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Libyans Lose Possessions Post-Qadhafi: New Age Islam's Selection, 20 May 2016

New Age Islam Edit Bureau

20 May 2016

Libyans Lose Possessions Post-Gadhafi

By Mustafa Fetouri

Egypt's Pharaoh Illusion

Khaled Diab

Reasons behind Iran’s Extension of Power in Yemen

By Dr. Majid Rafizadeh

Mustafa Badreddine’s Mysterious Successor

By Turki Al-Dakhil

The Specter of the Sept. 11 Attacks

By Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Did Hezbollah’s Sheriff Kill His Deputy?

By Salman Al-Ansari

A Philosophical Approach to the Refugee Crisis

By Santiago Zabala

Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau


Libyans Lose Possessions Post-Qadhafi

By Mustafa Fetouri

May 19, 2016

On the morning of Sept. 3, 2011, my family and I headed to Belgium via Tunisia by car, leaving everything behind in Libya. NATO-assisted rebels had just entered Tripoli and the Gadhafi regime was about to fall. The revolution had prevailed, Moammar Gadhafi would be killed in his hometown of Sirte on Oct. 20 and Libya was supposedly “liberated” from his dictatorship.

My three children attended the only French school in Tripoli, which had already closed by then with no plans to reopen anytime soon. Going to Belgium made sense, as at least the children could go to school there while I pondered what to do. A few days before leaving, I visited Bab al-Azizia barracks just south of Tripoli on the way to the airport to have a look at what had happened to Gadhafi’s home and office compound. It was a horrific experience, and I later regretted having gone. Bodies were scattered everywhere, and the place was destroyed by sustained aerial bombardment. What remained was being looted or destroyed by rebels who just got there. Gadhafi’s famous tent was still standing — and being emptied.

On my 5-kilometer (3-mile) walk back home, I came across a pickup truck loaded with about 20 corpses of dead soldiers. One of the rebels who sat among the corpses pointed to the bodies and shouted, “African mercenaries. African slaves.”

Stories that Gadhafi paid Africans to fight for him had been widely circulated, but had not been proven until then.

At that moment, I recalled the offers in early March 2011 by my friends who had worked at the various European embassies to evacuate my family along with their nations' citizens. Right then, I regretted not having done so.

I never worked for the regime; thus, I thought I was safe — I thought. I never supported the so-called February 17 Revolution, because I did not believe there was one. However, this should not mean anything other than that I am entitled to my own opinion, since the whole revolution and bloodshed was about — among other things — me and every other Libyan expressing themselves freely. As proven by the articles I have published, I was closer to the opposition than I was to the regime; my critical writings were recognized abroad and won me an award in 2010, when I voiced that dissent inside Libya could mean serious trouble.

However, in late 2011, the new rulers in Libya were not interested in anything but revenge, looting and confiscating whatever they found. If your neighbour, colleague or even a friend-turned-enemy informed any militia that you were pro-Gadaffi, it could mean an immediate death. Welcome to Libya’s version of the Arab Spring.

After my arrival in Brussels, I heard that unknown militias broke into my apartment in Libya and that I was indeed considered pro-Gadaffi. I had suddenly become a wanted man. Right after the break-in, my neighbour across the hall had simply walked into my apartment and made it his home. I later heard from local council chairman Malik Abughrara that my neighbour justified his action by arguing that I was a supporter of the regime, which meant I was not worthy of any possessions, and that moving into my apartment was the best reward the revolution could give him, since he supported it. In the early days following Qadhafi’s death, taking homes, cars and other possessions of those considered pro-regime was a national sport.

From Brussels, I phoned my neighbour three times and each time he assured me that everything I had heard about the break-in was untrue. I knew he was lying so I wanted to go back, against the advice of friends and family in Libya who spoke of dangerous and chaotic scenes. I approached the new local council in our locality in Tripoli only to find out that they already knew what had happened. Abughrara and his colleagues assured me that once the situation would calm down, I could come and reclaim my apartment.

In 2014, I visited Libya for the first time since 2011 and met the local council leaders. They invited me and my neighbour who had invaded my home for a series of meetings over a period of three months. Their idea was that I should allow them to exhaust their mediation efforts, instead of rushing to use force to claim back the apartment. They had a point since the police hardly did their job, the judiciary was almost paralyzed and the militias were still very much in control.

After the last meeting, the council chairman declared before all of us that he would not continue his mediations and that I, as the owner of the apartment, had the right to seek other ways to get my home back. He did, however, offer his help should I need it. At this stage, asking for help in the matter meant I was seeking the intervention of one of the militias. My friends also offered their assistance, but I turned them all down believing that I should only use legal procedures, however corrupt and cumbersome that might be.

Before I officially complained to the local prosecutor, I consulted another one. After checking the file and hearing my story, he assured me that I would get my apartment back if — and this was a big if — I got enough support from the police not to favour me but just to have them do their work.

I lodged my complaint at the police station and talked to the commander colonel who assured me that he would do his best. It took the police two months to start the investigation and for officials to visit the apartment, another three months to complete the investigation and four more months to finally report back to the prosecutor — who immediately issued an arrest warrant for my neighbour.

To get the police to carry out the warrant, however, I waited nearly four months; I had to use my connections to force the police to act. In the end, it had taken two years for my neighbour to be jailed pending trial and my own apartment handed back to me.

To resort to the police was not something I had wanted to do, but it was necessary. My connections and network helped me regain what was rightfully mine. Such a corrupt system only helps those who have connections, and I wonder how most Libyans manage.



Egypt's Pharaoh Illusion

By Khaled Diab

19 May 2016

"I am not pharaoh … After two revolutions, nobody who occupies this chair can become a pharaoh," Egypt's president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi reportedly told a select group of intellectuals and thinkers a few weeks ago, insisting that he accepted and respected criticism.

Despite the president’s repeated assurances, Egypt has been in the throes of an intensifying crackdown since the weeks leading up to the fifth anniversary of the January 25, 2011 revolution.

This has had the counter-effect of galvanising a rising tide of dissent, as epitomised by the remarkable media and protest campaign spearheaded by the Journalists Syndicate to defend press freedom, call for the resignation of the interior minister and demand an end to repression.

The latest high-profile victims of the state's clampdown is "Street Children", a group of young satirists whose impromptu songs mocking Sisi and his regime, performed on street corners, have become an online sensation, attracting hundreds of thousands of views each.

Insulting state institutions

After the initial arrest of one of their singers, known as Ezz, for allegedly "insulting" state institutions, the remaining members of the band were arrested last week.

The group seems to have upped the ante in their latest videos in which they ridicule "Sisi, my president", the army and the security services - criticising the devaluation of the pound, the Suez Canal expansion and the transfer of two Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia - and call on Sisi to "have some shame" and step down.

That a band of six young men armed with little more than their vocal cords should provoke such an autocratic reaction is bound to cement, rather than disprove, Sisi's reputation as Egypt's latest "pharaoh".

In America and Europe, many commentators are convinced that Egypt can only be ruled by a strongman and so crowning a new 'pharaoh' was the only way to save Egypt.

Some see that as no bad thing. In America and Europe, many commentators are convinced that Egypt can only be ruled by a strongman, and so crowning a new "pharaoh" was the only way to save Egypt.

This attitude has its native advocates too, not only among the political old guard but also among those who saw Egypt hanging over a precipice and concluded that the only way to stop it from falling into the abyss was to choose the pharaoh-president over people power.

One-upping other despot worshippers, former antiquities chief Zahi Hawass likened Sisi to a specific pharaoh, Mentuhotep II, who reunited Egypt after it split into two rival kingdoms.

This pharaohisation of Egypt's leaders suggests that there is some kind of continuous, almost dynastic, line which stretches back to the dawn of history, leaving the impression that this is some kind of innate national trait.

There are those who subscribe to the pharaoh theory of Egyptian history in an ill-informed attempt to explain away modern autocracy.

Some outsiders are driven by an orientalist conviction that Egyptians neither desire nor understand democracy, while those who prop up Egypt's dictators can sleep easily in the knowledge that this is ultimately what Egyptians want.

Futility of seeking change

Proponents of the theory at home use it to dissuade Egyptians from rising above their station and to demonstrate the apparent futility of seeking to change what has always been so.

The trouble is that this is largely a myth - inspired more by Abrahamic scripture than actual history - that started some six decades ago, namely with Gamal Abdel-Nasser, the leader of the 1952 revolutionary coup and the Egyptian republic's second president.

But even this wasn't inevitable. The Free Officers which Nasser led were initially committed to civilian rule and strengthening Egypt's parliamentary democracy.

And given more than a century of struggle to build a modern, egalitarian and fair state which generations of reformers had been waging, this early commitment to democracy was unsurprising.

However, Nasser reneged on the promise to transition back to elected civilian rule. In this, he was driven by a fervent desire for his revolution to succeed and the plain old-fashioned hypnotising lure of power.

"If I held elections today, [Mustafa] al-Nahas would win, not us. Then our achievement would be nothing," he said in a meeting shortly after the coup.

Even during Nasser's tenure, which combined popularity with brutality, many Egyptians refused to believe the lie that they were docile sheeple who needed a father figure...

In this endeavour, he faced stiff opposition, namely from what he had assumed was his figurehead president, Muhammad Naguib, who wanted the army to return to its barracks after having accomplished their mission of unseating an unjust, British-backed regime.

Instead, Nasser placed Naguib under house arrest, abolished all political parties and started a brutal crackdown on secular and religious dissent, imprisoning liberals, communists and Muslim Brothers.

"[Nasser] recognised that democracy was the clear enemy of the cult of character he was trying to establish," posits journalist and revolutionary Wael Eskandar.

Nasser's popularity on the Arab street, coupled with shrewd propaganda, enabled him to turn the newly established republic into his personal fiefdom rather than a state of institutions and checks and balances.

Nasser's tenure

In this project, Nasser was inspired not by his ancient pharaonic ancestors nor facilitated by some native Egyptian subservience to the "pharaoh", but was part of a 20th-century trend of the larger-than-life dictator empowered by the advent of mass media.

Even during Nasser's tenure, which combined popularity with brutality, many Egyptians refused to believe the lie that they were docile sheeple who needed a father figure - or, in the case of Nasser, an amiable brother, cousin or charming boy next door - to shepherd them. In actuality, opposition was often brave and determined.

In a pattern that would repeat itself continuously over the decades, this forced the regime to find other channels to accommodate Egypt's diverse and dynamic political currents, giving Egypt, even at its worse, more representative governance than most other Arab states.

Moreover, co-option was often, and remains, a more effective tool than coercion, leading many to hitch their cart to the wagon train.

"There were many who embraced [Nasser's] leadership as an active, not passive, choice because, rightly or wrongly, they envisaged themselves as making gains out of it," points out Jack Shenker, the author of a major new book on the Egyptian revolution.

Today, the regime is also employing a blend of coercion and co-option to protect the state that Nasser built, and Sadat and Mubarak renovated. But without Nasser's skill, charisma and monopoly of the media, and with a restive population that is no longer willing to buy yesteryear's mythology, this enterprise seems doomed.

Sisi is right; no Egyptian president can become a "pharaoh" any more.



Reasons behind Iran’s Extension of Power in Yemen

By Dr. Majid Rafizadeh

20 May 2016

When a conflict erupts in a state, some countries which are not bordered with the conflict-affected state use political opportunism to direct the war in their interest.

Massoud Jazayiri, deputy head of Iran’s Armed Forces, recently told Iran’s Tasnim news agency that Iran is ready to copycat the process it adopted in Syria and use it in Yemen as well. He added that Iran is prepared to send “military advisers” in support of the Houthis in Yemen.

Several of Iran’s weapons shipments, which were likely heading to war-torn Yemen, had also been seized.

The statement by the deputy head of Iran’s Armed Forces, referring to repeating Iran’s role in Yemen, is more of an exaggerated political posturing than reality.

Iran’s role in the war in Yemen is multidimensional. On the surface, Yemen does not seem to bear geopolitical or strategic significance for the Iranian leaders. Yemen’s conflict also does not pose a national security threat to Iran. But, why Iran is determined to have a role in Yemen’s war and direct it in its favor?

The ideological factor

One dimension of Iran’s involvement in Yemen is ideological. One core pillar of its foreign policy is anchored in its Islamic revolutionary principles.

The key decision maker in Iran’s foreign policy is the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who pursues the ideology of his predecessor, Ayatollah Rooh Allah Khomenei, the founding figure of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Khamenei has shown almost no deviation from Khomeini’s ideals.

In addition, Khamenei gives weight to the information he receives from his close advisors in the Office of the Supreme Leader (not the President, the foreign minister, or other powerful clerics) and the hardline senior cadre of Iran’s revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).

Since Khamenei views himself as the leader of Muslims, he has naturally positioned himself to view Saudi Arabia as a competitor and rival

One of Khamenei’s underlying revolutionary values is that he views himself as the leader of the Islamic world and he views Iran as the vanguard of Muslims. In fact, his official website refers to him as the “Supreme Leader of Muslims”, not the Supreme Leader of “Iran” or solely the “Shiites”.

As a result, from Khamenei’s perspective, as a supreme leader of Muslims, using rhetoric, influencing, and directing the political affairs of every Muslim country, including Yemen, is his religious and ideological duty.

In addition, since Khamenei views himself as the leader of Muslims, he has naturally positioned himself to view Saudi Arabia as a competitor and rival. Showing his ideological influence in Yemen gives him leverage against Riyadh.

Other revolutionary ideals include anti-Americanism. Khamenei regards his rhetoric and projection of Iran’s increasing role in Yemen’s conflict is a tactic to counter-balance the US role in the region.

The geopolitical and strategic reasons

Iran considers itself, and desires to be treated, as the paramount power in the Middle East because of it strategic significance, geographic location, military capabilities, economic strength, wealth and natural resources (such as holding the second and fourth largest gas and oil reserves in the world), and size of its population (second largest most populous nation in the Middle East after Egypt).

Iran’s regional hegemonic ambitions direct the Iranian leaders to pursue policies which are aimed at countering the power of other regional state actors (mainly Saudi Arabia), and weakening their strategic, economic and geopolitical significance in order to tip the regional balance of power in favour of Tehran.

While Yemen does not pose a national security threat to Iran, it does to Saudi Arabia since it shares a border with Riyadh. Iran seizes this opportunity, by supporting the Houthis, to challenge Saudi Arabia, making it look more vulnerable, all while Tehran is showing off its regional significance to Saudi Arabia and how it can cause a security threat to Riyadh.

In addition, by diverting the Saudi’s attention to Yemen, Iran is attempting to create a quagmire for Riyadh in Yemen, making it bogged down in Sanaa, in order to draw it away from Syria and Iraq; Iran’s main allies.

Iran also seizes the opportunity to increase its leverage against Riyadh and use Yemen as a strategic bargaining chip, to push Saudi Arabia to change it policy toward Damascus, Baghdad, Bahrain or other countries where Iran exerts influence.

Economic, ethnic and sectarian factors

Economically speaking, Yemen is not as costly for Iran as Syria is, but it brings many benefits. Furthermore, Iran’s strategy of expanding its influence in the region is to create proxies in Muslim countries and make a political reality out of them to influence the domestic affairs of those nations (as it has done with Hezbollah and other Shiite groups in Iraq).

Ethnically speaking, and in terms of nationalism, Iran views one layer of its competition against Saudi Arabia as the rivalry between Persians and Arabs. Iran’s influence in Yemen helps Tehran in this respect.

Finally, although Iran views itself as the vanguard of both Sunnis and Shiites, it does contain a covert sectarian agenda in supporting the Shiites (or an offshoot of Shiism) to improve and extend its influence in other countries.



Mustafa Badreddine’s Mysterious Successor

By Turki Al-Dakhil

19 May 2016

Hezbollah is going through a state of unprecedented confusion. More than 1,300 of its members have been killed in the war in Syria, including some of its leaders, and the party cannot explain how they were killed.

These assassinations include Imad Mughniyah, his son Jihad, Samir al-Kantar, and most recently Mustafa Badreddine, who was killed near Damascus airport and will be succeeded by Mustafa Mughniyah.

Many experts say Hezbollah is going through its worst phase.

Commenting on Mughniyah succeeding Badreddine, analyst Ronen Solomon said: “In 2005, he was 18 years old - the age when one completes basic military training in… Hezbollah and is sent to specialize in a certain field. At the same time, Mustafa began joining his father on operational missions, and hence received an informal education.”

Hezbollah’s losses show the extent of the ideological brainwashing of its supporters. If it had been another party taking these blows, it would have been met with protests and demands for accountability


Meanwhile, Qassem Soleimani, head of Iran’s elite Quds Force, visited southern Beirut to offer condolences for the death of Badreddine. “We’ve lost a leader and dear brother,” he said. “This misfortune is a tragedy for the entire Islamic nation. Losing a man like [Badreddine] is not limited to one country, region or suburb.”

Hezbollah’s losses show the extent of the ideological brainwashing of its supporters. If it had been another party taking these blows, it would have been met with protests and demands for accountability. Who knows, perhaps there is a sparkle of fire under the ashes.



The Spectre of the Sept. 11 Attacks

By Abdulrahman al-Rashed

19 May 2016

When it turned out that 15 of the terrorists who participated in the Sept. 11 attacks were Saudi, we realized this represented a potentially long-term crisis in relations between two countries that had always been friends and allies. Years later, an investigation committee confirmed Saudi Arabia’s innocence.

However, recent weeks have witnessed great tension between Riyadh and Washington due to a bill - which the Senate has passed unanimously - allowing the victims of the attacks to sue Saudi Arabia if they prove in court that it was involved. This despite American investigators not finding any evidence of such involvement. All evidence pointed to Al-Qaeda, the number-one enemy of Saudi Arabia, which has fought the organization since the 1990s.

No one who is well-informed about Middle Eastern affairs could think Saudi Arabia has anything to do with what Al-Qaeda has done anywhere in the world. This silly accusation only became a serious political affair recently, when relations cooled due to several issues, and as Iran opened up to the West.

The final 28 pages of the Congressional report on the Sept. 11 attacks were classified by former President George W Bush to avoid harming relations with Saudi Arabia at a time when anger failed to discriminate between mistakes and intentional actions.

Riyadh has never had anything to do with Al-Qaeda, though it has been confirmed that Tehran has dealt with the organization

Back then, I asked a Saudi official about these 28 pages. He said Riyadh did not request their classification, and did not mind making them public as all the facts were known to the investigation committee. The classified pages have now been published, and although they are unconvincing, they will be used by Saudi Arabia’s rivals in the ongoing political controversy.


Riyadh has never had anything to do with Al-Qaeda, though it has been confirmed that Tehran has dealt with the organization and sheltered dozens of its leaders who escaped US bombing in Afghanistan in 2001.

The Washington Post published documents that the Americans found in Osama bin Laden’s safe in his hiding place where they killed him. They revealed how he instructed his men not to harm Iran or Iraqi Shiites because Tehran is an ally of al-Qaeda and supplies it with funds, men, arms and communication equipment.

The Syrian regime, Iran’s ally, hosted thousands of al-Qaeda fighters who entered Iraq and carried out most of the operations against American troops, killing around 4,000 of them. Most of these operations were carried out under the name of the Iraqi resistance.

The issues between Riyadh and Washington are not substantial. In the past, the most serious ones related to extremists’ activities, radical preachers, and funders and media outlets in favour of al-Qaeda. These issues were overcome after the Saudi Interior Ministry succeeded in destroying the pillars that ideologically supported terrorism, and arrested thousands of those who supported jihadists. Riyadh allowed US federal investigators to examine all suspicions.

Tehran, which adopted a hostile policy against Washington, realized after 30 years that it was the only one harmed by this rivalry, so it decided to reconcile and make concessions. However, the nature of the Iranian regime will prevent it from achieving a real transformation toward the West, and from maintaining permanent relations with it.



Did Hezbollah’s Sheriff Kill His Deputy?

By Salman Al-Ansari

19 May 2016

Did Hassan Nasrallah kill Mustafa Badreddine? The answer to that question may take years to answer, let alone uncover all the details behind it. However, what appears to be the case is that Nasrallah’s recent erratic behavior, which illustrates a state of personal turmoil and tension, appears to indicate something beyond that.

To analysts, attempting to understand every aspect of Badreddine’s assassination is like standing on the tip of an unruly iceberg, the base of which is covered by a fog of colossal ambiguity. Hezbollah initially accused Israel of murdering Badreddine, a statement which it later rescinded.

They claimed that they will investigate the incident, and soon after blamed it on rebel shelling by opposing “takfiri” groups, of which denied any involvement. This suggests that there is a state of disorganization and confusion within Hezbollah’s ranks.

Additionally, in the not-too-distant past, there were conflicting views between Iranian leadership in Tehran and Hezbollah, revealing a state of discontent between Iran and those they’re issuing orders to on the ground. It appears that Iranian financiers are dissatisfied with their subordinates in Lebanon, especially after their failure in Yemen, Syria, Bahrain and Kuwait.

Using its proxies, such as Hezbollah and others, Iran has interfered in the affairs of every corner the Middle East. No country, Arab or otherwise, has been spared from its deviousness. To this very moment, entire generations across the world have been stung by the pain of loss and bereavement at the hands of Iran’s deceptiveness, whether they’re in Beirut, the beacon of Arab culture and progressive thought, or in targets across the region, be they in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain and many others.

Let us not forget that not only innocent civilians in Iraq, Syria and Yemen have fallen victim to Iranian-sponsored terrorism, but also in the very heart of the American capital in 2009, when they tried to bomb Cafe Milano Washington, DC, in an attempt to assassinate the former Saudi Ambassador to the United States and now Saudi Foreign Minister, Adel Al-Jubeir.

Hassan Nasrallah looks to be slipping into a state of anxiety and panic. Unless he had other calculations, he may have feared being replaced by the highly reputable, charismatic military leader and Iranian favorite, Badreddine

I’m merely pointing out facts that affirm that Hezbollah is an unpredictable, volatile and unstable terrorist organization. Its senior members, whether it’s the one recently killed a few days ago in the suburbs of Damascus, or his predecessor, Imad Mughniyah, Hezbollah’s former international operations chief (who was also assassinated around the same area in 2008), have both been involved in terrorist operations in Beirut, Lebanon.

The most notable of these operations is the bombing of a Marine compound in Beirut, which reportedly claimed the lives of 241 Marines. Hezbollah’s terrorism records also reveal that they were behind the 1983 Kuwait bombings, perpetrated by the now infamous “Kuwait 17”. The deputy secretary-general of Hezbollah, Naim Qassem, adamantly acknowledged that these bombings would be “the starting point for the idea of hostages, to impose pressure for the release of prisoners in Israel and elsewhere.”

A little-known yet crucial aspect of Badreddine’s murder (of whom Bashar Al-Assad’s regime failed to protect in Damascus) which Hezbollah is trying to hide is that the US treasury department has filed his name under the list of terror financiers. Adam J. Szubin, acting Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence even mentioned that they are “committed to exposing and disrupting these networks to pressure Hezbollah’s finances and degrade its ability to foment violence in Lebanon, Syria, and across the region.”

State of divisiveness

Another aspect of the Badreddine incident is what we alluded to earlier, which was the curious state of divisiveness and disarray between Hezbollah officials in Lebanon and their counterparts in Tehran. It appears that the killing of many members of the revolutionary guard in Syria has caused a bit a gaping chasm between the two parties.

It also appears that Hezbollah’s deflation and state of corrosion is really starting to take its toll. In fact, I would not be surprised if there are already Iranian plans to replace Hassan Nasrallah if he failed to achieve their ends in many fronts, especially Syria and Yemen. Not to mention, his finances have been rapidly dwindling, thanks to Saudi-American cooperation that choked his monetary resources by listing them under “terrorist organizations”.

Hassan Nasrallah looks to be slipping into a state of anxiety and panic. Unless he had other calculations, he may have feared being replaced by the highly reputable, charismatic military leader and Iranian favorite, Badreddine.

Now that Nasrallah is being accused of murdering him, he is left virtually unable to function and operate with the same level confidence and brashness he usually has, especially since such a costly mistake may very well carry him all the way to Tehran’s guillotine.

Time will tell whether he actually committed this mistake, or if it will be one his last.



A Philosophical Approach to the Refugee Crisis

By Santiago Zabala

19 May 2016

"When it comes to political deliberation," as the great pragmatic philosopher Richard Rorty once said, "philosophy is a good servant but a bad master." Even though the discipline is equipped with an array of the finest intellectual concepts and arguments, it should always avoid recommending straightforward solutions.

This does not mean that we philosophers cannot take a stance in current existential emergencies, such as the ongoing suffering of the Palestinians or the global environmental crisis. On the contrary, it is our job to articulate the toughest questions in order to overcome indifference, prejudice, and fear - and to invite everyone to see the bigger picture.

Humanity in crisis

If philosophers have begun to engage the ongoing refugee crisis, it's not simply because political leaders have proved incapable of forming a unified European Union to help the refugees, but rather because this is not a problem that can be solved with a short-term political solution.

Driven by climate change, mass migrations will increase drastically over the 21st century, not only in Europe - which has only recently begun to receive refugees in large numbers - but also in other regions of the world.

As the philosopher Zygmunt Bauman recently pointed out, there is no "shortcut solution to the current refugee problem. Humanity is in crisis - and there is no exit from that crisis other than the solidarity of humans."

Although not all philosophers follow Bauman's assessment, there is an overall consensus that the current refugee crisis is not simply a political problem, but rather an existential one that concerns all of us.

Two renowned contemporary philosophers, Peter Singer and Slavoj Zizek, have recently taken very different stances on how to confront this urgent problem, and both are worth considering.

Whether [helping refugees] is done through a utilitarian approach based on clarity and consistency in our moral thinking or a Marxist method that seeks to uncover the socioeconomic causes of the crisis is less important than the need for us to engage with an emergency that touches all of us.

Singer is an Australian philosopher known for his utilitarian approach, which seeks to minimise suffering and maximise wellbeing. In a recent article he suggested that affluent countries should not only take more refugees than they can currently accept, but also increase "support to less affluent countries that are supporting large numbers of refugees".

This support, according to Singer, will not only discourage refugees from risking their futures and lives in expensive and dangerous journeys, but also reduce the overall cost of relief. In Germany it costs at least $13,500 to support one refugee for one year, but in Jordan it is only about $3,400.

This rational solution is founded on Singer's belief that we have the same moral obligations towards foreigners as we have to our closest family.

As convincing as this solution sounds, one wonders whether it is even possible to apply a universal moral standard to the actions of peoples from cultures with different notions of morality.

For example, in spite of its alleged universalistic vocation, the EU seems to be incapable of responding to this crisis, demonstrated by the recent shameful bills passed to seize refugee assets (Denmark), construct fences (Austria), and send troops to its borders (Hungary).

It's the capitalism

Zizek, who has recently published a book on the refugee crisis, believes we must first develop a clear awareness of what is actually causing the ongoing emergency before we can do something about it.

According to the Slovenian philosopher, the current war in Syria is not the only cause of the refugee crisis. In addition to other Western military interventions (in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya), one must also take into consideration the social consequences of global capitalism.

The current circulation of commodities through global markets is not a democratic system - with the same rules for everyone - but rather represents a network of political impositions and violations of workers' rights.

These are "accompanied by growing social divisions" that create tensions that often lead to military interventions with drastic consequences. The "true threat to our common way of life," Zizek explains, "does not come in the shape of refugees but lies in the dynamic of global capitalism," which can be overcome only through a "radical economic change that abolishes the conditions that create refugees".

Despite the differences between Singer's and Zizek's positions, both demand that we overcome our indifference, prejudice, and fear. Both ask us to look beyond our narrow self-interest.

Whether this is done through a utilitarian approach based on clarity and consistency in our moral thinking or a Marxist method that seeks to uncover the socioeconomic causes of the crisis is less important than the need for us to engage with an emergency that touches all of us.

We shouldn't wait for philosophy to give us the perfect solution to the crisis, but maybe it can help us propel towards it. Maybe philosophy can help us to engage, rather than avoid it. It is the task of philosophers to demand this engagement.