UNHCR book on Islam’s neglect of refugee laws in Quaran

Source: UNHCR chief launches book on Islam’s contributions to refugee law

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia, June 24 (UNHCR) – A UNHCR-sponsored book on the influence of Islam and Arab tradition on modern-day international refugee law was released this week in Saudi Arabia, at a ceremony addressed by High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres.

The comparative study, commissioned by Guterres and contained in a new book by Cairo University law professor and dean of the law faculty, Ahmed Abu Al-Wafa, was launched at Naif Arab University in Riyadh. Presiding over the ceremony were Prince Naif bin Abdul Aziz, Second Deputy Premier, Minister of Interior and head of Naif Arab University’s Supreme Council and the university’s president , Professor Abdul-Aziz bin Saqr al-Ghamedi.

The book says Islam’s 1,400-year-old tradition of generosity toward people fleeing persecution has had more influence on modern-day international refugee law than any other historical source.

In remarks as part of Naif Arab University’s commencement exercise, the High Commissioner said “all the principles embodied in modern international refugee law are to be found in the Shari’ah. Protection of refugees, their property and families, non-refoulement [forced return], the civilian character of asylum, voluntary repatriation – all are referred to in the Holy Koran.”

In his foreword to “The Right to Asylum between Islamic Shari’ah and International Refugee Law: A Comparative Study,” Guterres says the new book shows that more than any other historical source, Islamic law and tradition underpin the modern legal framework upon which UNHCR bases its global activities on behalf of tens of millions of uprooted people. This includes the right of everyone to seek and enjoy asylum from persecution as well as prohibitions against sending those in need of protection back into danger.

“Even though many of those values were a part of Arab tradition and culture even before Islam, this fact is not always acknowledged today, even in the Arab world,” Guterres writes. “The international community should value this 14-century-old tradition of generosity and hospitality and recognize its contributions to modern law.”

In his study, Professor Abu Al-Wafa describes how Islam and Arab tradition respect refugees, including non-Muslims; forbids forcing them to change their beliefs; avoids compromising their rights; seeks to reunite families; and guarantees the protection of their lives and property.

“Today, the majority of refugees worldwide are Muslims,” Guterres writes. “This fact occurs at a time when the level of extremism – ethnic and religious – is on the rise around the globe, even in the world’s most developed societies. Racism, xenophobia and populist fear-mongering manipulate public opinion and confuse refugees with illegal migrants and even terrorists.

We believe this book can make an important contribution in fighting prejudice and distortions about Islam.

– High Commissioner António Gutteres

“These attitudes have also contributed to misperceptions about Islam, and Muslim refugees have paid a heavy price. Let us be clear: refugees are not terrorists. They are first and foremost the victims of terrorism. This book reminds us of our duty to counter such attitudes.”

The book also reflects UNHCR’s close association with the member states of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), which itself adopted in 1990 a Declaration on Human Rights in Islam stipulating that every human being fleeing persecution has the right to seek asylum and receive protection in another country.

In his foreword to the book, OIC Secretary-General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu notes that the book “demonstrates the equitable and tolerant rules Islamic Shari’ah applies to refugees and how it is keenly concerned with their welfare and interests, while confirming human integrity and man’s right to a free, decent life.”

Naif Arab University’s Prof. al-Ghamedi, said the theme of the study “gains importance in the light of the increase in recent years in the numbers of refugees in Arab and Islamic countries.”

Professor Ahmad At-Tayyib, rector of al-Azhar University in Cairo, noted that the Arab concept of asylum, or “ijarah,” pre-dated Islam and was endorsed by Islamic Shari’ah “because it was one of the established good practices in their traditions and customs, involving noble manners and ethical values such as rescue of people in distress and protection of the oppressed.”

Guterres also presented the book to Prince Faisal Bin Abdullah, president of the Saudi Red Crescent Authority.

“We believe this book can make an important contribution in fighting prejudice and distortions about Islam,” the High Commissioner told the prince. “It can help to show the true face of Islam.”

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2 Responses to “UNHCR book on Islam’s neglect of refugee laws in Quaran”

  1. drkokogyi Says:

    Click to access 1.pdf

  2. drkokogyi Says:

    Under international law the protection of refugees and IDPs is guaranteed under International Humanitarian Law (IHL)
    – mainly the Geneva Convention of 1949 and two additional Protocols of 1977,and the Refugee Convention of 1951 and
    the Protocol of 1967. In addition there isthe broader framework of InternationalHuman Rights Law (IHRL), the main
    inspiration for which is the UniversalDeclaration of Human Rights (UDHR)
    of 1948. UDHR was a step towardsthe later adoption of human rightstreaties – such as, in 1966, of the two
    Covenants on Civil and Political Rights,
    and Economic, Social and Cultural
    Rights. There are also subsequent
    regional and topical instruments
    and many specific Conventions
    and international agreements that
    are relevant to the protection and
    assistance of displaced people.2
    Islam requires believers to assist and
    protect vulnerable people and offers a
    number of mechanisms for their care and
    support. However, Islam and Islamic
    sharia3 do not offer a comprehensive
    legal system for the protection of
    refugees and IDPs, at least not according
    to current understanding of protection.
    For example, while there is a right to seek
    asylum, exemplified most notably by the
    Prophet’s migration to Medina to avoid
    persecution, there is no overtly stated
    obligation on the part of Islamic states,
    in sharia at least, to provide asylum.
    There has recently been some debate
    about the UDHR4 in the Islamic world,
    mainly on the issue of whether it is
    compatible with sharia. Some human
    rights advocates, both Muslim and
    non-Muslim, fear that Islam, or at
    least sharia as practised, might be
    incompatible with human rights, or
    with the UDHR, and therefore with
    IHRL. Some Muslims, on the other hand,
    argue that the UDHR is in direct conflict
    with some principles of sharia law and
    thus unsuitable for the Islamic world.
    Perhaps the most fundamental
    difference between an Islamic and
    an internationalist point of view of
    human rights lies in the concept itself.
    While UDHR stresses the universality
    of human rights, Islam recognises two
    types of rights: rights that humans are
    obliged, by virtue of being the creations
    of God, to fulfil and obey; and rights
    that they are entitled to expect from
    their fellow human beings. It is the latter
    that correspond to what are elsewhere
    termed ‘human rights’. The former are
    rights that stem from, and are obtained
    through, belief in God and religion.5 In
    this concept only God truly has rights
    and the rights of humans are understood
    as their obligation to abide by God’s
    commands. They are, first and foremost,
    the rights of individuals to abide by and
    adhere to the laws that God decreed
    and are only possible through this belief
    system, thus excluding non-Muslims.
    Another potentially difficult point to
    reconcile is the principle of equality
    between men and women. The UDHR
    affirms unconditionally the complete
    equality between the two sexes. Under
    sharia law a woman can expect to be
    provided for, while men expect to inherit
    twice as much as the woman. In the
    situation of the rights of restitution of
    property to refugees, for example, this
    would raise questions. What are the
    implications, for example, for the many
    female-headed households trying to
    survive or rebuild lives and livelihoods
    after conflict and displacement?
    Islam does offer an array of rights that
    humans, by virtue of being human,
    are entitled to and which, from a
    modern perspective, seem no different
    from many of the rights listed in the
    UDHR. For example, the right to life
    is a fundamental right in Islam for
    Muslims and non-Muslims alike.
    Similarly, a person, irrespective of their
    religion, has the right to be protected
    from physical harm unless they commit
    a crime that under sharia law would
    demand physical punishment or the
    Nearly half of the world’s 16 million refugees come from
    Muslim countries while 15 million of the total of 26 million
    IDPs worldwide are displaced in the Muslim world.1
    Islam, international
    law and the protection
    of refugees and IDPs
    Musab Hayatli
    Issue 31
    October 2008
    Climate change and displacement
    In response to growing pressures on landscapes and livelihoods,
    people are moving, communities are adapting. We debate the
    numbers, the definitions and the modalities – and the tension
    between the need for research and the need to act.
    Plus articles on:
    Darfur, Chechnya, recovery
    and the rule of law, trafficking,
    HIV/AIDS services in Egypt,
    satellite imagery, witchcraft…
    FMR_redesign_Sep_08.indd 1 24/9/08 15:12:22
    Published by the Refugee Studies Centre, University of Oxford
    issue 30
    April 2008
    Burma’s displaced people
    plus our general articles section
    and regular contributors:
    UNHCR, Brookings-Bern,
    RAISE Initiative, NRC,
    IDMC and RSC
    death penalty. Equally, some countries
    which have voted in favour of the
    UDHR still carry out death sentences.
    In modern democratic states the state
    has the ‘monopoly on violence’.6 In
    Islam God has this monopoly which
    is manifested through Islamic law.7
    Rights to justice, equality, safety,
    security and human dignity are among
    those rights deemed indispensible
    in Islam. These are supplemented by
    further rights such as social solidarity,
    the right to education and to own
    property, and freedom from slavery.
    It is not difficult to see why some
    would argue that many of the rights
    acknowledged and guaranteed in the
    UDHR are rights that had been granted
    in Islam some 14 centuries earlier.
    The fact remains that there are certain
    aspects of the UDHR that would
    make it difficult, if not impossible, for
    countries wishing to adopt a sharia legal
    system to adopt the UDHR. This was
    acknowledged by the Organisation of
    the Islamic Conference (OIC), which
    includes virtually all Islamic states.
    The OIC responded by producing
    its own human rights charter which,
    while inspired by the UDHR and
    emphasising “the commitment of its
    member states to the UN Charter and
    fundamental Human Rights”, is yet
    compatible with Islamic principles.
    The Cairo Declaration,8 as the
    resulting document is known,
    unfortunately suffers from a lack of
    universal appeal. This is perhaps an
    inevitable consequence of linking
    what are thought of as universal
    rights to a specific religion.
    Are the UDHR and IHRL then simply
    incompatible with Islamic law and
    sharia? On a very fundamental level,
    Islam is egalitarian and seven of the eight
    Islamic countries present at the initial
    voting in 1948 voted in favour of the
    UDHR.9 Iran and Lebanon participated
    in the drafting while the then Pakistani
    foreign minister called for its adoption.
    The UDHR is not a treaty that countries
    can sign up to. It is a symbolic document
    representing a universal approach to the
    rights of all human beings. The actual
    commitment of a country to various
    international human rights treaties is
    through signing up to the individual
    treaties. The UDHR serves as a source
    of inspiration for the treaties and not
    as a legal document. Moreover, most
    international treaties permit signatory
    parties to express reservations regarding
    particular articles or clauses, whether
    for country-specific or cultural/
    religious reasons. The majority of
    Arabic and Islam countries have signed
    up to most of these treaties while
    expressing some reservation on some
    of the details, whether for political
    reasons (for example, if an article
    or clause might involve an implicit
    recognition of the state of Israel) or
    for religious reasons (such as granting
    equal rights to men and women when
    these rights conflict with Islamic
    sharia, as in the case of inheritance).
    Adopting the international treaties would
    help fill the gaps in the Islamic protection
    regime, particularly in light of increasing
    calls for the adoption of sharia as a source
    of national legislation. Protection of
    vulnerable groups chimes with the spirit
    of Islam. Establishing a legal framework
    for protecting refugees and IDPs that is
    also recognised internationally would be
    a welcome step and would complement
    existing support mechanisms.
    Musab Hayatli is the editor of the
    Arabic edition of Forced Migration
    Review (www.fmreview.org) and can
    be contacted on nhq@qeh.ox.ac.uk.
    1. Zaat, Kirsten ‘The protection of forced migrants in
    Islamic law’ Research Paper 146, New Issues in Refugee
    Research, UNHCR, Geneva 2007: http://www.unhcr.org/
    2. A list of some of these and the countries that have
    acceded to or signed up to them is on page 10.
    3. Sharia (meaning ‘way’) is the legal framework within
    which the public and private aspects of life are regulated
    for those living in a legal system based on Islamic
    4. The text of the UDHR is on pages 6-7.
    5. For a more thorough look at this issue see:
    ‘Proceedings of the Scientific Forum: Human Rights
    between Islamic Sharia and human law’, 2001.Naif
    Arab University for Security Science, available in
    Arabic: http://www.nauss.edu.sa/NAUSS/Arabic/Menu/
    ELibrary/EBooks/booksnew9/. See also: Weeramantry,
    CG (1998) Islamic jurisprudence: an international perspective.
    Houndmills, Macmillan. Also see Ann Elizabeth
    Mayer ‘The Islamic Declaration of Human Rights’ and
    Dalacoura, Katerina, ‘Islam and Human Rights’ in Rhona
    Smith and Christien van den Anker The Essentials of
    Human Rights (Hodder Arnold, 2005).
    6. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monopoly_on_the_
    7. As in modern states, legislation, interpretation and
    application of these laws will vary from one Islamic state
    or Islamic authority to another.
    8. The text of the Cairo Declaration is on pages 8-9.
    9. Afghanistan, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Syria and
    Turkey voted in favour while Saudi Arabia abstained.
    n Massive displacement in Iraq
    n Forgotten Kosovo IDPs
    n Somalis risk death crossing Red Sea
    n Misrepresenting Sudan’s Lost Boys
    n Voices of displaced Colombians
    Published by the Refugee Studies Centre in association
    with the United Nations Population Fun d (UNFPA)

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