Some of you have thought about it, haven't you?

You have seen photos of brown-skinned, dark-haired young men, unkempt and exhausted, pouring out of buses and trains in Austria and Germany, and have worried that, some of them, could be jihadists sent by ISIS to cause havoc in Europe.

After all, who knows who is who? Many refugees do not carry passports or other forms of identity.

Could it be that all those kind-hearted Austrians and Germans, who clap and cheer refugees as they arrive in their country, are in fact welcoming terrorists to Europe? What a great plan by ISIS, right?


No, not right.

In my opinion, such fears are based on our internalised Islamophobic views and uninformed opinions.

Yes, I know you have foreign friends, love travelling to exotic locations, appreciate ancient cultures and feel terrible about these poor refugees; but have you thought about why you feel threatened by the sight of, mostly Arab Muslims, fleeing to Europe? Why you don't see them, first and foremost, as victims and humans in urgent need of assistance, but as potential threat to the blissful safety and security of the West?

Jack Shaheen knows the answer. In his book titled Reel Bad Arabs: How Hollywood Vilifies a People. He describes Hollywood's role in distorting our ideas of Arabs and Muslims, portraying them as violent, evil and irrational people (American Sniper is the latest Arab-bashing blockbuster guilty of feeding us propaganda and nonsense.)

Edward Said in his book Orientalism explores the role of the Western literature in conveying a general perception of Eastern cultures that bears little resemblance to reality.

These false perceptions of Muslims are reproduced and reinforced on almost daily basis. The depictions of Muslims as terrorists are not balanced with images and news of Muslim men and women as revered scientists, Nobel Peace Prize winners, poets, artists, writers, etc.

There are many reports of ISIS sending their fighters to Europe disguised as refugees but none of these reports have been verified by any of the European security services.

It is true that some people traffickers have to pay a percentage of their profits to ISIS; but there is no substantiated report of the smugglers being made to hide ISIS fighters amongst the refugees.

Earlier this month, a Facebook account posting a before-and-after photos of a supposedly ISIS-fighter-turned-refugee was shared 70,000 times online. The photo had the accompanying message that said: "Remember this guy? Posing in ISIS photos last year - now he's a 'refugee'. Are we suckers or what!"

As it turned out the real suckers were those who believed this claim and shared the captioned photos of Laith Al Saleh without checking its validity first. The bearded before-photo of Al Saleh, wearing military gear and camouflage trousers and holding an assault rifle, was taken when he was fighting against, not for, ISIS.


In my opinion, the fear of jihadists pouring into Europe has no basis and, therefore, is unjustified. Firstly, remember that everything that ISIS is doing, through their very successful social media and propaganda campaign, is to encourage more foreign fighters to join them where they need them the most, in the battle fields of Syria and Iraq.

It is true that ISIS' ambitions are regional but ISIS' first and foremost concern is self-preservation and survival. Sending scores of jihadists away from where they are most needed does not seem rational.

The very reason that ISIS encourages acts of terrorism in the West is because they know that, the sort of Islam-bashing that usually follows these attacks, will bolster their recruitment drive and expand their support base.

Every word that attacks and blames Islam, only enhances ISIS's destructive message to Muslims around the globe; a message that says to them: the West is at war with you and your religion.

We know there are some disillusioned ISIS foreign fighters who would like to return to Europe. Could these fighters, or indeed any ISIS fighter, disguise themselves as refugees without any of the locals spotting them? Unlikely; but even if that happens, the fact is, the numbers will be small and the threat will be limited.

As far as New Zealand is concerned, there is virtually no threat. All refugees accepted to NZ will be processed through UN agencies, and will be subjected to rigorous background checks.

It is also worth remembering, that, despite what our security services might like us to think, carrying out an act of terrorism is relatively easy to do. Anyone can drive a car into a crowd or make homemade explosives.

In Europe, nearly all major acts of Islamic terrorism were carried out by people who were already living in Europe. Charlie Hebdo attacks, and 7/7 London bombings were carried out by people who were already living in France and the UK respectively.

Even in the highly organised 9/11 terrorist attacks in the US, with the exception of one Lebanese, the other terrorists were all nationals of countries known to be US allies, 15 from Saudi Arabia, 2 from UAE, and one from Egypt.

It will not surprise me to learn that the source of the rumors about ISIS-disguising-as-refugees is, in fact, ISIS themselves. Fear, after all, is a form of terror; and what better way to spread terror in the West?

Let's see refugees as who they really are: fellow human beings who feel pain, suffering and humiliation just like we do. They are in urgent need of assistance and we should do all we can to help them.

Donna Mojab (Donna Miles) is a British-born, Iranian-bred, New Zealand citizen who works and resides in Christchurch. She worked as a senior mathematics lecturer in the UK before migrating to NZ as a new mother.
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