The migrant issue at the centre of Europe’s concerns is not the only source of trouble as others escape Europe to fight for a doomed cause

Increasing amounts of attention in Europe has focused on the refugee crisis, especially with the resolution (for now) of the single European currency imbroglio.  With 200,000 crossing the Mediterranean in 2014 and 300,000 doing so in the first eight months of this year, Italy, Greece, Spain and Malta feel at ‘breaking point’.  Land crossings are problematic for some countries like Hungary and Slovakia while 71 people were found dead in a truck on the Austrian border.  Even Germany, with a history of permanent ‘guest-workers and taking the largest share – Angela Merkel promising to admit 800,000 – has become disgruntled in some quarters.

Of course, it is all a matter of perspective.  While the numbers are real, the portrayal by the media and certain politicians and activists of limitless hordes, not only dehumanises the people arriving but unnerves indigenous populations.  Italy, Greece, Spain and Malta have all had severe economic issues connected with the Euro, as well as those that have now arisen because of those smuggled onto their shores.  Moreover, to label all as ‘migrants’, while correct from a dictionary standpoint, robs many of the justification for the reason of their flight – persecution or the fear of persecution.

Al Jazeera has also opened up the debate on the designation of such unfortunate people.  The latter seek refuge from war-torn homelands, hence they are ‘refugees’.  Other than desertification resulting from climate change, there is no reason that such an upswing in numbers would be primarily from those crossing continents for economic reasons.  Further, the term ‘asylum seeker’ was created to make it seem that people fleeing from strife were imposing themselves on the native population, rather than being allowed entry through the generosity of the local people.

The increase in the movement of people can be directly attributable to increased instability in countries like Libya, Syria, Iraq, Eritrea and Afghanistan.  On the 27th of August alone, Daesh – also known as ISIS, ISIL or IS – killed two Iraqi generals in a bomb attack.  The week before, they beheaded the keeper of antiquities in Palmyra, Syria.  Their actions and extremist policy, followed by other militant groups and individuals claiming to be acting in the name of Islam, has led to an upsurge in Islamophobia in many European societies.

As in other countries, Norway has seen some of its citizens decamp in the opposite direction to many of the travellers – to the Middle East to fight for Daesh.  While 50 is small compared to the numbers leaving, say, the UK, a radical group in Norway has angered moderate Muslims by publicly mounting demonstrations in support of Daesh.  To counter this, on the 25th of August, thousands attended a rally in Oslo protesting against both Daesh and their Norwegian sympathisers.  The protest was an initiative by young Norwegian Muslims to show a common front and saw Norway’s Prime Minister – Erna Solberg – and other politicians join with Muslim leaders to register their unity.  According to Associated Press, Mehtab Afshar, head of the Islamic Council in Norway, told the crowd, ‘They [Daesh] stand for terrorism, they stand for terror … and we condemn that in the strongest terms’.

Worthy in its objectives, the rally reaffirmed the principles of mainstream Islam in Norway, showing Norwegians another side to that often portrayed in news reports – something that is crucial in a land where the shadow of mass murderer Anders Breivik still looms large; however, it is unlikely to have turned heads among disaffected youth whose lives have not worked out as expected and for whom fighting for Daesh is a way to find validation.

The presence of Solberg, leader of Norway’s Conservative Party, and others of her political class, would in the minds of radicals, position those Muslims who shared a common platform as sell-outs.  In that regard, it may have been more successful to curb the appeal of Daesh within Norway had the rally been a Muslim-only event.  This maybe something to consider for future protests.  There are no easy answers though.

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