this is especially true for criminals.
- Third, being a religious leader and an effective confidential informer or agent are totally different roles and psychological mindset. Hence, religious leaders are often quite incompetent in a role which is deeply alien to them.
Conclusion (for today): it ain’t as simply as some (simpletons) think it is!
What I outlined above are just elements of a very complex “immigration matrix” in which very complex and different phenomena all interact with each other. To put it differently: there is a very good reason why immigration is such a complex and frustrating problem, and to make it appear all quick, easy and simple is just adding to the problem. Yet, what do I see in the comment section under any article discussing immigration? Mostly this:
- Sweeping slogans, sometimes several slogans in a row masquerading as a comment.
- A total conflation of religions, countries, historical situations, etc.
- A quasi total ignorance of the realities of immigration I tried to outline above.
- A systematic “right or wrong – my country” attitude from both some local/natives and the some immigrants.
- Sweeping and unsubstantiated accusations against the perceived “other” and his/her supposed views or intentions.
The sad reality is that immigration is a topic which makes a lot of people instantly infantile and stupid (along with stuff like abortion, gun laws, sexuality and historiography, just to name a few). The maxim that knowing a little about something is even worse than not nothing anything also fully applies. People compare incidents in, say, Moscow, with other incidents in, say, California and Spain. At best, these are at least real personal anecdotes, at worst just a paraphrasing of something read somewhere. And yet on the basis of such utterly inapplicable assumptions, they make sweeping generalizations!
And when religion gets involved, the following groups feel like now is the chance to get on a soapbox and preach:
- Assorted atheists and religion-bashers.
- Opponents of “organized religion”.
- Opponents of religion X (whichever is involved).
- Bigots from religion X who think that hating religion Y is a sign of deep piety (aka “virtue signalling”).
- Native/local politicians who can make a career on this topic.
- Assorted flag-waverers, racists and xenophobes who cannot deal with (real) diversity (but love the fake version).
- Folks how never traveled outside their country of origin and who don’t know a single foreign language.
- Pseudo-experts at everything which, in reality, lack even the basic understanding of the issues involved.
I don’t expect any members of the groups above to recognize themselves as members of these groups. And no matter how hard the moderators try, some of that will inevitable seep through and make it to the comments section.
This IS a really important topic, which MUST be discussed openly and honestly. To just wish it away won’t do the trick.
So in the next installment, I would try to look a little deeper at the issues mentioned above.
Until then, cheers!