Refugees, ha­rass­ment and An­gela Merkel

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - OPINION - Gwynne Dyer Gwynne Dyer is an in­de­pen­dent jour­nal­ist whose ar­ti­cles are pub­lished in 45 coun­tries.

Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel opened Ger­many’s doors to a mil­lion refugees and mi­grants last year — three times as many as the rest of the Euro­pean Union put to­gether. Crit­ics in Ger­many pre­dicted a pop­u­lar back­lash, and warned that even her own Chris­tian Demo­cratic Party (CDU) would turn against her.

In the case of the CDU, at least, they were dead wrong. At the party’s an­nual congress on 15 De­cem­ber, Merkel’s speech — in which she did not re­treat one inch from her fre­quent as­ser­tion that “we can do it” (ac­cept and in­te­grate the refugees) — got a ten-minute stand­ing ova­tion that brought tears to her eyes.

De­spite a dip in the opin­ion polls, she also still en­joys wide­spread pop­u­lar sup­port — or at least she did un­til the ugly events in the city of Cologne on New Year’s Eve.

In the crowds that gath­ered in front of Cologne’s rail­way sta­tion to cel­e­brate the New Year, hun­dreds of young men in gangs be­gan ha­rass­ing and rob­bing Ger­man women. “All of a sud­den th­ese men around us be­gan grop­ing us,” one vic­tim told Ger­man tele­vi­sion.

“They touched our be­hinds and grabbed be­tween our legs. They touched us ev­ery­where, so my girl­friend wanted to get out of the crowd. When I turned around one guy grabbed my bag and ripped it off my body.” There were 379 com­plaints to the po­lice, 40 per cent of which in­volved sex­ual as­sault, and two ac­cu­sa­tions of rape.

Only 31 men were ar­rested in con­nec­tion with th­ese of­fences, a po­lice fail­ure that caused pop­u­lar out­rage. But the in­cen­di­ary fact — which the po­lice at first de­clined to re­veal — was that 18 of the 31 men ar­rested were asy­lum-seek­ers, and all but five were Mus­lims. So there was a firestorm of pop­u­lar protest about the Cologne at­tacks (which also hap­pened on a smaller scale in Stuttgart and Ham­burg).

But what on earth made those young Mus­lim men, the ben­e­fi­cia­ries of Ger­many’s gen­eros­ity, think they could sex­u­ally at­tack young Ger­man women in pub­lic (and rob them while they were do­ing it)?

They were not pro­fes­sional thieves, and I very much doubt that they would sex­u­ally at­tack young Mus­lim women in pub­lic if they were back home. I sus­pect that they were mostly vil­lage boys who still be­lieve the pop­u­lar Middle East­ern stereo­types about good Mus­lim girls whom you must not ha­rass, and “loose” Western women who are fair game for sex­ual as­sault.

I once lived in Istanbul for a while with my wife and two lit­tle boys, and we had the same ex­pe­ri­ence as most other Westerners: when my wife was out with me or with the chil­dren, she was treated with re­spect. When she was out alone, she was the tar­get of con­stant sex­ual ha­rass­ment.

At least once a day, as young men passed her in the crowded streets, she would sud­denly ex­pe­ri­ence the full frontal grab — and if she protested, they would sim­ply laugh at her. So I taught her what a Turk­ish woman would say if the same thing hap­pened, and it did help. She still got mo­lested, but when she re­buked the at­tack­ers in Turk­ish they were over­whelmed with shame and panic, and dis­ap­peared into the crowd as fast as pos­si­ble.

This was back when Istanbul only had three mil­lion peo­ple (it now has 14 mil­lion), but al­ready my Turk­ish friends were moan­ing about how their city was be­ing “vil­lager-ised” by peo­ple mi­grat­ing from the coun­try­side. Even Turk­ish women who looked too “Western” were be­ing ha­rassed, and they blamed the ex-vil­lagers.

When you take in a mil­lion refugees, more than half of them from the Middle East, you may ex­pect them to in­clude a few religious fa­nat­ics who may be or be­come ter­ror­ists. They will also in­clude a con­sid­er­ably larger num­ber of ig­no­rant hicks who think that it is not a crime or a dis­grace to at­tack non-Mus­lim girls sex­u­ally.

No good deed goes en­tirely un­pun­ished, and this is part of the price Ger­many will pay for its gen­eros­ity. It’s not an un­bear­able price, even if it in­volves one or two more Is­lamist ter­ror­ist at­tacks than would oth­er­wise have oc­curred — and in a cou­ple of years most of the young Mus­lim men who at­tacked women in Cologne will have fig­ured out that be­ing free, as Ger­man women are, does not mean be­ing im­moral or freely avail­able.

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