Whenever I go back to Poland I ought to be careful what kind of subject I discuss with my friends and family so I can see them off at the airport and be keen to plan next visit. Like many of my nationals, also my relatives are not really welcoming towards people of different origins and believes, in particular Muslims.
To understand this antagonism we should go back to 17th century, when both sides met for the first time in so to speak rather unfriendly circumstances. In September 1683 Polish king and commander in chief Jan III Sobieski led two (Polish and Austrian) armies against Ottoman enemy in the Battle of Vienna and defeated Sultan’s Kara Mustafa forces. The victory went down in history not only as a great military success but also as a triumph of Christianity over Islam, and was breaking point in the Ottoman conquest of Europe. The battle became very significant for many Poles, who started to think about their own country as bulwark of Christianity and defender of the religion in whole Europe. Nowadays, 334 years after the battle some people still think alike and can see only threat in Islam.
Nevertheless, the time has changed, but people’s way of thinking unfortunately hasn’t. Even those whose role is to explain to society the core of the problem and show bigger and fair picture fail to do so. Some, government controlled and most popular media channels or journalists not even mentioning politicians did not make even slightest effort to bring to the conversation table serious and badly needed point of view alongside well researched contra arguments against general and biased viewpoint about Islam and its worshippers. Not only they gave up on delivering what their profession requires them to deliver but also they fuel existing dangerous hostility. To give an example, during 2015 refugee crisis Poland totally turn its back at the European Union and refused to accept and host those in need. And instead of showing refugees as who they were – civilians escaping war and terror, some Polish media pictured them as mob of young men hoping for benefits and free accommodation in Europe, with presumed terrorists between their ranks. Already conservative society completely ignored those who tried to explain the real situation of the refugees and where the came from and selectively chose to believe “informations” which would confirm their views as a right ones. Moreover plenty of self called journalists posted home made videos of the new invasion of Islam and supposed terrorists brainwashing the society even more. Shamefully I also need to admit that many of us, Polish emigrants to Great Britain and elsewhere in the Old Continent do not help the case, but opposite. Exposed to different culture, but without getting to know it we tend to make unfair judgements based on very often totally ludicrous things like the way people dress or look. What comes next is obvious. We share our views and “experiences” with the nationals in the country.
Yet other ingredient of Polish closed-mindedness and intolerance in general, not only towards Muslims lay this time in the latest history. After losing independence in 1795 we fully got it back together with the collapse of communism in 1989. Still many people remember tough times and hardship of the regime. Moreover many of liberal governments elected since then proved to be deeply corrupted and left people with feeling of betrayal. There was not enough time to even fully rebuild cities from damage done by Second World War. No wonder all that created fertile ground for right wing party to take over.
Although there is one argument used by the antagonists of immigration, which I cannot so easily cast aside. Why so many wealthy Arab nations are so reluctant of helping refugees? Well, the answer for this question would probably make another blog post. But should inaction of some countries justify ours? As Europeans whose ancestors created Human Rights and preached openness and understanding towards those escaping wars and injustice, values we are so proud of, we are somehow obligated to give them asylum they need so much. Also worrying and unfortunately hardly ever mentioned in any discussion about immigration is leaning big groups of people of the same nationality or background towards one another. Vast majority of them just do not become true citizens of the country they camd to live in. Instead they tend to create and live in some sort of equivalent of their homeland, with some not even making an effort to study a language of their new country. And while vast majority of immigrants from vast majority of countries do not cause big troubles, some are keen to use sick ideology and twisted interpretation of Koran to preach intolerance and hatred in order to confuse and push vulnerable fellow worshipers to commit as hideous acts of crime as driving a car into a crowd of innocent people. And this as a consequence plays only into the hands of anti immigration populists, who are more than happy to say that if we let Muslims in, sooner or later we will have to face the problem of religiously driven acts of terrorism.
With all those issues new questions arise. Are we good citizens ourselves to require from newcomers to become ones? And actually what does it mean? Should they forget their homelands and start to live as Europeans? Where should we draw the line and give a name to the hostile and foreign behaviour? Is it terrorism? But Europe had to face this problem long before Muslims came to live in our continent. And finally, coming back to Islam and so called its invasion of Europe. Maybe the problem is not solely in radical version of it but in Christianity, which used to be the religion of many countries and is now replaced by more and more secular lifestyle? Will it ever fulfil common for people of any race or background simply human need of God, however we call him. And what comes with religion, guidance of how to live.