english text 180 the start of the 2010s, over eight million people were in a humanitarian aid situation, of whom over three million were internally displaced persons and two million were refugees, mostly in Syria (one and a half million). They have also been affected by the war in that country. So far, the war has generated four million Syrian refugees, in Turkey (over two million), Lebanon (over one million), Jordan (over half a million), Egypt (over a hundred thousand) and Iraq (two hundred and fifty thousand). In addition, there are seven and a half million internally displaced persons. Thus the result of the situation in Syria and Iraq (where Palestinian refugees are also affected) is that over fifteen million people have been forced to become displaced persons of one kind or another. According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, the number of Syrian refugees that presented an application for asylum in Europe between the beginning of the conflict and January 2014 was only about 90,000. While that humanity remained massively contained within its own boundaries of Arabness, staying silent and invisible, Europe’s Mediterranean shore attended to its strategic interests in the Middle East without assuming direct responsibilities and it continued to be tightfisted in providing international aid to assist all the affected populations. Since 2014, however, and especially since the summer of 2015, not only have the refugees increased in number but also they have been directing their steps beyond the Mediterranean, towards Europe. The deterioration in conditions in the host countries in the region (collapsed by their economic crises and by the reduction in financial support from the international community), the growing conviction that there is no immediate prospect of a solution to the war in Syria, and the Turkish decision to reduce surveillance of its coasts to punish Europe for its inaction in response to the enormous refugee problems facing Syria’s neighbouring countries were all decisive factors for the great wave advancing towards the shores of Europe. The forecasts say that the number could easily reach eight hundred thousand by the end of 2016. Europe’s historical debt to the region has not been reflected in a show of supportive welcome in response to a frightening humanitarian situation by which it is by no means unaffected. Apart from some praiseworthy exceptions, what has emerged has been racism, Islamophobia and a feeling that the barbarians were invading civilisation. The myth of the Muslim Arab invasion that is threatening European civilisation, which the radical outgrowth represented by the Eurabia movements had been spreading for some time, has now found another source of ammunition for its arguments. And the fright is growing ever greater. Initially restricted to a few extremist groups, the Eurabia thesis has spread and taken root among political parties in Europe and intellectuals whose publications are bestsellers in the bookshops. It is defended in Switzerland by the Swiss People’s Party, in Austria by the Freedom Party of Austria, in Norway by the Progress Party and in England by the United Kingdom Independence Party. And they are all obtaining increasing electoral results in keeping with a new logic of cultural defence against their fantastic notion of a Muslim plot against Europe: defence of the values and way of life of the original Europeans now threatened by those terrifying cultural communities of Muslims, who arrived earlier as immigrants and now as refugees. Thus there is another victim of these myths and scares: the whole community of Muslims, who are singled out as objects of public vengeance, reminding them that their presence in European territory is not wanted. The impact of the terrorist phenomenon has placed them under global suspicion, and public opinion and social feeling have concentrated on the need to defend ourselves “preventively” from the presence of Muslims on our soil. Because those feelings are presented in terms of patriotism and self-defence, the Islamophobic feelings that they engender find legitimation and social exculpation. Hence the possibility of speaking of an Islamophobia defined not as racism but as protection and self-defence, and so there is considerable resistance to call it by its true name. Yet the fact is that many young European Muslims are repudiated by their countries, they are marginalised and have no opportunities. People talk of radicalisation as if it were brought about by spontaneous generation, ignoring the very profound causes of humiliation and exclusion that produce it. At the origin of the fracture of the Mediterranean there is the cumulative fright suffered by Arab humanity, accompanied by European/Western myths that lead to their dehumanisation. The solution of the conflict requires moral and ethical reconciliation with the Arab and Muslim world: dignifying their culture and their historical legacy, giving the same importance to their dead as to our own, acknowledging our share of political responsibility in many of the conflicts that they have suffered, recognising their humanistic contribution to the universal values of civilisation, putting a stop to military invasions and occupations and bringing indecent alliances with dictatorial fundamentalist governments to an end. In other words, thinking of the Muslim Arab human being. Starting to destroy their growing feeling of being the scum of the earth. To do this does not mean succumbing to the blackmail of the extremists but exterminating the roots of the hatred and injustice from which they originate and are nourished.
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