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Opinion: Rolling Out the Red Carpet for Ukrainian Refugees is a New Form of Islamophobia

Germany’s prioritization of Ukrainians fleeing war is occurring on the backs of Muslim refugees.

Germany’s prioritization of Ukrainians fleeing war is occurring on the backs of Muslim refugees.

This article was originally published on Al Mayadeen English, found here. Republished with permission from the author.


Islamophobia has many faces: some are visibly ugly and unmistakable in their hateful intent, such as white supremacists burning copies of the Quran with full police protection in Scandinavia or mobs of bloodthirsty Hindu extremists engaging in anti-Muslim pogroms in India.

Then there is the anti-Palestinian Islamophobia of good old reliable “Israel” during the Muslim Holy Month of Ramadan when its heavily armed occupation forces repeatedly storm the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound and brutalize peaceful worshippers with sadistic abandon, while mobs of Jewish extremists congregate on the streets and chant “Death to Arabs!”

Other manifestations of anti-Muslim bigotry are less physically violent: legislative ones, such as criminalizing the hijab in France, and those that are more structural and systemic, such as the discriminatory practices of racial profiling, employment, and housing discrimination, as well as discursive Islamophobia in the form of biased and negative media representation.

In these times, as war has once again returned to the uncivilized disaster continent, that is Europe, plagued by a bungled pandemic that had already killed 1.4 million people (the entire population of a city like San Diego, CA or San Antonio, TX) by the end of last year and where the diseases of racism, white supremacy, and Islamophobia reign equally supreme, Germany has succeeded in finding new, creative ways of demeaning Muslims which, I must admit, warrant complimenting as they are a testament to that innovative drive Germans are famous for in the fields of engineering and technology, and which in 2022 seem to have extended to white supremacy as well.

I am talking about the concerted effort of rolling out the red carpet for Ukrainian refugees, and by doing so, demoting non-Ukrainian ones, especially from Muslim-majority countries rendered conflict zones by Western imperialism, to second-class undesirables.

Ethnic cleansing, Berlin-style

While the overkill of public solidarity for Ukraine in Germany, which in 2015 had made a name for itself as the chief humanitarian of Europe when it allowed over a million refugees to enter the country, most of them from Syria, Afghanistan, and Iraq, has been telling of white people’s selective empathy, it has quickly become evident that there is a huge difference between allowing people to come and wanting people to come and going the extra mile to accommodate them.

It has also become clear as day that this discrepancy is demarcated strictly along religious, (socially constructed) ethnic, and biological lines: blue-eyed blonde Ukrainian Christians are welcome, darker-skinned Muslims, Arabs, and Africans not so much.

This racist hierarchization found direct policy implementation last month when authorities in the German capital Berlin evicted virtually overnight Afghan refugees from their homes to make way for more desirable refugees in the form of Ukrainian ones.

Foreign Policy broke the story that received little attention in Germany in an article candidly titled “Germany Is Displacing Afghan Refugees to Make Way for Ukrainians,” a human interest story of the non-European refugee experience, the latter consisting not only of the trauma of having to flee one’s country, but also of the retraumatization of being forced from one’s home again, without prior notice, in what is supposed to be a safe haven.

Berlin, being a hotspot for racialized gentrification where lower-income residents of (Muslim) immigrant neighborhoods in districts such as Kreuzberg and Neukölln are relentlessly being priced out of these highly sought-after urban centers in order to make way for a higher income, predominantly white demographic, is no stranger to economic forced displacement.

But a local government coercing Muslims and people of color out of their homes to make way for white people? That is a new low even for German racism and Islamophobia, and the message behind it is clear: “Dear visible minorities, you are not welcome in this country and we will treat you as our opportunistic white supremacist whims see fit.”

This German form of ethnic cleansing (albeit no way near as systematic and violent) reminds me of Palestinians being forced out of their multigenerational family homes by the Israeli Apartheid regime so that Jewish immigrants from New York with no prior ties to “Israel” and even lesser ties to Palestine can move in.

Making exceptions for Ukrainians, but going by the book when Muslims are concerned

Germany’s zero-sum game of red-carpet treatment for Ukrainian refugees at the cost of Muslim lives did not stop there: in yet another shameful double standard that the war in Ukraine has produced, the education ministers of Germany’s sixteen states announced that they would waive the requirement of a high school diploma to enter university for Ukrainian refugees.

As a person of color who had to struggle through a German secondary school system that is so debilitatingly racist that I ultimately flunked out of high school with what I only later realized to be racism-induced burn-out and then had to earn my university entrance degree via two years of night school while working retail during the day, I find this latest manifestation of doling out unmeritorious freebies to Ukrainians (who can basically hop on a plane and legally immigrate to Canada these days, with “no limit to the number of Ukrainians who can apply,” according to the Government of Canada website, while others who dream of moving to the Land of Opportunity have to go through a lengthy, arduous and costly immigration process) highly offensive.

But forget about me: how infinitely more insulting must this be for someone less privileged than myself: for non-European refugees from Syria or Afghanistan whose perfectly fine academic qualifications are not worthy of acceptance by the German Übermensch bureaucracy that forces them to painstakingly bring their credentials up to par and in the process waste years of their lives on an education that they already have?

Just a reminder that the 428,500 Syrians (source: German Interior Ministry) who arrived in Germany during the so-called “refugee crisis” in 2015 (a term that has been completely absent in European discourse with regards to the war in Ukraine, even though, according to the UN, 5 million Ukrainians have fled their country since the war began, the bulk of them arriving in the EU), were not granted this kind of preferential treatment that Ukrainians are receiving today.

What about the adolescents among the 12,000 Afghans who have fled to Germany since the Taliban retook Afghanistan last year and who also had their secondary schooling interrupted: why are they not given the same exemption that is being granted to Ukrainians on a silver platter? We all know why: because they are not blue-eyed, blonde Europeans.

“Politicians, employers, and union leaders are in agreement: refugees from Ukraine are to get speedy access to the German job market,” writes the Augsburger Allgemeine newspaper. Where is this rare unity between employers and unions when the refugees are Black, Brown, or Muslim?

Halting the demographic decline of white Germany

Muslims constitute about 5% of the 82 million population in Germany. While Islam is the fastest-growing religion worldwide, in the Federal Republic that number has been pretty stagnant, despite the 1.1 million Syrians, Afghans, and Iraqis who entered in 2015, of whom many went on to other EU countries or have since been sent back.

By making newly arrived Ukrainians feel welcome to the point of ass-kissing while making Muslim, Arab, and African refugees feel unwanted to the point of ass-kicking, the German state has found a backdoor way of ensuring that the number of Muslims and visible minorities in Germany, where as of today a quarter of the population has some form of immigrant history, are held in check.

In this regard, the influx of blue-eyed, blonde refugees from Ukraine has been a godsend for Germany’s steadily declining white population. By capitalizing on human suffering as Germans desperately bend over backward to accommodate Ukrainian refugees in a forceful show of selective solidarity and white people-stick-togetherness, the hope seems to be that this will guarantee the survival of the “white master race” in Germany for generations to come, thereby offsetting the non-white and Muslim population numbers which are already deemed too high, while doing everything in one’s power to keep the latter demographic in an eternally otherized and subjugated state.

But white Germany’s steady demographical decline might prove to be inevitable after all: according to UN aid coordination office OCHA, 30,000 Ukrainians are returning home every day.

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