Monday, July 27, 2015
In this latest addition to It’s Your Fault, The Cubit’s series on blame in contemporary society, RD senior correspondent Haroon Moghul offers some good things to blame all Muslims for.
The illustrations for this article come from the Illustration Class for high schoolers taught by Julie Zhu at the Sitka Fine Arts Camp, a nationally recognized fine arts camp in Sitka, Alaska. The opportunity allowed students a peek inside professional illustration, how to approach and research an idea taken from a rough draft, and then how to edit and prepare the illustration for publication while incorporating feedback from the editors of the Cubit.
On behalf of the world’s 1.7 billion Muslims, I’d like to say “You’re welcome.” Because if all Muslims are blamed for whatsome of us do, shouldn’t we all be commended for what any single one of us accomplishes?
I present below twenty-five very important things you probably can’t do without, for which thank you’s are in order. On behalf of the ummah—which I’ve just now appointed myself to, with no legitimacy except that far worse people have already done so—I will accept Amazon gift cards, rent-controlled apartments, gold-pressed latinum, or chai.
Grand Vizier of the Internets
With Authority To Speak On Behalf of the World’s 1.7 Billion Muslims
By His Majesty the Caliph Barack Obama
Grand Vizier of the Internets
With Authority To Speak On Behalf of the World’s 1.7 Billion Muslims
By His Majesty the Caliph Barack Obama
That’s right. The first thing you can thank us for is nothing.
Hindu mathematicians may have come up with the zero, but Muslims built the vast trade networks through which concepts like the zero (and 1-9, too), spread to Europe.
This is why, in the Arab world, Arabic numbers are called ‘Indian numbers,’ and why, in the West, ‘Indian numbers’ are called ‘Arabic numbers.’ In India they’re just known as numbers.
No matter what they’re called, I think we can all agree they make life a lot easier.
Muslims invented coffee, and coffee is a good thing, and no good thing ever dies. At best it goes cold.
In fact, one of the reasons coffee took off is because religious Muslims preferred the beverage for its ability to keep them awake, and therefore able to do more worshiping, studying, reading and writing.
Did you know that ‘Mocha’ is a city in Yemen, and ‘coffee’ is originally an Arabic word? (While we’re at it, so is ‘orange’: Muslims introduced oranges and other citrus fruits to Europe by way of Spain and Sicily.)
3. Pleasant Lightheadedness
Absent lemons and limes, what do you think your anti-bacterialized kitchen surfaces would smell like? Really. I’m curious. You know, for independent unpaid research.
4. Tim Hortons, Etc.
Sure, Muslims didn’t invent buildings, but we’ve historically put very important things in them, like coffee drinkers. The first cafes in the West trace their origin to the Muslim world, which, being the origin point for coffee, was also the origin point for the world’s first cafes.
Considering how many great ideas came out of coffeehouses, you’re welcome, but in light of how many grad students have wasted their potential on fruitless arguments in coffeehouses, we’re sorry. You’re going to want that free refill. Decaf, preferably, so you’re not up all night worrying about the disappearance of tenure and the surfeit of bad life choices you’ve made.
For every time you’ve had to solve for x, a Muslim has duped you.
Algebra was refined by an 8th century Persian Muslim mathematician, al-Khwarizmi. The title of his principal book included the word ‘al-jabr,’ meaning restoring or reuniting; his Latinized name entered English as “algorithm.”
The equally accomplished American, Southern Baptist polymath Lindsey Graham, once joked that everything that starts with ‘al’ is bad news. Perhaps he had a bad experience with algebra. I mean, really, how many of us have not?
While Muslims benefited from and transmitted Hindu numeracy (as well as advances in mathematics generally), algebra is interesting for its use of abstract symbols in place of defined numbers, inverting a previous contribution.
There is no known relation between algebra and Algiers.
Desperate to get past the Muslim-Chinese stranglehold on maritime world trade and the Muslim dominance of the Silk Road, Spain financed every cockamamie plan it could to get straight to the Indies, including the one proposed by Christopher Columbus. Most Europeans were pretty disappointed by America, despite its size. They had all wanted a passage to China and to India, not some new, allegedly empty continent.
But there’s more to it than that. Where did Catholic King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella get the funding for the Niña, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria? By defeating the Emirate of Granada, the last Muslim-ruled kingdom in Spain or Portugal. Which made for one other neat convergence: Though Columbus claimed he sighted land first, that honor in fact belonged Rodrigo de Triana, a descendant of the many Spanish Muslims who were allowed to stay in Spain on condition of converting to Catholicism.
Last but not least, the first country to recognize the U.S.A. was the Muslim Kingdom of Morocco, to which de Triana might’ve moved having failed to secure the bonus that was promised to the first to sight land.
7. New York City
Some Muslims and Jews were expelled from Catholic Spain as early as the 11th century—the lastdescendants of Muslims were driven out between 1609 and 1614—and some of these made common cause with a Spanish dependency, the Netherlands, which converted to Protestantism and likewise resented religious hegemony. (How the tables have turned.)
Protestant Dutch and North African Muslim pirates collaborated to harry Spanish and Portuguese ships, and eventually began to claim territory for themselves.
Without this collaboration, it’s possible the Dutch would’ve been unable to begin seizing Portuguese and Spanish colonies, and even establishing their own, though in the race for global power the Dutch were eventually surpassed by the French and the British. One of the most famous, if not the most famous, Dutch settlement is New York City, whose flag pays homage to Gotham’s Dutch origins.
8. Joe Biden’s Career
Though we didn’t invent tooth whitener, we did popularize toothbrushes. ‘Chew sticks,’ called miswak, were favored by the Prophet Muhammad, who encouraged his followers to clean their teeth and rinse their mouths as often as five times a day, and especially after eating. Was Islam’s Prophet a dentist?
Somehow I don’t think that would help our image.
Did you know that on landing at LGA, Joe Biden wondered if he were “in some third world country?” This was a huge mistake; the third world has much better airports than we do. Did you also know that, centuries before the Wright brothers or even Da Vinci, Abbas ibn Firnas invented a flying machine?
He was a Muslim from Spain, too.
10. Your Crushing Student Debt
The first degree-granting universities come from Muslim North Africa, and the oldest continuously operating university in the world today, al-Azhar (sorry, Sen. Graham), is in Cairo, Egypt. This history may be the reason on graduation day you look like an enemy combatant.
Much of the modern university, including the stages by which one attains to a doctorate, descend from Islamic antecedents and maintain Islamic influences.
11. The Star Wars Prequels
Tattooine’s a real city, in Tunisia, which is a real country, in Africa, which is a real continent trying to become the country it is regularly confused for. Now you know why Jedis and Sith look that way—their robes are a reflection of North African culture.
The lightsaber, unfortunately, was not our idea.
The first hospital was founded in Cairo, and Muslim hospitals once even included wards for patients with mental illness, and used innovative techniques like music therapy to improve moods and aid in recuperation.
13. Half of American Socialism
President Obama’s dad was a Muslim. So we get like 50% credit right?
The word for alcohol comes from Arabic, which is awesome since Muslims aren’t supposed to drink or sell alcohol. Or, rather, al-cohol, I should say. One possible reason an Arabic word is used to describe a beverage the majority of Arabs are not supposed to imbibe is that Muslim scientists made huge advances in chemistry and passed their terminology on to Europe.
15. The Most Expensive Housing in America
Anthony Janszoon (1607–1676) had a lot of money, so the Dutch wanted him to stay in New Amsterdam (see #7), but his half-Dutch, half-Spanish, full Muslimness meant he wasn’t interested in adhering to the churchy expectations of his new home. A compromise was reached: Janszoon set up shop a safe distance away, in the neighborhood now known as Gravesend, Brooklyn, and proceeded to make even more money, with his descendants numbering among some of America’s most prestigious families, including the Vanderbilts. Today Brooklyn has the most expensive house prices in America.
Anthony wasn’t the first Muslim in the Americas, but he was one of the first. And his dad was a pirate. What’s not to like?
Hundreds of thousands of Muslims fought for the British and French against the Nazis and the Japanese in World War II. While Islamophobes love to bring up the embarrassing Palestinian Mufti al-Husseini as evidence of some kind of Muslim-Nazi alliance, they conveniently neglect the far, far, far greater number of Muslims who fought with the Allies despite being second-class citizens in their own countries.
Of course, the cost of defeating Nazi Germany broke the old European powers, and pretty much ended the Imperial Age, so #sorrynotsorry.
Islamophobia pays handsomely, as my colleague and co-conspirator Dean Obeidallah has discovered.
The Spanish staple finds its name from the Arabic ‘bawa’i,’ or remainders. Back from when most Spaniards spoke Arabic.
19. FOX News
Because what else would they talk about?
20. Band practice
The Ottomans invented military parades, and attached military bands (with drums over horns) to battle formations, to boost troop morale and freak out whoever was being attacked. They attacked often, which was not cool.
But pretty soon everyone who was anyone was doing it, and then it got lame, and people left Williamsburg and Crown Heights was the new thing, but even then the rents didn’t go down in Williamsburg.
21. The Battle of Helm’s Deep
Gimli blew the Horn of Helm Hammerhand to rally the Rohirrim, because drums were a more Muslim invention, and Tolkien intended for his legendarium to reflect a more authentically European Europe. Which, I suppose, just really means the only legitimate Europeans are the ones whose descendants would turn or be turned Christian, which suggests the fantasy novel is perhaps more science fiction than Tolkien realized. (See also #22 and #23.)
22. Old Glory
Don’t hate the player, hate the game. The East India Company was England’s answer to Spanish, Portuguese and Dutch seizure of predominantly Muslim trade through public-private partnership, but the East India Company did it that much better.
The East India Company’s flags, in turn, seem a likely influence on Old Glory.
23. History Itself
The founding father of modern sociology, and arguably of modern history, was Tunisian Renaissance man Ibn Khaldun. In addition to analyzing the rise and fall of civilizations, Ibn Khaldun was a scholar of religion and mysticism.
A Persian polymath attached to the marauding armies of Mahmud of Ghazni, al-Biruni was a deep, patient and brilliant student of Indian religion, society, geography and even geology. Nearly one thousand years ago he correctly argued, using fossil evidence, that parts of the Indian subcontinent were once under water. He still provides present-day Indianists with one of the most exhaustive and thorough surveys of pre-modern Hinduism. This book may also have been the first serious study of religion as a category, in the sense that we moderns would recognize.
25. Italian Food
Muslims ruled Sicily, parts of southern Italy, and even Genoa, during the 7th, 8th and 9th century. In addition to eggplants, oranges, lemons, limes, and cotton, Muslims also introduced… pasta. Yeah, pasta. Bet you didn’t see that one coming.
Given the connection between pasta, pizza and sex, that’s a major You’re Welcome. I mean, can you imagine Italian food without pasta? Can you imagine America without Italian food?
Yes, Lindsey Graham, unfortunately it’s true. Even Al Capone was our fault. Or Al-Capone, at least, who may or may not have been the same person. We lost track of him after we sent him over.
Wednesday, July 22, 2015
Thursday, July 16, 2015
Eid card published by Hafiz Qamruddin & Sons in Lahore, December 1934
Vintage Eid cards often had urdu poetry penned especially for the occasion.
"Eid greetings to my sympathisers,
Eid greetings to my friends,
Eid greetings to the lovers and the beloveds,
Eid greetings to the lovers and the beloveds,
the drunks and the pious,Eid greetings to all four of them today."
Tuesday, July 14, 2015
Wednesday, July 8, 2015
he field was taped off while a mechanical digger clawed at the ground, making parallel trenches in the sandy earth. Forensics specialists in black sleeveless jackets peered into the soil looking for a flash of white bone. The police leant on their patrol car, sweating in the noon heat.
The massacres in Srebrenica were committed 20 years ago next week. Commemorations around the world will include a memorial service in Westminster Abbey on Monday, and dignitaries will gather at the huge graveyard near the old United Nations base in Potocari.
But the place is still an active crime scene. It refuses to slip into history. Some crimes are so vast, so devastating, so shocking, they are never truly over. The case is never closed. Pain seeps out through decades and generations. At least that how it feels to the survivors, the families of the dead, who gather at the police tape, waiting to see whose bones will rise from the ground.
It is as hot and humid now as it was in July 1995, when more than 8,000 Muslim men and boys were executed in the fields around Srebrenica. After a morning of tearing at the same ground two decades on, the digger overheated and had to be rested. The driver, the police and investigators retired to the cafe of a nearby petrol station to wait. Among them was Amor Masovic, the chairman of the Bosnian Missing Persons Institute, the man entrusted by the state with the endless task of accounting for the dead.
By the reckoning of Masovic’s institute, the remains of 7,100 of the dead have been found out of total of 8,372 missing. The International Commission for Missing Persons (ICMP), which is helping with the DNA identification work, has similar figures. That leaves some 1,200 people left to find, and many more surviving relatives in perpetual agony. They call Masovic all the time, asking for news.
But these last bodies are the hardest to find.
After the Srebrenica genocide, the Bosnian Serb wartime leadership ordered the graves dug up and the corpses reburied in a bid to conceal them. The job was done with bulldozers and trucks, breaking up bodies in the process.
“We are the first generation in human civilization in which bodies are buried and then dug up and scattered,” Masovic said. “As far as I know, no one else did this.”
He tells the story of one man, Kadrija Music, who had been 23 at the time of the massacre. Six of his bones were found in five different locations up to 32km apart.
The discovery of new bones can bring peace to some families while stealing it away from others. If they belong to someone whose partial remains have already been found, mothers and widows are faced with the choice of leaving the new bones in communal graves, or digging up their dead son or husband so that he can be reburied in more complete form. Most choose the latter path, even though the same torment could be repeated again and again.
Hajra Catic can only dream of such dilemmas. She would love to have the choice of where to bury her son, Nino, who disappeared at the age of 26. He had been the town’s radio operator who had sent out its last forlorn appeals for help. When Srebrenica fell, he was one of thousands of local men who opted to flee into the wooded mountains rather than trust their lives to the Serb forces or their supposed UN protectors. Along the way, the fugitives had to cross mined frontlines, and face one ambush after another while mortar and artillery shells slashed through the trees around them.
The woods are still being demined, and as they are cleared, more bones are found strewn in the undergrowth. Catic was told that the remains of five people were found in recent months and only two have so far been identified so far. She believes Nino could be one of the remaining three. She is waiting for her phone to ring.
“I live for that call. Every year I think this is the year I will bury my son,” she said. She knows that particular mix of despair and relief, from the time she got a call about her husband, Junuz, who was shot in one of the mass executions and whose body was eventually found in 2005 with many others, under a rubbish heap in the nearby town of Kozluk. She has left a space next to Junuz for their son.
“When the call comes, your memory goes straight back to 95,” Catic said. “It is a terrible thing but I wish Nino was in a mass grave. Then I would know where he was. Every night I wake up thinking about him. For us, this is not history. For us, it’s like it happened yesterday.”
For years, she had been pushing the authorities to get the demining done. In 2012, she gave up waiting and went into the woods with one of Nino’s friends who was prepared to take the risk.
“He took me to the place they said they had seen Nino wounded from a mortar,” she said. “It was mined all around. I tried to clear the surface looking for something, but I found nothing. But walking back I found a skull by a creek. I couldn’t leave it there. I put in a bag and took it back. It stayed in my study for 18 months before anyone came to pick it up.”
The skull did not belong to Nino, but to a teenage boy. One of the survivors from the long trek through the mountains, Muhamed Durakovic, had seen the boy with his father, Kemal Hajdarovic, in the woods.
“I asked Kemal why he had brought the boy – he was only 12 or 13. “’Yes, but he’s tall for his age,’ he told me,” recalled Durakovic. Hajdarovic had feared his son’s height would get him killed. In the woods in July 1995, both father and son died.
Durakovic spent 37 days wandering in the woods. He now works for the ICMP. He never saw Nino Catic, whom he knew well, in all that time, and believes his mother may be looking in the wrong place.
Amor Masovic believes the missing 1,200 are somewhere in the mountains or in secondary graves, where the Bosnian Serb army reburied the corpses they had disinterred. In June he and his team were looking at the steep hillsides around the village of Glogova, where remains had been tipped out of trucks and allowed to roll down a gorge.
As they worked, a schoolboy on his way home on a mountain road waited patiently for them to finish so that he could pass. His name was Suad Mujic, and he was born five years after the end of the war. His parents had escaped to the city of Tuzla and then returned to the village in 2004 to pick up their old lives. Suad’s grandfather, grandmother and 21-year-old aunt had been killed, and their bodies were later found in different sites in the vicinity. His walk to school is literally through a killing field.
“From time to time I think about it if I’m walking home alone,” the 15-year-old said. But he thought more Bosniak (Bosnian Muslim) families should return. “It’s a good place, and we are coming back to our property to prove it belongs to us.”
He has Serb friends, but they never talk about what happened in July 1995.
“If we want to talk about [it], the Serb teachers at school take their side. They want to diminish it, as if never happened.”
The same rule applies across Srebrenica municipality. Because of the numbers of Bosniaks who insisted on returning and the unusual degree of international protection they received from the international community, it is one of the very few mixed municipalities in the Republika Srpska (RS), the Serb half of Bosnia that was carved up by ethnic cleansing but accepted as part of the 1995 peace agreement. It is the only town in the RS with a Bosniak mayor, partly due to the fact that even those Bosniak families that did not return made sure they registered for the municipal elections and outvoted Serbs, who make up 55% of the 8,000 population.
A Bosnian flag flies outside Srebrenica town hall, an extreme rarity for the RS, and a Serb deputy mayor and other Serb officials work alongside their Bosniak colleagues. But the cohabitation is a veneer.
In the office of Nermin Alivukovic, the mayor’s chief of staff, there is nothing to show that anything out of the ordinary happened in Srebrenica, as it would be viewed as provocative.
“You can talk about anything but when you start talking about 95, that’s the end of the conversation,” Alivukovic said. “Before each anniversary on 11 July, you can feel the tension rising. The Serbs start withdrawing socially and stop talking or hanging out with us.”
In an office a few feet down the corridor, the Serb head of the municipal council, Milos Milovanovic, said he had no intention of attending ceremonies to mark the 20th anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre.
“No Bosniaks ever come to remember the Serb dead,” Milovanovic said. The Serbs have begun holding rival ceremonies for their own dead in northeast Bosnia, which they estimate at 3,700 over the course of the war, mostly soldiers
As for the question of whether the massacre of the 8,000 men and boys happened, Milovanovic, a former Bosnian Serb soldier, is hazy.
“I think there should be a joint commission to investigate what really happened,” he said. “We can’t speculate about numbers. Even one victim is too much.”
Soldiers from Milovanic’s unit, the Bratunac brigade, took an important role in the mass executions, but he says he was transferred to another front as Srebrenica fell, and was not present in the bloody aftermath.
The Bosnian Serb leader, Milorad Dodik, has become increasingly assertive in questioning the fact of the Srebrenica killings. Last month he called it “the biggest sham of the 20th century” and he has been supported by nationalists in Serbia and by Moscow, which is currently blocking a UK-sponsored UN security council resolution officially declaring the killings a genocide.
The spirit of denial is palpably deepening across the RS. In the cafe across the road from the municipal hall, an unemployed Serb metalworker, Srdjan Jovanovic, bemoaned the death of town. Many of the workers in government jobs live elsewhere and after 5pm, the place is ghostly. There is no longer a bakery or butcher. He acknowledged that many of his Bosniak neighbours are gone never to return, but bristled at the suggestion of massacres and Srebrenica.
“What happened, if it happened,” Jovanovic was careful to say before any mention of the subject. He echoed Milovanovic’s line about all sides having their dead to mourn.
“Twenty years after the genocide, Serbia and the Republika Srpska continue to humiliate and undermine the rights of Srebrenica’s survivors,” said Lara Nettelfield, a lecturer in international relations at Royal Holloway, University of London and the co-author of new book:Srebrenica in the Aftermath of Genocide. “Just as the survivors are preparing for this solemn anniversary, they are forced to fight for the legitimacy of their cause and the nature of the genocide.”
Refik Hodzic, the head of communications at the International Centre for Transitional Justice in New York, last week described his country as “still gripped by war” in which the families of the victims “are forced to endure a limbo with no acknowledgement and little justice, a limbo constructed by the constant manufacturing of fear and hatred”.
Writing on the Balkanist website, Hodzic said: “Right now, we are living the war for the ‘truth’ about ethnic superiority intended to shape the attitudes of the coming generations. And in war, there can be no acknowledgement of the enemy’s suffering, let alone reconciliation.”
Monday, July 6, 2015
Friday, June 26, 2015
OXFORD, 15 June 2015 (IRIN) - Refugees and migrants have been making the headlines like never before in recent months. With the start of Refugee Week today, culminating in World Refugee Day on Saturday, that focus is only set to intensify. So what exactly is a refugee? How are they distinct from migrants, and why is it important?
“We have to remember that until there is a fair procedure conducted for each person, we really don’t know if the person is a refugee or not,” commented Michael Kagan, co-director of the Immigration Clinic at the University of Nevada.
The definition spelt out by the 1951 Refugee Convention is deceptively simple: a refugee is someone who "owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted” has fled to another country and is in need of protection.
The UN’s refugee agency, UNHCR, acknowledges that since the Refugee Convention was drafted, global migration patterns have become much more complex and refugees now often travel alongside millions of so-called economic migrants.
UNHCR states on its website that “refugees and migrants, even if they often travel in the same way, are fundamentally different, and for that reason are treated very differently under modern international law.”
It goes on to explain that “migrants, especially economic migrants, choose to move in order to improve the future prospects of themselves and their families,” whereas “refugees have to move if they are to save their lives or preserve their freedom.”
The reality is much murkier. People often move for a number of reasons that may include fear of persecution as well as wanting to find better economic opportunities, and they may move more than once, like the Syrians who initially crossed into Turkey or Jordan but are now boarding boats to Greece.
In an age when neither refugees nor migrants are particularly welcome, the line between the two is increasingly blurred and the terms themselves have become politically loaded. Most of the boats now crossing the Mediterranean contain both migrants and refugees, a phenomenon that researchers refer to as “mixed migration”. However, it often serves the interests of politicians to refer to everyone crossing the Mediterranean as illegal migrants, while rights groups and activists are more likely to call them all asylum-seekers or refugees.
Melissa Phillips, a researcher at the University of Melbourne, has pointed outthat such distinctions matter because migrants are generally viewed as much less deserving of our sympathy and support than refugees.
“It is time we stopped talking solely about migrants and start to use more technically accurate and relevant labels,” she writes.
The problem is that the labels themselves no longer seem adequate to encompass people who migrate willingly, those who flee for their lives, and the whole spectrum of forced displacement and self-determination that falls in between.
Refugees and asylum-seekers
Refugees and asylum-seekers
International refugee law experts tend to agree that someone becomes a refugee the moment they have to flee their country, even if they are not recognised as such until they seek asylum in a host country.
In trying to reach that country, they may be forced to travel as undocumented migrants, crossing borders clandestinely, often relying on smugglers.
“When people are on the move, they can only be described as migrants or asylum-seekers,” said Chris Horwood, coordinator of the Nairobi-based Regional Mixed Migration Secretariat.
“If an Eritrean gets refugee status in Sudan and then moves on (as most do) towards Europe, even though they may think of themselves as registered refugees, once they leave Sudan they are migrants/asylum-seekers again.”
Even after arriving in a host country, they remain asylum-seekers until they have gone through a process of refugee status adjudication that is supposed to determine whether or not they are really in need of international protection.
Barbara Harrell-Bond, who started the Refugee Studies Centre at Oxford University and is now an advisor to the International Refugee Rights Initiative, pointed out that “adjudication without legal aid is likely to find many refugees ‘not credible’ and reject them.”
While failed asylum-seekers may still consider themselves refugees, the state that rejected them now considers them an irregular migrant who must either leave the country or be forced to leave.
The problem of “asylum shopping” has come about because asylum systems vary considerably from one country to the next. So while Norway granted asylum to 95 percent of Eritreans who applied there last year, France only granted asylum to about 15 percent. Unsurprisingly, asylum-seekers gravitate to the countries where they have the best chance of being granted refugee status.
Only in situations where there are mass movements of refugees – usually as a result of war – and no need or capacity to do individual refugee status determinations, do host governments sometimes make the decision to recognise all new arrivals from that country as “prima facie” refugees.
Migrants or refugees or both?
When commentators do attempt to distinguish between the different groups currently trying to cross the Mediterranean on smugglers’ boats, they tend to designate Syrians and Eritreans as the bona fide asylum-seekers, while the many West Africans arriving in southern Italy are all lumped together as “economic migrants”. Similarly, most international attention on the recent crisis in Southeast Asia focused on the Rohingya, a persecuted minority from Myanmar, while the many Bangladeshis who also boarded smugglers’ boats were dismissed as economic migrants.
“This kind of view ignores the very complex reasons for why people set out on these very dangerous journeys in the first place,” said Ruben Andersson, an anthropologist with the London School of Economics and author of “Illegality, Inc.”
He noted that many West Africans have experienced violence and repression in countries such as The Gambia, Mali and Nigeria before going to Libya, where arbitrary detention and violence targeting foreigners forced them to flee again.
The term “forced migrants” is sometimes used, mainly by academics, to acknowledge the many people who migrate unwillingly but don’t fall under the Refugee Convention’s technical definition of a refugee and are therefore not entitled to international protection. This would include people who have abandoned their homes and countries because of drought or some other natural disaster.
“Public policy relies on the myth of clearly distinguishable categories,” commented Loren Landau at the African Centre for Migration & Society at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg.
“[But] our research in southern Africa suggests that people who claim asylum or become refugees are, for the most part, little different in experiences or needs than those who don't.”
He added that to say this publicly had become increasingly difficult as it was viewed as giving ammunition to those who would like to place more limits on asylum.
“Our terminology on human movement is in a real muddle,” concluded Andersson. “A fundamental rethink of our terminology is needed that takes account of secondary movement and mixed motivations while still ensuring that international protection is safeguarded.”