||"dawnbreak in the west"|
Thursday, March 23, 2017
The Syrians among the refugees
One Max Abrahms has a piece out at Foreign Affairs: five myths about Syrian refugees. It's been linked at academia.edu as well, where I found it in full. (We are not to confuse this publication with Foreign Policy; FP is fake news.)
Abrahms claims to have taken the time to go visit the refugees where they are and to listen to them. We don't see this nearly often enough. Usually when magazines do profiles, they find that sweet spot between photogenicism and radical Sunni Islamism, where the smiling young couple Mr Beardy and Mrs Hijab (which is not Syrian national dress) will spout the expected about Assad, the Russians, and the
Abrahms' findings map fairly well to what I've been reading in the non-fake news. So I am inclined to believe him.
He also tells us something new: "MYTH FIVE: CULTURAL DIFFERENCES PREVENT INTEGRATION". That might be true for Iraqis and their sexual emergencies. It's certainly true of the proudest "Asians" in England, most of all those born in England. And the less said of the North Africans in European banlieues, the better. Syrians, though, are different.
Syrians - at least their educated class - take pride in being the most hospitable people of the Near East. For instance when the (secular) Young Turks expelled the Armenians, and used jihad rhetoric to sic the (then-more-Muslim) Kurds on them, the Syrians - not particularly secular at the time - did what they could to help the homeless Armenians newly among them. At least, so I read in, for instance, Alia Malek's The Home That Was Our Country. I wonder if the common Syrian name "Hayek" might even transliterate the Armenians' own ethnonym hayk'.
Malek comes in part from a Christian family, petty aristocrats in a still-Christian countryside. To the extent Muslims live out there, many were Christian in recent memory and the rest still live among Christians. The stuff Malek's ancestors had heard about seventh-century Mecca might as well have been Arabian Nights to them. The local Muslims at the time didn't care either.
But now, if I may return a non-Muslim proverb to the Near East - seventh-century Mecca has come to them.
There is talk that many ostensibly Muslim Syrians in Europe are reclaiming their heritage as Christians there. Christianity has a fairly good track record in binding internal social trust (much better than Islam's record), something lacking in today's Syria. I hope that this takes root amongst the Syrians and that it can be re-imported into Syria.
I don't much like to think of the alternatives.
WEIRDNESS: Tried to link to FOX, 21 March: muslim-converts-breathe-new-life-into-europe-s-struggling-christian-churches. I had a general internet fail, and now that link is 403'ing me, haram. Whatevs. Lots of other news outlets are reporting this, even the British Independent. It's a thing.
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