Europe, News Watch, Side Feature

Under Secular Systems, Human Suffering is Disregarded for Political Mileage

In recent weeks, the British government has been under fire for the inhumane treatment of asylum seekers in its immigration centres, and the appalling conditions in which they are held while waiting to be processed once they arrive on the country’s shores. Around 4000 people were kept at the Manston facility in Kent, a former airbase, that should only hold 1600 people. Conditions at the overcrowded centre have been described as wretched and prison-like, with reports of dirty toilets, cold meals and asylum seekers sleeping on cardboard as well as outbreaks of diphtheria, scabies and MRSA infections due to the unhygienic environment. There have also been harrowing images of children behind barbed wire fences at the centre. Defending the government’s failure to deal humanely with migrants, the British Home Secretary, Suella Braverman, claimed in parliament that there was an “invasion” by asylum seekers on the south coast of England and the government was trying to stop this. Her divisive and hate-mongering comments came a day after a man firebombed a migrant centre in Dover, which the police said was driven by right-wing ideology and “some form of hate-filled grievance”. According to The Times, Braverman had also blocked the transfer of thousands of migrants to hotels during her first spell as home secretary under the previous Prime Minister, Liz Truss. Braverman has previously commented that she dreamed of seeing a headline in the right-wing Telegraph paper of refugees being flown out on a plane to Rwanda.

It is clear that the British government’s approach to dealing with desperate refugees, many of whom have fled persecution and war, is to try and make life so unbearable for them in order to detract others from seeking sanctuary in the country. Many refugees are left months on end in limbo, unable to seek employment, an education or enjoy a normal life until their asylum application is processed, affecting their mental health. According to The Guardian, the backlog in processing asylum claims has risen 72% in a year – “more than double two years ago and treble the period before the Covid pandemic – and that 75% of the total had been waiting for a decision for more than six months.” In June, 122,213 people were awaiting an initial decision on their asylum application. Many commentators have stated that such a huge backlog and delay in processing these asylum claims is ideologically driven and aimed at limiting the numbers who are given residency in the country. Britain is not alone in creating a living hell for refugees or trying their hardest to prevent them from entering their land. The atrocious conditions in the refugee camps in Calais, Bangladesh and Turkey are well documented. Currently, the Norwegian government is in a diplomatic battle with Italy over who should take responsibility for around 1000 refugees and migrants who were rescued by NGO vessels in the Mediterranean who were flying its flag. Oslo is insisting that Rome take charge of the people who are stranded off its coast.

Most secular states view refugees as a burden to their economy rather than an asset to their society. This is because such states measure everything through the capitalist lens of material gain or loss, rather than according to humanitarian and ethical values such as human need. Furthermore, these secular governments use refugees as scapegoats – cynically shifting the blame for some of the economic woes affecting their local population to migrants entering the country. Secular politicians use these desperate people as human shields and convenient smokescreens to help deflect public anger and attention away from the flawed economic policies and systems of these states that have failed to fulfil the needs of their people and create a healthy economic environment within their societies.

Furthermore, as demonstrated by the inflammatory statements of the British home secretary, secular politicians have no qualms about adopting far-right rhetoric and dehumanising language towards asylum seekers, depicting them as a threat to the country, regardless of it fuelling attacks against refugees and minority populations who are viewed as foreign due to their skin colour or land of origin. The aim is clearly to play to the gallery of right-wing xenophobic and racist voters to garner their support. It’s no surprise that Braverman’s comments come at a time when her Tory Party is lagging in the polls and where there is massive public anger towards the crippling financial fall out of the government’s economic decisions and policies. The language once used by racist far-right extremists has now entered the mainstream of secular politics, employed by politicians for political gain. Hence, under secular systems, desperate refugees are used as targets and punch bags by opportunistic politicians to win elections and for political mileage. We see in Turkey for example, how political vitriol against Syrian refugees in the country, and blaming them for contributing to the economic crisis afflicting the country, has gathered pace as the presidential elections fast approaches. Erdogan for example, has announced that he is preparing to send back a million refugees to war-torn Syria.

This is the dangerous, divisive and heartless reality of the secular system, that allows those who govern to use those who have suffered the most horrific ideals and persecution as pawns to win political games. This is not a system fit for purpose to govern humankind. In contrast, the Islamic system approaches the treatment of migrants, asylum seekers and refugees from a human and humanitarian perspective. Under Islamic rule, the oppressed are given sanctuary and a dignified life, with full rights of citizenship if they wish to reside within the state and become citizens of the state, for Islam is a system that has come as a mercy for mankind. Allah (swt) says:

(وَمَا أَرْسَلْنَاكَ إِلَّا رَحْمَةً لِّلْعَالَمِينَ)

“And We have not sent you, [O Muhammad], except as a mercy to the worlds.” [Al-Anbiya: 107].

The Khilafah (Caliphate) will therefore welcome those who seek residency and sanctuary on its lands. Furthermore, it will have the capability to provide them with their basic needs and the opportunity to seek dignified employment and build for themselves a good standard of living, for it will implement the Islamic economic system that embodies the sound principles to build prosperous societies where all benefit from its wealth, as proven historically.

Dr. Nazreen Nawaz
Director of the Women’s Section in the Central Media Office of Hizb ut Tahrir