How to help the refugees

Refugees risk their lives in leaky crowded boats to cross the Mediterranean looking for a better life.

Recent days have shown an outpouring of humanity in Europe. Angela Merkel has announced that Germany will open its doors to more than half a million refugees and urged other states to follow suit; in Hungary, activists screened cartoons for children who have fled war and destruction; in Britain, thousands of people are working together to take much-needed supplies to the Calais refugee camp.

The public mood is one of overwhelming sympathy: #refugeeswelcome trends on social media, petitions call on governments to take action and ordinary people pledge to take refugees into their own homes. However briefly, even the most vociferous right-wing sections of the media seemed momentarily cowed by the heart-wrenching images of drowned children washed up on Europe’s shores. In fact, it seems as though the refugee crisis (the biggest since World War II) is at the forefront of everybody’s minds.

This week the body of 3 year old Aylan Kurdi washed up on the coast of Turkey causing global empathy.

But while this humanitarian spirit is to be commended, we should not forget why these people became refugees in the first place. We should ask why is it that parents like those of little Aylan Kurdi feel that a leaky, overcrowded and unstable boat bobbing in the middle of the Mediterranean is a safer place for their children than the villages and neighbourhoods in which they grew up. After all, our leaders have spent more than a decade spreading instability throughout the Middle East and North Africa, have we considered the role our governments played in creating the refugees we are now rushing to help?

More than that, if we are ashamed that children are drowning in the Mediterranean, are we not also ashamed that our nations continue to sell arms and munitions to nations who use them to murder children elsewhere? Are we not ashamed by our government’s silence and inaction over Israel’s siege of Gaza, which a UN report says could be uninhabitable in less than two years? Are we not ashamed by our government’s silence over the Saudi-led devastation of Yemen? If our sense of shared humanity moves us to give food and shelter to the dispossessed, it must also move us to stop sending armaments to those who dispossess. It is no good sending donations to orphans in Calais while our munitions are making orphans in Sanaa.

So with the media focusing attention on refugees coming to Europe, we must not fall into the trap of divorcing this from the global struggle against oppression. For all the refugees that are made visible to us, there are countless others left invisible who cannot reach our shores (or our cameras). In many cases, their misery is the direct result of our foreign policy, our warmongering and our support for dictators around the world. Think of the Rohingya. Think of Yemen. Think of Gaza. We have a moral duty to help them too; they also need our compassion, our protests and our petitions. For every little Aylan Kurdi that washes up on our beaches, there are a hundred more whose names we will never know and whose precious faces we will never see.

So if we really want to help the refugees, we need more than tents and tinned food. We need change. We’ve needed it for too long already.


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  1. I completely agree with your comments, unfortunately zionism is extremely powerful in many western governments and money talks. For decades muslims have been depicted in a negative light in the media and stereotyped in Hollywood films. In does not help that extremist groups such as ISIS and extremist doctrine has overtaken the real islam and many people actually believe the nonsense that is said about islam without authenticating what they have heard. I often wonder to myself, is that because people want to believe that to justify their own discrimination that they have.
    When I lived in London, i regularly went on demonstrations regarding palestinian rights and it was quite apparent who’s side the police were on. As i write the UK government are trying to support israel by trying to change the law regarding the BDS campaign against Israel. The issue is also an economical one, since the first world war countries have been occupying other lands to improve their own fiscal situation, these days that is no longer an option so selling weapons and assisting with wars makes a country a lot of money. It saddens me to the core how little value there is for human life especially when we are referring to a nation that is not considered developed or a minority group that have been labelled when all they want is basic human rights.
    We do need to do more and inshalla if we all make a point of being pro-active through raising awareness people will become more educated but that all depends on how much they want it. We have to be positive and often I have crumbled but after reading about the sufferings of ahlulbayt what i experience is but a drop in the ocean. If anything it has made me strong-willed and more understanding of the world both past and present.

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