Refugee crisis: Where are the Gulf countries?

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Source: Al-Jazeera

By Afzal Ashraf

The image of a 3-year-old drowned boy, Aylan Kurdi, lying face down on a beach had a huge symbolic effect on Europe. It has affected it more than the greater tragedies of over 2,500 refugees of all ages who died or went missing trying to get to Europe, or the 71 people, including four children, who suffocated in a truck in Austria.

Even previously reluctant European leaders, such as the United Kingdom’s Prime Minister David Cameron, have responded with promises to take in more Syrian refugees. Well-meaning as they are, these promises are as representative of the size of the crisis as the limp body of little Aylan.

The Syrian conflict has created over four million refugees. Add to that nearly two million more fleeing persecution in Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia, and this becomes a crisis that no amount of European generosity can address.

The problem is likely to get worse. The war in Yemen, which resulted in an almost 80 percent of the populationneeding humanitarian assistance, and the long-running Libyan conflict have yet to release their burden of displaced and desperate people. When they do, it could add millions more to the region’s refugee exodus.

Of course, the solution has to be an end to these conflicts and the associated persecution. But none of these conflicts shows signs of abating soon.

Mixed reactions

So, the refugee crisis not only demands an urgent solution but also raises fundamental questions about the nature of politics and leadership in the Arab and Muslim world.

Western Europe is habitually avoiding any connection of the crisis with religion or racial identity, but others are less coy.

Senior officials in Eastern Europe have openly declared their opposition to taking in Muslim refugees.

British Muslim politician, Sayeeda Warsi evoked the memory of the Kindertransport initiative, which rescued thousands of mainly Jewish children from Europe before World War II, as a model to aspire to during the current crisis. She presumably could find no suitable example in recent Islamic history.

The chief rabbi in the UK, Ephraim Mirvis cited scripture to Jews to set up a charity to help the refugees.

Hardly anything has been reported in Europe from any Middle Eastern leaders on the topic. But ordinary people from the region are voicing their shame and frustrations via social media.

A trending Arabic hashtag “Arab Conscience” argued that the Arab world is ignoring Arab refugees, who were looking for salvation in the West. Another campaign asked the wealthy Gulf states to relax their rules on refugees.

Over 12,000 tweets show there is a popular demand to let in refugees in Saudi Arabia.

Beneficiaries in the Gulf

Why are some Muslim governments seemingly indifferent to this plight, and why are people from the region fleeing to Europe for safety and prosperity?

It is not because regional countries lack the capacity to cope with the problem. The region has unimaginable wealth. It has constructed the tallest buildings, built lavish palaces, provided spectacular places of worship and created universities so big that they have their own railways.

The region has no shortage of space or jobs. Millions of professionals and labourers are imported from across the world to service the lifestyles, ambitions, and enterprises of these states.

Some might argue that the West has the responsibility to deal with the problem because it has been caused by Western involvement in the region, ranging from the Sykes-Picot to the recent wars in Iraq.

Whatever the validity of that argument, most Middle Eastern states are beneficiaries of historic agreements and recent Western military interventions. It is in their interest to deal with the consequences if only to maintain the status quo.

Others may argue that the refugees represent a potential extremist threat. However, the threat is no less for the Western countries that have already taken in these people.

Indeed, the apparent failure of Muslim governments to look after fellow Muslims is being exploited by extremists’ propaganda. On varioussocial media posts, they allege this is further evidence of current Muslim rulers’ “apostasy” and disdain for the “ummah”, arguing that only their Islamist state or caliphate can provide for Muslims’ welfare.

‘They want to go back’

Whatever Western countries do for the refugees, it will only be a sticky plaster solution. The number of refugees is already too large for a viable resettlement programme outside the region.

The rate of the flow from current conflicts and the likely new sources from the Libyan and Yemeni wars could transform the crisis into a catastrophe in the months to come.

The most profound words in recent days came from a 13-year-old Arab refugee. He didn’t want asylum or a hand-out. He simply asked that the war in Syria be stopped.

His striking good looks, bright intelligence and clear articulation symbolised the tragic loss of dignity of his people. The video of his noble challenge has gone viral.

Every cloud has a silver lining. This may be an opportunity for Arab governments to demonstrate superior moral and political leadership.

By addressing the needs of the refugees, they will do more than any amount of rhetoric to counter extremists and legitimise their power.

Above all, it will allow these regimes to justify their claim of Islamic authenticity by delivering the Prophetic model of “rahmat ul-alameen” – a mercy for mankind.

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12 thoughts on “Refugee crisis: Where are the Gulf countries?

  1. This is not just an Arab problem but a Muslim problem. The time is long overdue for Muslims to relook their beliefs. Contrary to what many believe the Muslim is far removed from the teachings of the Quran. The Muslim creates so much trouble for himself because Muslims follow Old Testament teachings disguised as “Islamic theology”. The same OT teachings that brought the Dark Ages onto Europe. There is not one thing the Muslim does in the name of his religion that can be found in the Quran. Not one. His prayer rituals, the pilgrimage, his beard, turban, robes are all not detailed or even mentioned in the Quran. Often they can be found in the Bible. The hijab is from the Bible, not the Quran. Unless the Muslims start questioning their long held beliefs they will be in turmoil.

  2. Saudi Arabia has taken in 2.5 million Syrians since the conflict broke out in 2011 and has been providing them with health care, education and access to work, a senior Saudi official says. Source AAP
    19 SEP 2015 – 12:41 PM UPDATED 19 SEP 2015 – 2:11 PM

  3. Arabs used to be desert thieves before oil was discovered by western civilization. Once we find a cheap alternative to oil then Arabs will turn back the time clock to become what they were best at, “Desert Thieves.”

    No wonder Allah had to send His best prophet to Arabs as they are the most ignorant and insensitive of all people in past and present civilizations.

    Shame on Arabs!

  4. AoA,
    I can’t agree more to what’s been expressed here. Muslim world in general, and Oil rich Arab countries in particular, who have been keen in toppling down the governments of their dislike are turning blind eye to the devastating situation arising from this conflict. Saudi Arabia for sure was leading the support for rebels in Syria, followed by Qatar and Turkey, and now when the country is completely destabilized and people are dying of hunger and running away from homes to save their lives, these same countries and their leaders are showing their true colors and have no sympathy for these people nor any care for humanity. They only care for their political gains and superiority. It’s time Ummah should wake up and condemn these leaders and declare that these selfish leaders should not be deciding the fate of the whole Ummah, and enough of these games in the name of Islam!
    It’s a shame that Saudi Arabia is still playing this game in Yemen, and poor people of Yemen are dying everyday and still a ton of misguided Muslims believe that Saudi Govt has the right to do whatever they want, just like what Israelis have been doing with Palestinians…what a shame!

  5. Es Selamu Aleykum we Rahmetullah:

    I don’t know what happened socially and culturally to Arabs after the prophet passed away. They started cheating some other Muslims for succession of Chaliphate and those who called themselves sunni have definitely done wrong to those who called themselves Shia. This nifaq is very unfortunate. Because it is directly against the command of Almighty God:
    “Hold firmly to the GUIDANCE OF ALLAH and do not be divided among yourselves.”

    and some nations with Christians and Jewish background, who wished ill for Muslims, took advantage of it.

    Later on Arabs worked against the Ottoman Empire and for the european nations which wanted to invade the lands that contained oil, and helped them to destroy the only defender of Muslims, The Ottoman Chaliphate and enabled the imperialists to divide their country into various factions which constituted Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Jordan, and the other many little states. In a disgusting fashion Sunnis discriminsted against Shia; oppressed them and some of them even sided with the evil-doer states of the world such as Israel and others.

    Also, in another disgusting show of misguided attitude could not put together enough strength to defend PAESTINIANS and themselves too, for that matter, against the evil zionist Israel and the evil zionist-Imperialist states of so called Western Countries..
    Something perhaps is lacking in their international policy. I do not know what it is, I am sure professionals have figured it out or will be figuring out what is lacking shortly. I am hoping that, in other words, it is my wishful thought that, all Arabs, including ISIL and even, Israel and the other Middle Eastern and Central Asian countries will find a more peaceful and beneficial way to achieve peaceful, cultural, economical coexistence, sort of an association like ASEAN COUNTRIES, and get rid of or render ineffectual all non-beneficial external influences and provide home for the refugees the zionist imperiaist states have created. If Turkey can build towns to accommodate 1.9 million refugees Arabs jointly can find a similar solution rather than finding reasons to kill each other. Kissinger’s wish, who said “I HOPE THEY KILL EACH OTHER”, is being fullfilled.

    Wes Selam,

    Dr. Suleyman Erk Erginer

  6. What a shame for all these rich Arab/Gulf and other Islamic World leaders who have done nothing to help address or try to solve the ongoing humanitarian crisis stemming from tens of thousands of desperate refugee fleeing with their lives to find safe sanctuaries in faraway lands in the Western countries. They have been silent, non-compassionate spectators providing only lip service; but no concrete solutions. Again, what a shame for all the hypocrisy so vividly exposed by those who are supposed to uphold the cause of the Muslim Ummah.

  7. What a shame for all these rich Arab/Gulf and Islamic World leaders who have done nothing to help address or try to solve the ongoing humanitarian crisis stemming from tens of thousands of desperate refugees fleeing with their lives to find safe sanctuaries in faraway lands in the Western countries. They have been silent, non-compassionate spectators providing only lip service; but no concrete solutions. Again, what a shame for all the hypocrisy so vividly exposed by those who are supposed to uphold the cause of the Muslim Ummah.

  8. the learned writer should take a look at the state of afghan refugees in pakistan which has created state within state situation ….similarly gulf states
    have paid high price for letting Palestine refugees ….one should remember that gulf states are thinly populated and even small portion of present refugees could pose an alarming threat….there are other reasons tooooo.

  9. The Arabs specially Saudi Arabia & Gulf States (UAE, Qartar , Bahrain etc) are disgrace to the Muslims all over the world these countries not only forbiding refugees to enter into their countries .
    It is unfortunate that their behaviour is insane and some of their acts are unbelievable specially their agents picking up young girls from the refugee camps and taking them to service the spoiled Sheikhs & their brothels.
    I think this is worse time for Muslims all over the world that every day hundreds of innocent Muslims dying during their attempts to escape viscous and cruel rule of their own countries and seeking refuge in countries What we name KAFIRS but at least they are good human beings at least they have open doors for weak and innocents requiring help.

  10. Jordan, whose population was around 9 million and has no oil or any wealth took 1.4 million Syrian refugees. More or less it is the same ratio as if the USA took the whole population of Canada as refugees.
    Since 1948, Jordanians have embraced displaced Arabs, both Muslims and Christians,within its borders. First it was the Palestinian Exodus of 1948, followed by the Palestinians and Jordanians who were thrown out of the Gulf Countries following the 1990 Iraqi occupation of Kuwait. Then came the USA and Allied occupation of Iraq and a new wave of Iraqi refugees came to Jordan, then the Libyan exodus after what the allies call “Liberation of Libya” though the numbers are much less. Then the Syrian refugees followed by Iraqi Christians who were running away from ISIS or DAESH assaults and massacres. I believe Jordan has presented the best humanitarian example of how a human being should treat his brother in time of crisis; yet no one has given my country and countrymen any credit….Do we have to employ an American PR company so that the world will get to appreciate Jordan!

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