Cyprus Mail

A smokescreen cloaking the reality

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By Gavin Jones

POLITICAL parties within Europe which have employed immigration as one of their primary platforms have tapped into the rich seam of prejudice and angst, real or imagined, that has flared up and reached a crescendo. These tendencies are not a new phenomenon as some may think but are part of a centuries old tradition of picking on minorities or the most vulnerable in society and blaming them for the ills that exist in their respective countries. On many an occasion, violence was the end result.

Towards the end of the 11th Century, bands of cut-throats, mainly from France but also from England and other European countries and under the guise of being ‘holy warriors’ of the First Crusade, embarked on a killing spree while en route to the Holy Land. Jews were the unfortunate victims and those unlucky enough to be hunted down and caught in Germany and along the Danube were put to death. The excuse used and clarion call justifying such merciless, barbaric behaviour was because the Jewish elders of Jerusalem’s Temple were the ones who’d condemned Christ and asked for his death. Therefore by proxy the Jews of the Middle Ages would have to pay the ultimate price. Similar pogroms occurred in 13th Century England, 19th century Russia and all too recently in 20th Century Germany.

Whipping up hatred against minorities and immigrants takes many forms, one of the most common being the crass misconception that they take jobs away from indigenous populations. We’ve seen this phenomenon in Cyprus of late. The fact that many Cypriots refuse to do the jobs that these ‘aliens’ are prepared to perform is conveniently left out of the equation. I hasten to add that the same argument is trotted out elsewhere in Europe. Coupled with this is the upsurge in Islamophobia which has been fuelled by the grisly executions carried out by ISIS in Iraq and Syria, the influx of Muslims from various countries into Western Europe and issues such as the virulent hostility directed towards those wearing the burqa. The shock of the new is a universal trait and for many even more so when someone is covered from head to foot.

As a child living in the West Midlands in 1950s Britain, I recall people’s reaction when confronted by those with different skin colour, some with turbans, driving and distributing tickets on public transport. In those days they were referred to as ‘darkies’ or ‘nig nogs’. In Cyprus, Sri Lankans and others are openly called ‘mavri’, blacks, an invective which will hopefully fade with the passage of time. During the same period, thousands of Cypriots arrived in Britain with many opening ‘fishatica’, fish and chip shops, restaurants and rag trade enterprises. But of course they didn’t tend to be subjected to the kind of stares and quips because they had the ‘right’ skin colour and didn’t wear turbans, saris and pantaloons. Over time, everyone became used to these new arrivals with their ‘funny’ clothes and foods and today nobody gives people with different characteristics a second glance. The irony is that chicken tikka masala has overtaken fish and chips as the nation’s favourite dish.

Returning to the current Muslim dimension, I suspect that deep-down Europeans feel that their way of life, civilisation or call it what you will, is under siege and that their Christian societies which have dominated and been in situ for two millenia will ultimately be replaced. Events in the Middle East would seem to confirm their fears and cement their opinions. I believe that what we’re witnessing is just a blip along the human migration story which has been evolving over hundreds of thousands of years and which began with our very own Homo Sapiens Earth Mother leaving East Africa with her tribe and journeying north to populate the world. That tribe, OUR tribe, superseded the Neanderthals and has been developing ever since. As I mentioned before, many Cypriots moved to Britain, Australia and South Africa, Britons went to Cyprus and all points of the globe, Europeans as a whole have colonised North America, Spaniards and Portuguese did the same in Central and South America and so on and so forth. It’s an ever evolving process.

Even though there have been mumblings in Britain about Eastern Europeans arriving and taking jobs on building sites and farms, they’re tolerated. Again, the jobs that they perform are those which most of the indigenous population wouldn’t touch with the proverbial barge pole. So why do people REALLY want immigration to be drastically curbed or cease?

I believe that public opinion has upped the ante over the issue and certain politicians have latched onto this and filled the void. Because of events in the Middle East, high profile cases of large families from that part of the world claiming benefits and other related issues, Muslims as a bloc have conveniently become the universal whipping boys. Moreover, it’s not widely reported that those perpetrating the horrors in the Middle East are but a tiny minority who’ve been widely condemned by their fellow Muslims.

As well as people feeling that they’ve already accepted more than enough immigrants into their countries, I believe that the real reasons that there are calls to pull down the immigration shutters are because a great many of those wishing to enter Western Europe are, unlike most Europeans, Muslim and possess a different skin colour. These are the real reasons and other excuses are merely a smokescreen which cloak the reality of what people really feel and what they expect their governments to deliver. Franklin. D. Roosevelt said the following: “Remember that all of us, and you and I especially, are descended from immigrants.” However, in today’s world some immigrants are definitely more equal than others.

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