We are currently in the Islamic year 1436. When the early Muslims were deciding when their calendar should start, they decided to start it based on one significant event. Known as the Hijrah, this event is when the early, small community of Muslims (including the Prophet Muhammad himself) migrated in 622CE from the city of Mecca to Medina. Basically, they migrated because they were oppressed refugees seeking asylum, as the author Tariq Ramadan explains in his biography of the Prophet Muhammad:
The Prophet and all his companions had had to leave Mecca because of persecutions and adversity from their own brothers and sisters within their respective clans. The situation had become unbearable, women and men had died, others had been tortured, and the Quraysh had finally decided to set upon Muhammad himself and get rid of him. – from the book In The Footsteps Of The Prophet: Lessons From The Life Of Muhammad, Chapter 8 – Hijrah, by Tariq Ramadan
During their 320 km journey north, these Muslims did not have to pass through check points, they did not have to clamber over barbed wire, they did not have to scale walls, nor did they have to walk wearily past the judgemental eyes of locals. Instead, when they got to Medina they were greeted with warm and generous hearts.
This was not the first emigration of persecuted Muslims, for 7 years prior a group of some 80 Muslims left Mecca and arrived at the court of the Christian king Negus in Abyssinia. Again they were welcomed cordially.
So it can be clearly seen that this tradition of generously welcoming refugees is a fundamental part of our Islamic heritage.
Currently the issue of refugees is the number one topic in the news, especially in Europe. Whilst there are many different opinions on this issue, I am hoping the 7 ‘things’ below will present a somewhat different angle on this issue:
We begin with a quote from the newly elected leader of the Labour party, Jeremy Corbyn, who said the following in his victory speech after overwhelmingly winning the Labour leadership with 59.5% of the votes after the first round of voting:
There are many, many issues we face and many people face desperation in other parts of the world. And I think it is quite incredible the way the mood in Europe has changed over the past few weeks of understanding that people fleeing from wars, they are the victims of wars, they are the generational victims of wars, they are the intergenerational victims of war, end up in desperation, end up in terrible places, end up trying to gain a place of safety, end up trying to exercise their refugee rights. They are human beings just like you, just like me. Let’s deal with the refugee crisis with humanity, with support, with help, with compassion, to try to help people who are trying to get to a place of safety. Trying to help people who are stuck in refugee camps, but recognise going to war creates a legacy of bitterness and problems. Let us be a force for change in the world, a force for humanity in the world, a force for peace in the world and a force that recognises we cannot go on like this with grotesque levels of global inequality, grotesque threats to our environment all around the world, without the rich and powerful governments stepping up to the plate to make sure our world becomes safer and better. And those people don’t end up in poverty, in refugee camps, wasting their lives away when they could be contributing so much to the good of all of us on this planet. We are one world, let that message go out today from this conference centre here in London. – Jeremy Corbyn, 12th Sep 2015
The always brilliant Yasmina Reality has written a heartfelt article about the situation, specifically to do with the death of the 3 year old drowned boy Aylan Kurdi:
The further away someone lives from us physically, geographically, the less relevant they sometimes seem to us adults. In other words, when you live really really far away from us, we almost look at your existence as less meaningful than our own. Because you are seemingly a world away from where we are, we tend to put your existence on the back burner in our brains. We tend to think that your problems are your problems and our problems are our problems. – from the article Dear Syrian Child Whose Body Washed Ashore In Turkey by Yasmina Reality
Next up is a satirical slant on proceedings from the Daily Mash, which not-so-subtly talks of why people only seem to care when they see a photo (they also wrote another article related to this topic, well worth a read: We Need To Look After Our Own First, Say People Who Would Never Help Anyone):
EVERYONE is sad because a photo has emerged of a thing that has been happening several times a week for months.
It has been confirmed that everyone kind of knew the thing was happening, but now they are very sad and angry because there is a photo of it.
Martin Bishop, from Hatfield, said: “If only there wasn’t a photo of the thing that’s been happening for months, I wouldn’t have to care about it.
“But, according to the rules, now that there’s a photo of the thing we all kind of knew was happening, something must be done.
“And don’t show me any more photos.”
The New Scientist offered a more serious look as to why this one photo was so powerful: Refugee Crisis: Why One Boy’s Tragedy Created A Wave Of Empathy
Here are 2 cartoons that speak more than a thousand words each about the nonsensical cynicism that many people (such as Donald Trump) seem to hold over this issue:
Finally, here is a short but powerful video from Save The Children that shows the reality that refugees, especially children, face: