By: Ahsan Qazi
Malcolm X once brilliantly stated in his Oxford University Debate in 1964 that “The young generation of whites, Blacks, browns, whatever else there is, you are living at a time of extremism, a time of revolution, a time where there’s got to be a change. People in power have misused it…and I for one will join in with anyone, I don’t care what color you are, as long as you want to change this miserable condition that exists on this earth.” It is important to recall such blunt revolutionary words of Malcolm X in light of President Donald J. Trump’s recent executive order which restricted individuals from predominantly seven Muslim countries: Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Iran, Somalia, Libya, and Yemen. Although President Trump’s immigration ban violated the United States of America’s own constitution and further neglected U.S. A’s own identity as an immigrant nation, the ban comes as an awakening moment for all Muslim nations to evaluate their own socio-political conditions and policies that initially created such a crisis for many immigrant Muslims in U.S.A and other Western nations.
In the United States of America and other Western nations, Muslims are now a clear target of Islamophobia. The socio-political and socio-cultural sentiments had been suppressed for many years that such sentiments have now reappeared, giving rise to racial tensions again at a dangerous level. Not only racially directed attacks towards immigrant Muslims have risen to a higher number, the year 2015 to present date marks the record number of attacks on Mosques in U.S.A. The prior administration of President Obama did not allow such racial feelings to surface on a national stage though his policies were equally strict for immigrants. President Trump, on the other hand, normalized the prejudice on a national level with his xenophobic rhetoric and fueled Islamophobia more. KatayounKishi, a contributor to the Pew Research Center mentioned in his “Anti-Muslim assaults reach 9/11-era Level, FBI data show,” that “Overall, the FBI reported 257 incidents of anti-Muslim hate crimes in 2015, a 67% increase from the previous year.” Since President Trump’s nomination as a presidential candidate to becoming a president, the attacks on immigrant Muslims are now an every-day situation. The phrases, “Get out of my country,” “Terrorists,” “Go back to where you came from,” are daily dosages of hate and intolerance given to the immigrant Muslims. This situation raises important questions for the Muslim world for self-analysis and demands from the Muslim leaders around the world to reassess the socio-political conditions of each Muslim country.
One of the questions that Muslim world must ask itself and its leaders is that why are the Muslim states that are rich in natural resources and clearly capable of providing economic opportunities failing to assimilate their own citizens and others Muslim who wish to settle in other Muslim lands? While the answer may come as the Muslim countries not being responsible for each other’s well-being, it brings the concept of “ummah,” Muslim unity into question. Most the Muslim states are so withdrawn from the problems facing other Muslim countries, the relief that should come in form of offering permanent residency and citizenship, which open the doors to economic opportunities and equality always remains blocked. In effect, Muslim immigrants are either discontent with the policies of their own Muslim land or other Muslim countries. Moreover, one must ask that why are the Muslims around the globe face extreme socio-political difficulties in their own nations or other Muslim nations that Muslims see Western nations as the only nations providing the lifestyle that Muslims seek? Although the migration to various Western countries creates an ironic situation for migrant Muslim population because of racial/religious discrimination migrant Muslims face, the recent Syrian refugee crisis heavily reflects on the risks that immigrant Muslims are willing to take to get to Western nations when other Muslim countries are more geographically accessible for those in crisis. One can use the conveniently available answer and make a simple assertion that it is because of Western influence and Western political dominance that created the migrant crisis; however, the current situation of the Muslims around the globe calls for all Muslim nations to look within for the factors that made many Muslims tired of their own homeland. Many Muslim nation-states collapsed or continue to collapse because of internal power struggle, extreme corruption, iron-fist rulers who do not understand the need of time, extremely restricting immigration policies that do not offer citizenship to Muslims from other countries and rigid values that neither Islam supports nor the concept of ummah, the idea of unified Muslim community supports. The top Muslim countries, Qatar, Kuwait, Brunei Darussalam, United Arab Emirates, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Turkey, Libya, Malaysia among Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Kazakhstan all possess economic and social stability to assist others Muslim countries in crisis, but are rigid in their immigration, social, and economic policies for non-native Muslims so much so that these countries discourage non-native Muslims to seek refuge in Western lands. A walk in different cities in Saudi Arabia will show Non-Saudi Muslims’ extreme anger and frustration over not having the opportunity to obtain citizenship and pursue economic opportunities as they wished nor having any other socio-economic opportunities because they do not have Saudi Citizenship. Many Muslims share similar sentiments of other Muslim countries where socio-economic opportunities are blocked by non-residency or citizenship policies.
The current condition of Muslims suffering in Western nations is best described in words of Dr. Adfer Shah who summed up the global Muslim crisis in his “The Burden of Muslims” that “In the worst humanitarian crisis in Syria, chased to death in Iraq by the violent ISIS, jeopardized in Iran, destroyed aerially and starved in Palestine, in search of identity in India, alienated in Australia, secularized in Turkey, stereotyped in America, segregated in Britain, restricted in France, bombed and impoverished in Afghanistan, killed unaccounted in Nigeria, estranged, disturbed and confused in Egypt, oppressed in Tunisia and Bangladesh, communalized and in identity crisis in Sri Lanka, radicalized and sensitized in Pakistan and Egypt and massacred in Myanmar, every Muslim on the globe is witnessing an existential challenge besides a plethora of socio-political and security issues in the contemporary times.” Wherever one looks, many Muslims are unhappy about the challenges they are facing. The hope of justice and leniency is pushing immigrant Muslims in crisis to take any challenges to get to the Western nations that are no longer welcoming as they used to be once.
It is a high time and a perfect opportunity for all Muslim nations to revise their political processes and policies to make all Muslims lands welcoming for non-native Muslims. The majority of Muslims are tired of Muslim monarchs and policymakers like Abdullah bin Zayed from the United Arab Emirates who made an irresponsible remark stating that Trump’s travel ban is not Islamophobic. President Trump’s travel ban is in fact, xenophobic and Islamophobic. To agree with President Trump who is spreading fear and hate for the protection of monarchy does not give a guarantee to an individual such as Abdullah bin Zayed. The Muslim world is in need of leaders who have empathy and respect for other non-native Muslims that help create better diplomatic relations and social relations. Such leaders are the ones who are well versed in dealing with issues of present time rather than those who resort to old methodologies that frustrate their own natives and non-native Muslims to immigrate to Western nations and beg for assimilation or acceptance in foreign lands. A truly successful and peaceful Muslim nation will be the one that sees immigrants as its strength rather than a threat to homogeneity. It is important for Muslims to generate such dialogue in Muslim countries and push for a social change in all Muslim lands so the Muslim lands could be made as prosperous as any Western nation. A larger number of Muslims, including immigrant Muslims who showed their political activism when President Trump’s ban was enforced, need to bring such activism back to Muslim lands. It is an urgent need of time and urgent need of an opportunity that came with President Trump’s Muslim ban to push for socio-political change to open all Muslim lands for all Muslims by looking at problems within rather than seeking asylum in Western countries that are no longer so tolerant of Muslims. Since islamophobia and fear of immigrants are all time high, it places immigrant Muslims more in danger who still seek to preserve a Muslim way of life in Western countries. Muslim country that opens its doors to others and allows for one to establish their lives within such particular Muslim land will not only strengthen its economy but use the talent to remain a peaceful and a stable nation. Either way, whether in the West or in the Muslim lands, Muslims are up against the challenge of changing miserable conditions as Malcolm X put it. This is certainly a time of a socio-political revolution to end injustice wherever it exists, and we must begin with our own Muslim lands first before we ask a Western nation to accommodate us by respecting “our” ways.