THE ROLE OF MUSLIMS IN DIASPORA
THE total number of Muslims in the world today is 1.57 billion, of which 5 million reside in the United States. A large proportion lives in countries where they are minorities. These include countries where Muslims have migrated to recently. Those Muslims who live outside their country of birth are referred to as Muslims in Diaspora or Muslim Immigrants.
Muslims have their freedom in these countries to follow what they want in their personal lives. They have all the facilities to pray, fast, celebrate their festivals, dress how they want and take up whatever jobs they like, eat what they want, and so on. However, when it comes to community living and the laws of the country or the organizations they work for, Muslims have to understand that they should abide by these rules, which are common for all the citizens of the country or for all the staff of an organisation. It is a simple understanding of the owner's or the employer's rights.
Muslim immigrants have a common problem, which is cultural in nature. They have to live in a culture that is different from what they are accustomed. This is the first question facing Muslims who settle in other countries. Migrants of other communities easily adopt the culture of the foreign country and blend with the local population. Muslims must follow similarly.
This is an international norm. People who migrate and settle in another country should abide by the law of that land. Similarly, they must also adopt the local culture. This leads to harmony between the migrants and the locals. Disharmony will become an obstacle in the development of both groups. Muslims cannot develop a different norm for themselves. For example, if Muslims settle in another country and admit their children in schools for education, they must follow the school regulations. They must adjust to the prevalent culture, not demand that the school authorities should bend the rules to suit their culture.
Similarly, Muslims residing in a country where freedom of expression is considered absolute will have to accept this. If, for instance, people of this country, while exercising their freedom of expression, publish cartoons in their newspapers that hurt Muslim sentiments, then it is upon Muslims to manage their sentiments instead of protesting against these newspapers and demanding a ban over such publications.
When a Muslim becomes a citizen of another country, he takes an oath of allegiance. On becoming citizens, Muslims enjoy equal benefits of citizenship with others. However, along with this, Muslims must fulfil the conditions of the oath of allegiance they have undertaken, both in letter and spirit. The option is to either live according to the oath or to leave the country. The third option—that of protest, does not exist.
if you take an oath of allegiance in a foreign country,
you must abide by it. Else you must leave that country
A relevant verse of the Quran says: “Keep your promises; you will be called to account for every promise which you have made.” (17: 34). The word “promises” here includes all kinds of promises, big or small. It includes international oaths, made by individuals or nations. Accordingly, if a Muslim takes an oath of allegiance to a foreign country, it is incumbent on him to abide by it. If he cannot do this, he must leave that country.
Another obligation on immigrant Muslims is to live as giver-members of their society rather than as takers. If they do not do this, they will have to pay a heavy price—they will not command respect in society. St Francis of Assisi has rightly said, “For it is in giving that we receive.” This is a law of nature and Muslims are no exception to this law in any way.
There is a historical example to this effect. In the first quarter of the seventh century, when the Prophet of Islam was in Makkah, some Muslims migrated to the neighbouring country of Abyssinia with the Prophet’s permission. These Muslims, approximately 125 in number, reached Abyssinia by the sea route. At the time, Abyssinia was ruled by the Christian king, Negus. The Muslims who went to live in Abyssinia created no problems for the local people. They lived in harmony with others and earned their livelihood through hard labor. When Abyssinia was attacked, the Muslims offered to join the country’s military and help in the defence against the aggression.
Muslims must live as law-abiding citizens in the country they choose to reside in. They must not violate international laws. The choice is either to live as law-abiding citizens of the country or to return to their previous homelands. They have no third option in this matter. o