Short Answer: They’re doing far more than most English-speaking media outlets are reporting. A core problem is the phrasing used to refer to refugees: “…many… are not considered refugees and they are not part of the UNHCR statistics. They are classified as “Arab brothers and sisters in distress”. Another key issue is the lack of established refugee laws in those countries. “That being said, it is true that Muslim-majority countries should be doing more to take in the huge deluge of refugees from Syria and other war-torn countries, as they are (usually) their brothers and sisters in faith.”
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Media and news are a double-edged sword in today’s world.
On the one hand, news agencies broadcast to the masses a wealth of real-time information and updates of world events on an instant basis through round-the-clock channels.
This allows humanity to reach out and help those who are suffering hardships and calamities and are direly in need of aid, anywhere in the world.
Also, in many cases of oppression and crime, news media nowadays (including the increasingly effective social media) often ensure that justice is served to those who are wronged by others.
The Bad Side of Media
On the other hand, it is also true that news agencies can misreport events and facts, or perhaps not show the complete picture, or all the sides of a particular story.
Facts and truths can be easily glossed over, changed, or outright omitted.
Hearsay, rumors, and lies can be given an instant global voice.
This especially allows political leaders and others in power to achieve their ulterior motives, by allowing them to influence the masses in their favor, using news & media to misreport facts and important events.
The Language Barrier Problem
Additionally, it is also a fact that the language barrier presented by the media (print and visual) that publishes reports and news in many Muslim-majority countries, adds to certain misconceptions that abound as a result of deliberate or unprofessional misreporting at the hands of international, mainly English-speaking/reading news outlets.
Since most media in Muslim countries publishes content in their local languages, the English-speaking people of the West cannot understand it.
Thankfully, this is slowly changing, as the world gradually becomes a global village, and news channels and agencies in Muslim-majority countries turn towards English journalism, broadcasting, and publishing.
As more and more English-speaking-and-writing millennials take to airing facts through social media and amateur “street journalism”, the situation is improving.
With all that being said, I would like to advise you to take everything you read and hear in the media with a grain of salt. Not everything that is published out there is true.
Some Balanced Information
According to the article, “Gulf States Response to Syrian Refugee Crisis – A Myth Debunked” at Open Source Investigations (OSI):
There are 2 million to 3 million Syrians in the Gulf countries, many of whom arrived since the war began, but they are not considered refugees and they are not part of the UNHCR statistics. They are classified as “Arab brothers and sisters in distress”.
OSI is an independent organization run by “investigative journalists, researchers, fact-checkers, activists and data experts who have teamed up to provide in-depth research behind political stories”.
The issue also has to do with what labels are used to describe the refugees in Muslim countries.
The article titled “No, Arab Gulf Countries Are Not Taking in Refugees” in Huffington Post states:
The reason it’s difficult to establish just how many refugees are being hosted by countries in the GCC is because they do not officially recognize incoming asylum-seekers as refugees. Since the GCC is not a signatory of the United Nations’ 1951 Refugee Convention, they are not bound by law to provide these people with the standard treatment and rights typically afforded those seeking refuge in a new country.
For example, since the Soviet war in Afghanistan in the 1980’s, Pakistan has been silently taking in Afghan refugees, most of whom have assimilated into local society by now.
Until the recent governmental policy changes, Pakistan was home for many Afghans, who were born there and grew up calling it home.
The Lack Of Established Refugee Laws
Another reason is the absence of established laws and policies related to the issue of taking in refugees.
According to the article, “Why Aren’t Gulf Countries Taking in Syrian Refugees?” in Newsweek:
The Gulf countries, the wealthiest states among the Arab world, are among the largest donors to Syrian refugees. But they do not take in refugees to their own countries. None of them officially recognize the legal concept of refugeehood. This is not a specific issue of hostility to Syrian refugees. The six Gulf monarchies have never signed the international conventions on refugee rights and statelessness, which began to be established after World War II.
As you can see, there are multiple issues involved, not the least of which is that the governments of many Muslim-majority countries are just insufficiently prepared to deal with such a huge influx of refugees, not having any laws or policies in place.
That being said, it is true that Muslim-majority countries should be doing more to take in the huge deluge of refugees from Syria and other war-torn countries, as they are (usually) their brothers and sisters in faith.
By the way, I really appreciate your concern for the current plight of Muslim refugees in the world, Bruce. I ask God to ease their situation and to allow us to do more for them and for all the calamity-stricken people in the world.
I hope this answers your question. Please stay in touch.
(From AboutIslam’s archives)