It made me really sad when I read in the New York Times the other day that American politicians who had advocated bringing Syrian refugees to the United States had been called the “jihadi caucus” by right-wing conservatives. What a stupid, fearful, counter-productive thing to say, I thought. But American politics is prone to this kind of hyperbole and idiocy.
I was doubly sad to read this morning that a prominent politician in Germany made the same argument against the government’s decision to accept all refugees who arrive in Germany. He didn’t use the same kind of imaginative language, but the message was crystal clear.
Hans-Peter Friedrich, the deputy chairman of the CDU/CSU parliamentary group, said in an interview this morning that the decision to accept and register refugees pouring into Germany by way of Hungary is an “unprecedented blunder” and that Germany “has lost control.”
According to Friedrich, it is “completely irresponsible that thousands are storming the country, uncontrolled and un-registered, and it is not possible to really know how many of them are IS-Fighters or Islamist sleeper agents.”
The irony is, of course, that a huge number of these people are actually running away from ISIS. Is it possible that there are radical Islamists among the thousands arriving in Germany? Yes, of course it is possible. It is a reasonable concern, but given the current emergency humanitarian situation, it is not the most pressing concern, or even a very large one.
The most important task right now is to provide relief to the refugees. The enormous tasks that remain – of registering, processing, and eventually integrating hundreds of thousands of people – can be addressed later.
Friedrich’s statements reveal a man who’s afraid: afraid of people he doesn’t know or understand, afraid that the Germany of his youth is threatened, afraid that something unexpected might happen. A group of hundreds of thousands of desperate, hungry, tired people from the Middle East arrive begging for German help and the first thing that he thinks is “shit, ISIS is invading!” What a small-minded person. What a small-minded party.