In my working life I have had the fortune of living in 6 countries and of visiting many countries across 4 continents. .
Rubbing shoulders in multi-cultural societies can go one of two ways:
- one can appreciate more the diversity in life. This leads to a process of personal, self-enrichment; or
- one can approach it negatively with a, “better than the Jones'” or “holier than thou” sectarian sentiment that breeds racism and radicalism.
Focusing on the positive, when living in the Middle East, we experienced significant support from authorities, for example, when organizing Christmas and Easter festivities. We were invited into homes by Muslims during Ramadan and Eid celebrations. We celebrated Diwali and Onam with Hindus. It was very much a culture of ‘live and let live’ provided that natural laws of mutual respect prevailed.
Beneath the benevolent exterior there was, however, a ‘big brother’ regime of strict security by the authorities with a zero tolerance towards radicalism even if so called islamic miltantism (http://www.thenational.ae/uae/courts/23-on-trial-in-abu-dhabi-for-al-qaeda-links) and (http://www.thenational.ae/uae/courts/terrorist-group-that-planned-to-bomb-uae-malls-given-life-in-prison)
It is, perhaps, this iron fist that maintained the peace and allowed society to otherwise live freely, peacefully and uninhibited. While I love Europe I sometimes feel that we are too tolerant and too politically correct for our own good.
There was also one very important consideration for expatriates to keep in mind in the Middle East. None of us were there on a perpetual basis. It was understood that we were all there on renewable residence visas. Even people who own property in, for example Dubai are on renewable residence visas.
It was made amply clear that we were guests. We therefore had to behave like guests and had rights and duties of guests and not of nationals in the various Middle East countries. This is a very important consideration that cannot in any way be under-stated. Some of those who ignored this through their actions (e.g. drunk and disorderly offences, driving under the influence, strong signs of physical affection or nudity in public etc.) resulted in incarceration and deportation. The policy was invariably one of zero-tolerance.
As a European I belong in Europe and I feel that I can live much more freely in Europe. But somehow, somewhere we seem to be getting it wrong. I am all in favour of an openly diverse society governed by mutual respect. Unfortunately not all people are people of goodwill.
Last year a Maltese newspaper ran an article about a runaway debtor living it off in Dubai ( http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20150215/local/runaway-boss-ryan-schembri-in-dubai.556066) . Similarly in Malta, the Times reported on a money for passports scam (http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20150819/local/sammut-charged-with-residency-permit-scam.581125). Other European countries have similar schemes. The sad reality is that it is not the refugee or so called illegal immigrant that affords these schemes. It is people with money that afford to finance their foreign residency. And while not all people with money have accrued this illicitly, some of them have and if their gravy train stopped serving them in post-Qaddafi Libya or post-Mubarak Egypt or Post-Saddam Iraq, they need to park their illicit gains somewhere. They need to start a new life elsewhere.
How effective have we been in Europe in weeding these specific individuals out? Or have we accepted them (and their money) with open arms? I cannot understand why we have been so openly liberal with the granting of residence, citizenship, freedom of movement and passports within Europe.
Terrorism is an expensive business. Refugees (or the pawns who blow themselves up for the cause) do not afford it. Terrorism is run by people with money. Terrorism is backed by people with money; people with a lot of money.
Terrorism is also often dependent on weapons. There aren’t too many arms manufacturers and dealers globally. These are also known to authorities.
Any war front is only as effective as the logistical support behind it. Severing the logistics and finance lines kills the war effort.
Is it that impossible to weed out the network of money and arms feeding terrorism?
As a Christian I stress, “Let us stop blaming Islam. Islam is a peaceful religion as is Christianity”. Peaceful Muslim European citizens also suffer from repercussions of so called Islamic terrorism in Europe. If IS terrorism were truly Islamic why would they try to bomb a holy shrine in Medina?
As a secular European I stress, “Let us stop putting a religious label on terrorism and call it what it is, i.e. a crime universally against humanity. Let us stop focusing on the chessboard pawns and instead focus on derailing the gravy train.”
There is only one queen per chess set. She wields the power and calls the shots in the name of a seemingly impotent king. How hard is it to kill her? Why are we seemingly perpetually paralyzed in a stalement position?