Needed a Deeper Analysis
The fact that 80% of the world’s refugees are Muslims should lead us to recognize that the refugee problem is a issue mainly concerning the Muslims. Refugees are a group of forcibly displaced persons, who leave their home or country of origin due to persecution (or fear of it) on account of their race, religion, nationality or political opinion or war. The definition should inevitably lead us to admit political instability, persecution, suppression and intolerance and consequently violence against people in countries inhabited and specifically ruled by Muslims. Remedy presupposes the diagnosis. And it is where lies the lacuna. Most of us labour under the misbelief that the Islamic world is a haven of peace, as is our wont to mistake the rhetoric for the reality. But the ground realities are grotesquely at variance with the claim. Unless there is recognition that political chaos and social intolerance prevails in the Muslim world—and in ample measure—no progress can be made towards a solution.
Mercifully, the world, the United Nations and the leading agencies that tackle the problem—United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) and the United Nations Relief and Work Agency (UNRWA)—do not see the issue from a religious angle. Profound analysis would reveal that absence of democracy, non-recognition of diversity, totalitarian structure of the governing apparatus, insistence on majoritarianism, denial of space for ethnic and religious minorities and their cultural practices in the public realm, are behind the tension, social conflict, frequent eruption of violence and wars in the Islamic nations that cut across a wide swath of geographical area in Asia and Africa. Denial of participation perhaps would have been less of a reason for disenchantment. The Islamic world, ruled as it is by despots of the worst kind, offers least hope for any humane system to be in place.
Of the nearly 59.9 million refugees around the world, Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Kurdish territory, contribute the bulk of the displaced people around the world. Not to forget that five million Palestinians being looked after by the UNRWA are out of the pale of the refugees. Needless to say that these are basically the victims of political crises and social conflicts within these societies and highhanded approach of the dictatorial regimes that rule them. Perhaps the situation in six ‘Petromonarchies’ of the Arabian peninsula would have been nothing different, but for their insouciant economies which effectively curb the social and political discontent from building into a full-blown crisis.
‘Islam means Peace’ sloganeering has gone on for the last four decades in the Muslim world. But it has failed to mask the reality of political and social turmoil churning within the Muslim societies. Crises in Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, Kurdish region, and recently Libya and Yemen have proved that Muslim nations have failed to grasp the gravity of danger posed by suppression of dissent and disempowerment of people. Implosions of ethnic turbulence now smudge the face of these territories.
A beginning has to be made from the beginning. Muslims must take a deeper look at the volcanoes of discontent rolling beneath the ground. Islamic homogeneity should not be a cover for curbing ethnic identities and heterogeneous interpretations of faith, its tenets and practices that have led to emergence of diverse sects and communities in the traditional Muslim heartland. All of them need accommodation within national cultures and participation in the governance. Faith and culture of the majority community does give the modern nation-states a distinct flavor, but should be no reason for denying minorities and diverse ethnic groups the right to profess, practice and even promote their faith, culture and language. It is time we Muslims recognized this reality of the modern age and made course correction. Perhaps there is enough to learn from India and the Indian Constitution.