by Vishal Wilde
One of the most tragic contemporary humanitarian disasters to face the world today due to the problems faced within the fractured Middle East is the refugee crisis. We constantly hear not only of their deaths, disappearances, and delays within and outside designated refugee camps but also of their persecution in the countries they transit through or even arrive at. However, the political situation in Europe is such that it is currently infeasible to provide sustainable solutions. Both popular sentiment and public financial problems with regards to security, hostile attitudes towards refugees as a result of exacerbated xenophobia and economic hardship faced by the diverse natives, contribute to the continuous problems. Nevertheless, there is one country, not often considered, which may well be in an excellent position to alleviate the refugee crisis by taking in many, most, or possibly even all: India.
Many peoples of diverse backgrounds are adversely affected by the (un)Islamic State’s actions throughout the region; I will begin by addressing Yazidis, before turning to Christians and finally to Muslims. Yazidis are facing a genocide under the (un)Islamic State ; their deity, Melek Taus, in fact, bears a lot of similarities (in various depictions) with the depictions of Hindu Gods such as Muruga, Krishna, and they also have significant cultural similarities with Indian Hindus and so on – many Indians, therefore, have called to save them. The Yazidis are largely used as scapegoats by the (un)Islamic State as ‘devil worshippers’ because they believe that their deity, Melek Taus, is Lucifer because they both refused to bow to Adam. However, whereas Lucifer was punished as a result, the Yazidis see Melek Taus as a figure of good in the world and not as evil. In this sense, I like to think of them as somewhat of a missing link between the Abrahamic religions and South Asian religions. They will have no problem with assimilating with and living alongside Indian peoples.
Whereas many natives within Europe are currently averse to supporting an influx of refugees (often citing ‘security’ concerns, ‘integration’ problems and so on), India shares a long history with Syria and the Middle East more broadly . This can make cultural coexistence more feasible than in other cases. For example, there exists the Catholic Syrian Bank which has a strong presence in South India (where communal tensions are contemporarily not as enflamed as in parts of ‘North’ India and where it is also relatively more prosperous) and it would not be difficult for Christians from Syria (many of whom live in Aleppo which is increasingly under threat) to integrate with Christians across India (there are, for example, Saint Thomas Christians who are also known as Syrian Christians based in India).
Now, some would argue that Muslims from the Middle East would have a hard time integrating and some of them may be a national security concern but I completely disagree. Firstly, an estimated 14.2% of India’s population is Muslim (according to the 2011 census) and that translates to roughly 172 million people. Secondly, the Indian government itself has stated that Indian Muslims are at very low risk of joining the un-Islamic State and The Heritage Foundation released figures that show the ‘foreign’ fighters joining them. India does not even figure on the list because it is statistically negligible despite the fact that it has the third largest Muslim population of any country in the world (it is home to 10% of the world’s Muslim population). Furthermore, un-Islamic terrorism is not a new phenomenon to India and the subcontinent more broadly has dealt with its fair share of it for a longer period of time; the Indian Mujahideen, Lashkar-e-Toiba, etc. have all been handled by Indian intelligence agencies. India is, therefore, well-placed and well-adapted to handle any possible threats to its national security since they already have an extensive network of agents and assets that can respond to potentially malicious actors.
Therefore, it is conceivable that the significant, pre-existing communities within India would be able and willing to assist with the resettlement of Syrian refugees and this would reduce the burden upon state apparatuses to do so (unlike in Europe and the United States, for example).