Muslim refugee’s day [Archives:2007/1042/Viewpoint]

April 16 2007

Looking at the world's map of war zones and conflicts, we will realize that the majority of fighting, which, in fact, leads to the homelessness of so many people, is taking place in the Muslim countries. It is worth mentioning that Muslim countries host an estimated 9.4 million of the 20.8 million refugees which is of concern to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) world wide (excluding Palestinians). In his address to the Arab league last month, Mr. Antonio Guterres, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees stated that the majority of the world's refugees are Muslims. Today there are more than 1 million Iraqis in Syria and up to 750,000 in Jordan. In addition, there are Over 100,000 Iraqi refugees in Egypt, 40,000 in Lebanon, 50,000 in Iran, over 5,000 in Turkey, and varying numbers in countries everywhere.

Although, ironically, the international refugee law has much in common with the Islamic principles in dealing with displaced persons. He explained that the Islamic law and tradition includes all the norms, codified later, and provides a valuable foundation for the legal framework the commission operates with. In addition, he said that “Looking back through history, the most direct line between tradition and contemporary refugee law is found in Islam,” “From its very beginnings, from the Holy Qur'an and the Sunnah of the Prophet, Islamic law has considered the question of asylum at length and has given the asylum seeker (“Al mustamin”) prominence, dignity, and respect. A community's moral duty and behavior always included how it responded to appeals for asylum” he elaborated.

Yemen is already accommodating many displaced persons whether Palestinians, Iraqis, or lately the increasingly huge influx of Somali refugees who are estimated to be around 90, 000 in Yemen alone. It is worth mentioning that many of the Somali refugees cannot make it to Yemen due to the high risks they take through traveling by sea.

The striking fact is that some of the Muslim countries are very rich, especially in the Gulf area. So, if all those countries could chip in together, the Muslim refugees would have been protected. In his speech, Guterres appealed to the Muslim world and in particular the Arab world to play a greater role in the discussion, formulation, and implementation of international refugee policy.

As a commencement for supporting refugees, we could start by identifying a day which could be announced as the World Muslim Refugees' Day. Since Ramadan is a month of compassion for Muslims all around the world, I had a suggestion from a friend of mine to declare the 9th of Ramadan, which will be September 20th 2007, as the World Muslim Refugees' Day. We must all join hands in order to mitigate the crises and help the majority of Muslims around the world. Let's do it, and make sure that substantial efforts are made to make their life better.