Exit Strategies

Those who have migrated call back to those left behind: migrate! But where to? Qualified professionals will find lucrative jobs in rich Gulf States, but the poor have no easy choices. Migrate to the country of your ancestors, where you will be exploited for your perceived riches, or oppressed because your mindset no longer fits with that of your neighbours, or blown up because, well, you were just in the wrong place at the wrong time?

We are on the brink of catastrophe, say the émigrés, warning of a fate like the fate that befell the Jews: soon we will be expelled, or locked up, or prevented from practicing our faith! It is possible. But have the émigrés seen the state of the countries those left behind are supposed to migrate to? Nigeria? Pakistan? Somalia? Egypt? Syria? Iraq? Afghanistan? Libya? Would you swap stability and relative freedom for anarchic lawlessness? Even those rich Gulf States are growing less accommodating of their migrant citizens, making life difficult for those no-longer considered economically viable.

Plan your exit strategy say the migrants. Well it is always wise to keep your options open, to make provisions for all possible eventualities. Of course it is possible that we will see pogroms on our streets. Of course it is possible that the Police force will collapse, or that a calamity will occur that will cause the law enforcers to become militia. Of course it is possible that our practices will be proscribed, that our faith will be criminalised, that it will no longer be possible to believe except in our hearts. Certainly it has happened before, in recent times and in nearby lands. But it is also pays to be pragmatic, analytic, to take a long-view. Would you cut off your nose to spite your face?

How many people before us sold everything with a dream of returning to the lands of their ancestors, only to abort the mission to return to their neat semi-detached home and comfortable job, when they discovered the reality of life in that land they never knew? How many have we heard of who tried to return to Pakistan, only to be defrauded, robbed and violated? How many have we heard of who tried to build a new life elsewhere, only to face racism, exploitation and a closed door when the going got tough. The family that settled in the UAE for years, suddenly no longer welcome. The family that moved to Pakistan, grieving a family member all of a sudden murdered. The grass is always greener on the other side.

Of course these are generalised tales of woe. Of course many who migrate make a success of it, finding comfort and ease and peace. But this tale of woe is a response to the tales of woe of the migrants, who look from afar at what they see to be the writing on the wall, at stories in the press, and see a great calamity drawing near. From where we stand, each has a vision incomprehensible. From here — viewing civil wars in Ukraine and Syria, unchecked killing in market places from the Equator to the Himalayas, and sectarian squalor everywhere — it seems like we’ve got it pretty good here. From over there — reading of political collusion with News Corp, of government witch-hunts, perverted morals, a shattered welfare state and a growing underclass of the poor and helpless — it seems like we’re on the road to hell.

Somewhere between the two extremes runs the middle way. Where the grateful utter alhamdulilah for blessings untold. Where we are thankful for another day to worship our Lord. Where we try our best to live sensibly and considerately with our neighbours, exuding kindness and patience and generous spirit. Politics is the same in every land, for power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. We should be wary of the machinations of the political class wherever we find them. So make preparations — certainly — plan for the worst of outcomes. But in the meantime, plant those seeds, build those bridges and mend those relationships. It doesn’t have to end in catastrophe.

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