UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Reconciling notions of asylum and refugees in Islam and international law : a case study of Afghan refugees in Pakistan Nicolson, Vanessa Johan


Muslims constitute the largest refugee populations worldwide. However, a lack of refugee protection mechanisms in the Muslim world (where most Muslims seek asylum) leaves these groups vulnerable to the interests of individual states. At the same time, Muslims face fierce prejudice in the West, including the depiction of Islam as an anti-Western, anti-democratic, and anti-modern religion. However, an examination of Islamic precepts reveals the falsity of such allegations, especially with regard to refugees and asylum. Islam provides a normative framework for socio-economic justice, including asylum, and sets out regulations for the assistance and protection of refugees. In spite of this, little scholarly work has explored the role of Islam in issues of asylum and refugees. This article examines the past three decades of Afghan refugees in Pakistan. It attempts to explain the role of Islam in Pakistan’s initial acceptance of Afghan refugees, and why this generosity eventually transformed into hostility. It also reveals the flaws of UNHCR operations in the Afghan case, from which useful inferences can be drawn to Muslim refugee crises in general. Finally, this thesis outlines challenges and solutions to incorporating Islamic principles into Islamic state responses to Muslim refugee crises. It concludes that stronger multilateral agreements based on Islamic refugee laws should be made between Muslim states (with full UNHCR support) to provide more effective responses to Muslim refugee crises and better protection of Muslim refugees’ rights.

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