Bruce Bawer is a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center.
From one end of Western Europe to the other, the mass migrations of the last generation or two have turned the words “immigrant” and “refugee” into veritable synonyms for “Muslim.” Thanks to government generosity on a Herculean scale, Muslims by the million have been provided, at taxpayer expense (but without taxpayers ever being consulted), with incomes, homes, furnishings, cars. They’ve been allowed to bring over their family members, who in turn have been allowed to bring over their family members. Some have been grateful; some have even gone on to pursue estimable careers and contribute to the general welfare. Many, however, have responded to all this largesse with a contempt for their hosts – a contempt rooted largely in the Koran’s teachings about infidels – and a staggering sense of entitlement.
And now that Western Europeans are suddenly extending all their hospitality toward fellow Europeans and Christians – that is, of course, toward Ukrainians who are fleeing for their lives from Putin’s bloody war of conquest – a great many Muslims and their allies are up in arms. And in one country after another, their cri de coeur is the same: how dare you be so much more generous to Ukrainians than you ever were to Muslims! The charge is ludicrous: it would take a very long time, and a lot of handouts indeed, for the Ukrainians, either per capita or en masse, to get anywhere near as much out of Europeans’ pocketbooks as Muslims have received in the last half century or so.
Yet the absurdity of the charge hasn’t kept a lot of highly placed people from making it. In the Netherlands, for instance, a number of prominent leftists – including historian Tayfun Balçik, politician Thijme Hoffmann, and professor Leo Lucassen – have griped that Europeans are being more munificent toward Ukrainian refugees than toward Muslim migrants, and that’s it’s because of xenophobia, Islamophobia, racism. And in Denmark, three journalists – Line Rønn Tofte, Line Jenvall, and Theodora Amalie Høgsted Renard – growled in a joint op-ed that while native Danes, in 2015, “spit on” Syrian refugees, Danes in 2022 are driving to Poland “to transport Ukrainian refugees to Denmark.”
What, the three journalists demanded to know, “is the difference between the Ukrainians and the Syrians?” Well one not insignificant difference is that whereas today’s Ukrainian refugees are almost all women and children, the folks flooding into Europe from Syria in 2015 were mostly military-aged men. Why, one wondered at the time, hadn’t all these fit young men stayed home to fight? Why were they here, and not their parents, grandparents, sisters, wives, children? What kind of refugee crisis was this? Even so, the fact remains that thousands of Western Europeans did open their arms to those Syrians. They greeted them at airports and railway stations. They handed them truckloads of free stuff. They took them into their homes.
And then what happened? On New Year’s Eve 2015-6, the central squares of Cologne and dozens of other German cities were the sites of horrific gang rapes by hundreds of these recent Syrian arrivals. I suspect that for the many Germans who experienced those chilling, eye-opening violations of trust, the question of the difference between those criminal Syrian freeloaders of 2015 and the Ukrainian women and children of today could hardly be more dramatic. As former Swedish parliamentarian Kent Ekeroth wrote on March 7 in response to such grumbling in his own country, “This is probably the first time in human memory that Sweden, or for that matter Western Europe, has gotten to see real refugees.” (Including real refugee children, as opposed to bearded thirty-somethings claiming to be minors.)
The same perverse complaint about preferential treatment for Europeans has also been voiced in Norway. After the Progress Party (FrP) called for the nation’s refugee quota to be reserved for Ukrainians, Katrine Nødtvedt, a Green Party member of the Bergen City Council, worried that Ukrainians would squeeze out other potential refugees.
Abid Raja, perhaps Norway’s most famous Muslim, agreed. Two decades ago, Raja was spokesman for an Oslo mosque, championing arranged marriages and savaging the West. Today, he’s a Parliament member for the Liberal Party (and recent Minister of Culture) who presents himself as a benign Norwegian patriot. But now, in the midst of the Ukraine crisis, a glimpse of the old Raja – the soft jihadist – came out. “FrP’s use of the [Ukrainian] crisis as a way to harm other refugees is immoral,” he told Klassekampen. By seeming to prefer Ukrainians to Muslims, he said, FrP is causing people like him to “die inside.” Such is the voice of entrenched privilege – of a man accustomed to a recognized victim status that has made him a media darling and given him a lucrative career. Note that Raja isn’t “dying inside” out of grief and sympathy for Ukrainian women and children: he’s “dying inside” because, as he sees it, they’re stealing attention – and may soon be stealing money, food, clothing and shelter – that should, by all rights, be given to his fellow Muslims.
In the U.S., the notion that Ukrainians have been the beneficiaries of anti-Islam bigotry was served up at a livestreamed conference featuring, among others, several officials of the Council on American Muslim Relations (CAIR). During the conference, UC Berkeley’s Hatem Bazian maintained that Ukrainians enjoy favor in the West because they’re “European people with blue eyes and blonde hair.” Bazian professed that Ukrainian resistance to Putin’s invasion is comparable to the Palestinians’ war with Israel – but that Westerners don’t support Palestinians because they’re dark-skinned. Of course the comparison of Ukrainian resistance to Palestinian terrorism is absurd. So is the suggestion that Westerners don’t support Palestinians. On the contrary, naive do-gooders have pumped a fortune into the Palestinian terroritories – cash that could’ve made Palestinian life better but that has instead been used to rain death upon Israelis.
Who better to close with than Nikole Hannah-Jones, the New York Times propagandist who created the perfidious 1619 Project, and whose concern about Ukrainians, unsurprisingly, isn’t that they’re upstaging Muslims but, rather, upstaging blacks? In a couple of February 27 tweets, she charged that if Western media have been covering Ukraine so much, it’s because of “[white] supremacy”: “we should care [about Ukrainians] because they are like us.” Just as many Muslims can’t help attributing the attention currently being lavished on Ukrainians to Islamophobia, then, for Hannah-Jones, this – like everything else on earth – is all about race. (MSNBC’s Joy Reid and Comedy Central’s Trevor Noah pontificated along similar lines.)
On the contrary. The Ukrainian crisis is about real women and children – not grown men posing as kids – who have real refugee status and who have fled from a country whose ongoing destruction, right before our eyes, is quite terrifyingly real. Race? Islam? A word to the left: for once, keep your noxious group-identity obsession to yourselves while Europeans, for once, open their arms and their hearts to suffering women and children who really need – and really deserve – their help.