Is a Picture Worth a Thousand Years?

The most striking image of Europe’s refugee crises flashed around the world a year ago: the lifeless body of a three year old Syrian on a Turkish beach.  The situation had been intensifying since late 2011 following the assassination of Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, who had prevented the departure of African and Middle Eastern emigres from his shores, and the outbreak of the Syrian civil war.  Thousands had already drowned in the Mediterranean Sea.  This was the photo that brought “the migrant crises into focus,” declared the New York Times. 

The image went viral under the hashtag #humanity washed ashore. One British woman tweeted: “A photo instead of a million words. When will this madness stop? Where is our humanity?”

An Indian journalist wrote: “They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but this one demands trillions of tears.”  

Beyond the outpouring of grief, the photo also engendered political crises in the European Union: “He had a name: Aylan Kurdi. Urgent to act. Urgent to have a European mobilization,” tweeted the French Socialist PM, Manual Valls.

On the other extreme, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who insisted that Europe’s refugee crises was really a mass migration, outraged liberals when he came out forcefully against Europe’s German-backed open immigration policy:

Everything which is now taking place before our eyes threatens to have explosive consequences for the whole of Europe.  Europe’s response is madness.  If Europe does not return to the path of common sense, it will find itself laid low in a battle for its fate.

The Hungarian PM apparently still sees his country, whose defeat of the Ottomans in 1699 ended 150 years of occupation, as Europe’s gatekeeper against Islamic invasion:

Those arriving have been raised in another religion, and represent a radically different culture. Most of them are not Christians, but Muslims.  This is an important question, because Europe and European identity is rooted in Christianity.

Yet, the Magyars, as the Hungarians call themselves, were a semi-nomadic people from the Asian steppe, who ravaged Europe as far as Burgundy before settling in what is today Hungary.

The Magyars arrived at the turn of the millennium following centuries of Viking raids.  They had been preceded by the Arabs who would have conquered all of Europe had they not been stopped in Tours, France in 732.  The Muslim invaders would later take possession of Sicily and other European Islands while attacking the continent from bases in Southern France.

Converting in the year 1000, the Magyars were the last immigrant people to be accepted by Fortress Europe, which coalesced around a common Christianity. 

Noting that Christians no longer place value on “family, children, [and] community cohesion,” Orban tendered a dire prediction if Europe continues to accept Muslim immigration.  “There will eventually be more Muslims than Christians in Europe as the continent’s non-Muslim population is ill-equipped to fight the coming cultural competition.”

Europe’s progressives rejected Orban's warning.  “In a refugee crisis of unprecedented proportions, Hungary’s prime minister, Viktor Orban, has set himself up as a bulwark against a generous-spirited, pan-European approach,” The Guardian editorialized.

Why should western Europeans listen to Viktor Orban?  Not only was Hungary a late comer to Europe, but to the European Union as well (2004). Core member states, like France and Germany, fear that his influence on Eastern European members is creating a growing east-west divide in the supranational body.  Meanwhile, they complain, Hungary continues to take handouts from Brussels.  

“Mr Orban’s hateful statements about Muslims being a threat to ‘European civilization,’ as well as his ludicrous references to century-old wars with the Ottomans, should be called out for what they are: a disgrace,” opined the Guardian.

Was the Hungarian PM right?

Certainly, the rising number of terror incidents and sexual assaults committed by immigrants in the past year point to Orban's prescience.

During one summer week (July 18th to the 24th) Germany, which took in 1.1 million asylum seekers in 2015, suffered a mass shooting which killed nine (perpetrated by an 18 year-old son of Iranian asylum-seekers who was insecure about his German identity), fifteen injured in a suicide bombing and an ax attack on a train which injured four.  In addition, on July 24th, a Syrian immigrant killed a woman and wounded two in what was reported as a "personal dispute." 

The Gatestone Institute reports that in July "hundreds of German women and children were sexually assaulted by migrants."

The youngest victim was nine; the oldest, 79. Attacks occurred at beaches, bike trails, cemeteries, discotheques, grocery stores, music festivals, parking garages, playgrounds, schools, shopping malls, taxis, public transportation, public parks, public squares, public swimming pools and public restrooms.  Predators are lurking everywhere; safety nowhere.

In Sweden, which has welcomed the most refugees per capita (71% of the arrivals are single males), similar attacks have been reported.  

Europe is, in fact, committing demographic suicide.  In 2015, the number of deaths surpassed births in European Union for the first time since 1961 when Eurostat (the statistical office of the European Union) began calculating the continent's population. The slight net increase in population (around 2 million) was "driven mainly by net migration."

If Europeans won’t heed the warnings of Viktor Orban, perhaps they will listen to geopolitical expert George Friedman, a refugee from Hungarian communism who arrived in the US as a child.  “This is one of the oldest wars still active in the world - a long war that has lasted 1,300 years” he explains, referring to the long battle between Christianity and Islam:

We are in a period when the initiative is shifting - this time away from Europe to the Muslim world. Christianity has been sapped of its evangelical zeal and no longer uses the sword to kill and convert its enemies.  At least parts of Islam retain that zeal.  Enough Muslims share that fervency to endanger the lives of those they despise. And there is no way to distinguish those who might kill from those who won’t.

Westerners are often overwhelmed by mass information and underwhelmed by the weight of history.

Most saw the picture of Aylan Kurdi as it was captioned – "a Syrian boy."  A look at his family name confirms that he was a Syrian Kurd.  The Kurds are a large stateless people living in Syria, Turkey, Iraq and Iran.  His family was escaping the ruins of Kobani, a city destroyed by the Islamic State.

Although most Kurds are nominally Sunni Muslims, they have created an autonomous zone in Iraq that promotes democracy and individual rights.  In the fight against radical Islam, men and women fight side by side. They need more military help, humanitarian aid and asylum rights when necessary.

Western nations should give preference to immigration from the Christian communities of the Middle East, which are threatened with extinction by radical Islamists.

The death of Aylan Kurdi, his brother, and mother who drowned attempting to join a relative in Canada was tragic.

Dr. Freidman writes "of the constancy of the conflict between Christianity and Islam," reminding us that "in any conflict, understanding both yourself and the other is the key to survival."  Only determination based on an historical perspective, recognizing our enemy, and helping our Middle Eastern friends will fortify us for the long battle ahead.  If not, we may not only see more heartbreaking pictures like Aylan's, but child suicide bombers on the streets of Europe as well.

The author is a “self-made multiculturalist” who has lived and worked in Africa, Latin America and the Middle East. He blogs at The Multicultural Conservative: Conservative by Nature – Multicultural by Choice.