Asylum --  For Those Who Migrate in the Cause of God

July 2015 - By Shahzad Ahmed

~Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed. ~ Proverbs 31:8 (NLT)

It is one of the great historical ironies that religion, which emphasizes the rights of the weak and the oppressed has been used by the powerful to exploit the very people it seeks to protect. The prophets brought messages of equality and justice. Moses lead the persecuted from the clutches of the Pharaoh to the Promised Land. Jesus exhorted the rich to care for the poor. Muhammad migrated with his followers as he denounced the racial and economic disparity of his society.

However, throughout the ages, the powerful elite converted religion for their personal gains and used it to exploit the poor. The monuments and relics of Egypt reveal that the Pharaohs portrayed themselves as seated next to God and claimed a divine right to kingdom, enabling the Pharaohs to enslave their people. Further, historically, the Church and the Crown persecuted and controlled its people in order to conduct religious crusades. Similarly, dictators and mullahs used religion to gain allegiance of their followers to advance their political agendas and holy wars.

Meanwhile, the victims have continued to follow the legacy of their Prophets by migrating for refuge. Religious persecution is a reason for much of the population displacement in the world today. Many Christians are being persecuted in various countries due to religious intolerance. Shia Muslims, a minority sect of Islam, have been the victims of massacres. In Burma and other countries, anti-Muslim riots have taken the lives of many. These are just some examples.

The international law provides protection for refugees. The 1951 Refugee Convention, with its 1967 Protocol, is a United Nations multinational treaty providing asylum to those who fear persecution on the account of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or belonging to a particular social group. An applicant for asylum may arrive to the United States in one of multiple ways. He or she may enter our borders without inspection, by using fraudulent or invalid immigration documents, or with a valid non-immigrant visa but with the intent to remain in the United States. If the applicant is fortunate, then upon arrival to the United States, he or she may have a pre-existing support system such as family or friends. Others may not have any support, and are left to fend for themselves by becoming employed illegally or seeking shelter. Upon arrival to the United States, an applicant he or she has one-year within which to apply for asylum (with some exceptions).

The early settlers in the United States came seeking refuge from religious persecution. Consistently with this tradition, our law provides protection to those who have a bona fide claim for religious persecution, and have migrated in the cause of God.

--Shahzad Ahmed is an Immigration Lawyer, certified as an expert by the Florida Bar, and a Human Rights Defender.  To visit his project, see www.facebook.com/hrdefenders