Little Aylan al-Kurdi was part of Dave’s “swarm”. A bit difficult to brush that one off for PR Dave, of course, because Aylan wasn’t black or brown or “blobbed” out by television’s techie-taste dictators, but looked – let’s face it, for this is what it is about – rather like our three-year-olds. He could have been an Alan or a John – or a David. Washed up at Hastings or Bexhill, you can just imagine the demands for a public inquiry by the good citizens of Sussex. But PR Dave had just told us that Britain couldn’t take on “more” Syrian refugees. Sorry, Aylan.
Yet at the risk of catching the Daily Mail cancer, there’s a bit of a wider picture here that we need to be aware of. Europe and the West – what was once called Christendom – are supposed to be the bad guys in the Middle East. It is we who bomb, corrupt and invade the Muslims of the Middle East. It is we who support the vicious dictators of the Middle East (unless they are disobedient to our wishes). It is we who suck out the fossil treasures of the Middle East, its oil and its natural gas. We are, are we not, the infidels?
And true, Syria’s refugees, in their millions, have settled into the squalor of camps on the edges of Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan. But the hundreds of thousands of poor and huddled masses who wish to flee further from their tormentors are not sailing in leaking boats to where you might expect them to go – to the ummah, to Islam’s beating heart, to the land where the Prophet lived and where he received the word of God which is known as the Koran. No, the destitute of the Middle East are not heading for Saudi Arabia , the wealthy kingdoms of the Gulf, to pray for help from the builders of great mosques and the Keepers of Holy Places.
The refugees are not storming ashore on the Red Sea coast at Jeddah, demanding asylum and freedom in the kingdom which supported the Taliban and from which Osama bin Laden sprang. They are not pleading with Saudi border guards to allow them to take the train from Dhahran to Riyadh, to seek solace and safety for their families within the arms of a regime whose Wahhabi-Salafist Sunni faith has provided recruits aplenty for Isis. And, it might be added, those Syrians fleeing Assad rather than his enemies, are not throwing themselves at the feet of the “Islamic Caliphate” whose videoclips reek of death and punishment rather than mercy.
A bit odd, you may say. Historians, indeed, will one day ponder the irony that while Jews in their hundreds of thousands fled Europe for the Middle East 70 years ago, Muslims in their hundreds of thousands are now fleeing the Middle East for Europe. But that’s the point, isn’t it? Why are they coming here?
It’s not because they think we’re a “soft touch”. It’s not because they want to scrounge on our generosity. I suspect it’s because they know enough about Europe and our history and about us – not our tin-pot politicians or Supermarket Dave or the noisy little Labour raptors who are snapping at Corbyn, but about the Germans and French and Italians and Swedes, and yes, the Greeks and even the Hungarians – and, yes indeed, even the British – to know that we are good people, that we are kind people. I think they know that, deep beneath our carapace of cynicism and materialism and our lack of religious faith, the idea of humanism is alive in Europe and that we can be decent, good, thoughtful, honest people.
The implications of all this are extraordinary. It means that despite our slovenly and cowardly leaders, our crazed Blairs, our Supermarket Daves, our silly Milibands and our crackpot East European Euro-allies, we are an honourable and humane society. I’m not just talking about the Angel of Germany but of the German volunteers, some of them unemployed, who are feeding and welcoming the refugees in Berlin. I’m referring to the 20,000 Hungarians who marched in support of those distraught foreigners who had arrived at our European frontiers. I’m pointing to the French men and women who are helping to feed Dave’s “swarm” as they rot in the “jungles” of Calais. I’m thinking of the young Médecins Sans Frontières workers with whom I travelled to the Greek-Macedonian border, who handed out food and water and clothing and kindness to the families from Aleppo and Idlib and Deraa – yes, and from Kandahar and Peshawar – for whom the refugees were rather like three-year old Aylan on his golden beach: for these young Europeans, the refugees were just like us. In fact, “they” were “us”.
In the darker and ever growing chasm between the people – the electors – of Europe and their cringingly ambitious and immoral leaders (Merkel excepted, of course), there is a far more serious challenge for the future. What happens when we realise that our representatives don’t represent us? What happens when we recall that PR Dave lowered the British flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia. Will he – in our name, at least – perform the same honour for little Aylan?
This newspaper has started a campaign for the UK to welcome a fair share of refugees.