Immigrants are people who have come to live permanently in a foreign country.
Despite what some may have led you to believe, they have existed way before the birth of the country whose president now wants to ban them from their soil.
The US experienced massive waves of immigration during the colonial era, the first part of the 19th century, and from the 1880s to 1920.
Many immigrants went to America for the country’s promise of great economic opportunities, while some, such as the pilgrims in the early 1600s, arrived in search of religious freedom.
Through the lens of the world as it stands today, the latter part may be nearer to the reasons behind the spike in immigration, however, the main reason is obviously the dangerous ethnic unrest as well as the small-scale wars which have cropped up in certain parts of the world -- mostly in Europe and the Middle East.
Most immigrants are not just immigrants anymore, they are usually referred to as “refugees” -- a term of vilification for some -- who have come to be sometimes sympathised with, but mostly despised, by portions of the countries they have fled to, which are usually European nations and the US.
The number of people displaced from their homes due to conflict and persecution, last year, exceeded 60 million for the first time for as long as the UN has existed, a tally greater than the combined populations of the UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, according to a new report.
Global Trends 2015, compiled by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), observes that 65.3 million people were displaced by the end of 2015, an uptick of more than five million from the year before (when it stood at 59.5 million).
The tally comprises 21.3 million refugees, 3.2 million asylum-seekers, and 40.8 million of those internally displaced within their own nations.
Measured against the world’s current population of 7.4 billion, one in every 113 people, globally, is now either a refugee, an asylum-seeker, or is internally displaced -- putting them at a level of risk without any precedence.
And out of this, up until last year, 12.5 million were from Syria.
The causes are not as simple as “religious persecution” or “ethnic cleansing,” they are just excuses or labels bandied about by certain enterprising individuals and groups whose sole motive is to acquire power and control.
One needs to demonstrate to the 1.5 billion moderate Muslims that the interpretations of the Qur’anic teachings and the Prophet’s Sunnah which are being spread by Islamic extremists all over the world are pathetically wrong.
The number of people displaced from their homes due to conflict and persecution, last year, exceeded 60 million, a tally greater than the combined populations of the UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand
Verse (ayah) 256 of Al-Baqarah is one of the more relatively well-known verses in the Islamic scripture, which states that “there is no compulsion in religion.”
Immediately after making this statement, the Qur’an offers a rationale for it -- since the revelation has, through explanation, clarification, and repetition, clearly distinguished the path of guidance from the path of misguidance, it is now up to people to choose one path over the other.
A good portion of Islamic scholars consider this verse to be a Medinan one, when Muslims lived in their period of political ascendance.
To cite Wikipedia: “According to all the theories of language elaborated by Muslim legal scholars, the Qur’anic proclamation that ‘there is no compulsion in religion. The right path has been distinguished from error’ is as absolute and universal a statement as one finds, and so, under no condition should an individual be forced to accept a religion or belief against his or her will according to the Qur’an.”
My reason for putting so much emphasis on the religious aspect of this issue is because a large portion of the world’s refugees, over 12 million from Syria for example, have been rendered such because of groups such as IS, groups which use a thin facsimile of religion in order to gain control and power.
The same can be said of groups such as al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Make no mistake, the brands of Islam being “preached” by such groups are as warped and corrupted as their idea of how the world works.
And it’s sad that the version of Islam that pervades the minds of most people reflects that of the terrorists, and, in the end, does nothing but to work against the needs of Muslim immigrants and refugees.
Perhaps the answer lies in understanding Islam the way it was meant to be. Through peace.
Syed Raiyan is a freelance contributor.