Saturday, 4 February 2017

The Fearsome Ghost Of Ayatollah Khomeini

Synopsis: Western countries are being silly to fear Iranian refugees on account of the threat of Islamic terror. Islamic terror is associated with Sunni Wahhabi Islam, not with the Shi'ite denomination of Islam that Iranians tend to follow. Australia should stop pleading with the US and simply absorb the Iranian refugees in its camps. The heavens will not fall.

The biggest news item of the last week was Donald Trump's phone call to Australia's Prime Minster Malcolm Turnbull, in which he ranted about the "dumb deal" that his predecessors had signed with Australia (to accept 1250 refugees from Australian refugee camps), and then hung up 25 minutes into a scheduled hour-long call, calling it his "worst call by far".

One could argue about how it actually went for Trump, but it almost certainly was Turnbull's "worst call by far"

At the heart of the dispute were about 2000 asylum seekers currently being held in detention at the two Australian offshore processing centres of Manus Island and Nauru.

On Nauru, of 1200 asylum seekers, 983 have been considered genuine refugees while 217 have not.
On Manus Island, of 859 asylum seekers, 669 have been considered genuine refugees, while 190 have not. That makes a total of 1652 (=983+669) genuine refugees.

Of the 1652 genuine refugees, the US (under Obama) agreed to take 1250. The remainder were to be resettled in Papua New Guinea and Cambodia. (Australia has harsh immigration laws that say that no one who gets onto a boat and attempts to reach Australia will ever be settled in Australia. They can only be settled in PNG or elsewhere, the so-called "Pacific Solution". It's a policy that has been quite effective in discouraging people smuggling.)

Although no hard figures seem to be available, Iranians seem to be the dominant cohort in both processing centres, with smaller contingents from Iraq and Somalia. All of these asylum seekers fall afoul of Trump's executive order banning the entry of people from 7 "countries of concern" (Iraq, Syria, Libya, Iran, Yemen, Somalia and Sudan).

As of the time of writing, the US seems to be reluctantly going ahead with the agreement, but only on the basis of "extreme vetting" of the refugees.

If the ostensible reason for this "extreme vetting" is fear of unwittingly importing terrorists, then there is a simple solution that suggests itself immediately - check that the Iranians are indeed Shi'ites and let them into Australia without further ado. My reasoning is explained below, as well as my theory about why this simple solution doesn't seem to strike Australian decision-makers.

The simple fact of the matter is that all the acts of "Islamic terror" perpetrated in recent times have been at the hands of Sunni Muslims subscribing to the hardline Wahhabi strain of Islam. Iranians are not even Sunni, and have not been implicated in acts of terror. There was one singular exception, although this had its own twist. In December 2014, a lone Iranian gunman (Man Haron Monis) took hostages in a siege at the Lindt Chocolate Cafe in Martin Place, Sydney. Two people apart from Monis himself were later killed in a shootout when police stormed the establishment. I admit I was surprised when I heard the initial reports that the gunman was Iranian, but the riddle was solved shortly thereafter. It was revealed that Monis had converted to Sunni Wahhabi Islam just a month earlier.

To my mind therefore, the West suffers from a fear of all Muslims, which irrationally includes Shi'ite Iranians. If there is anyone they need to be wary about, it is Sunni Muslims who ascribe to one of the hardline sects, such as the Wahhabis, Salafis, or Deobandis. Shi'ites simply do not pose a threat.

In addition, I tend to take a civilisational view of human history and cultural evolution, and therefore I accord a certain level of "pre-assigned respect" to the people descended from the ancient Persian civilisation. Persians are a distinct people from the Arabs, and are also distinct from people of the Turkish civilisation. As people belonging to the proud Persian civilisation, the Iranians are in general a cultured and educated people. Immigrants from Iran will be an asset to any society that takes them in.

I think it was the shock of Ayatollah Khomeini's 1979 revolution that has scarred a generation of Western decision-makers. To them, there is an unbroken continuum from Khomeini to Bin Laden and thereafter to ISIS. But this is a false association. The Iranian revolution was confined to Iran. Even the limited mischief that Iran has engaged in outside its borders has been in its immediate neighbourhood through Hezbollah. It has never sought to export its revolution to the West or attempted to establish a worldwide caliphate. Hence, even though Iran is painted as a villain by Israel and many of the Arab states, and this is lapped up by a gullible West, the truth is that there is no threat to the wider world either from Iran or from Iranian emigrants.

Rather than bow and scrape before Trump's administration in an attempt to hold the US to its agreement, I believe Australia should make a one-time exception to its "Pacific Solution" and simply absorb all the Iranian refugees without further process. The Sunni refugees will unfortunately have to proceed with the "extreme vetting" that the US insists upon.
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