‘Get up,’ the angel said to Joseph, ‘take the child Jesus and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.’
On Kristallnacht 1938, my father-in-law and his father wandered about the streets of Berlin with large overcoats illegally covering the stars of David that they should have been displaying. They had been given warning by Aryan friends of theirs that to stay at home ran the risk of summary arrest and disappearance. So, as the rape of Jewish houses, businesses and synagogues continued, they walked through the most inconspicuous suburbs, to keep away from the most dangerous areas.
My father-in-law’s family were believing Christians, and had been for generations. But being Jewish in Nazi Germany was an ethnic issue. If two of one’s grandparents were Jewish, one was Jewish and that was that. There was nothing my father-in-law or his father could do about it. They were both law-abiding, respectable citizens. The father was, indeed, a high-ranking civil servant and his own father had served as a soldier in the First World War.
No-one in my wife’s family did anything other than support the state. Until the Nüremberg laws of 1935, they thought of themselves as good Germans and were far from political agitators.
In January 2014, Angela was at home with her three young children in Aleppo, Syria, when she received a phone call. It was Islamic State calling to tell her that they had beheaded her husband, Minas, and her father-in-law.
The family were Christians. The two men had gone out to work one day in 2013 and never came home. It was a fortnight before Angela got a call telling her that ISIS had kidnapped them. The caller was very frightened. He himself had been held captive by ISIS alongside Angela’s husband and father-in-law, but had been released after a ransom was paid. Although a Muslim, he had felt a bond with his Christian fellows and had earlier told Angela where her loved ones were.
In the case of Angela’s husband and father-in-law, both were law-abiding citizens. As with my wife’s family, they considered themselves to be good Syrians. Syria, like Iraq, was one of the countries in the Middle East in which Christians lived at peace in the country. There was simply nothing that they could do about their persecution.
In 2016, Hassan left Syria with the intention of coming to the UK. Hassan is a fit and strapping young man. He had obviously left Syria with substantial financial resources. He recounted his journey with tremendous good humour, despite the first attempt to get on board an aircraft destined for the UK failing at some considerable loss when his forged papers were discovered. He had, we are told, been arrested and tortured for protesting against the Syrian government.
What the nature of his torture had been, one does not know. Certainly, he seemed to be well-recovered. He had good English and would undoubtedly fit in here, quickly getting a job that required his obvious abilities.
But it seems to me there is a complete difference between the parties in these three cases. No-one could say that Hassan was a model citizen. He had been involved in trying to overthrow the Syrian regime. Any self-respecting country would take action in such a case. It is only silly liberal democracies like the UK that let the Anjem Choudarys of this world wander about unchecked and even we eventually locked him up.
The solution for the Hassans of this world is obvious. They should support the state they live in and respect its authority over them. They can make a choice – accept the state – or oppose it and live with the consequences.
When one sees the flood of refugees from Syria, there are many more Hassans than Angelas. The shocking thing is that we give preference to the Hassans, those who wish to disrupt their own country.
Are we really granting asylum to the right people?
(Image: Freedom House)