Rahaf and Nada: Are Asylum Seekers and Refugees Lensed by Politics?
Rahaf Al Qunun: When she first made news, we saw in her as a teen burdened by patriarchy, in the clutches of a possible death penalty, and shackled by constitutional laws. Her story resonated with women who have battled patriarchy and felt suffocated in being told what to do. Scratching beyond her narrative, in this ordeal we see Western hypocrisy shining through; the extrapolation of one Rahaf to every Muslim woman, every Muslim man, and every Muslim society.
As the story of Rahaf unfolded, there arose questions on the legitimacy of the truth in her story of oppression. While we denounced the oppression, the doubts cast can be acknowledged without siding with oppression, or patriarchy. No, I don’t believe Rahaf is lying. But what I surely do believe is that her story has been spun off to suit the media’s Islamophobic and whistleblowing narratives. As Canada and many other countries rushed to Rahaf’s aid as a refugee, the contradiction in eagerness of the West to accept refugees from war-torn nations becomes all the more relevant. So what in Rahaf’s story set her apart from thousands of refugees fleeing danger from their war-torn homelands?
Rahaf has been bestowed a 24-hour security service in Canada. Contrast this with the average waiting time for processing of a refugee application, which, as of last fall, was 20 months. This hypocrisy, as well as bureaucracy, is worrisome as displaced lives remain at stake. The right-wing keenly critiquing Trudeau’s refugee policy seems to now have warmed up to the sanctimony of accepting this one asylum seeker. It is then hard to believe that it’s purely coincidental that this happens to be an ex-Muslim who has renounced her faith and wants to embrace a more ‘acceptable’ idea of liberation, by Western standards.
…it becomes obvious that beyond the smokescreen of saving a teen’s life lies the all familiar trope of brandishing Islamic societies as regressive while conflating constitutions, cultures, and human practices with religion.
As Toronto welcomed her, Canada’s Toronto Sun carried an op-ed by a renowned Islamophobe that branded Sharia as ‘evil’ for Rahaf’s predicament. So it becomes obvious that beyond the smokescreen of saving a teen’s life lies the all familiar trope of brandishing Islamic societies as regressive while conflating constitutions, cultures, and human practices with religion.
That Rahaf’s case is being exploited by political motivations cannot be ruled out. Saudi and Canadian diplomatic relations have been in deadlock for a while now. To stress on the hypocrisy meted out to refugees seeking asylum, Nada Ali from Yemen serves a classic example. She is a visible Muslim in hijab, fleeing a war. Her arrest and bureaucratic limbo are contrasted by the grand welcome of another refugee at the airport. It serves us a reminder of how human rights cases are cherry-picked on the basis of the politics surrounding them.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand that this selective outrage has broader agendas, and one must be conscious of them.
Nada Ali’s tear-stricken eyes pleading for her mother, an education, and a shot at life, hound us. They serve us a reminder of how thousands of refugees wait to get asylum. She embodies the mistreatment of human rights and refugee crises. The U.S. and nations belonging to the E.U. restricting asylum to refugees is proof of the burgeoning issue, and the larger public discourse around them seems to be getting increasingly xenophobic. Then it becomes natural to draw parallels between the distinct treatments of Nada and Rahaf by the world.
Media houses from across the globe have picked up one case, while whistleblowing the Muslim communities in their home countries. Diplomats have backed one asylum seeker while completely shunning another one, despite her repeated and prolonged pleas. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand that this selective outrage has broader agendas, and one must be conscious of them. In doing so, there is no undermining of one person’s abuse but only the highlighting the hundreds of Nadas waiting in distress to seek asylum, as they see themselves shut out. As wars continue, refuge-seekers fleeing violence will continue to rise. Trumpeting political agendas or religious insinuations will only work against tackling this refugee crisis, leaving millions dehumanized because of the optics of politics.