Refugees & The Ramadan Blues

During his 1965 commencement address at Oberlin College to receive an honorary doctorate of humane letters, Dr. Martin Luther King once famously said:

“The time is always right to do what is right.”


- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

As over 1.5 billion Muslims begin our annual holy month of Ramadan, this month of fasting forces us out of our comfort zones and monotonous robotic daily routines. Coping with daily caffeine withdrawal and sleep deprivation during the day is followed with communal feasting and congregational prayer at night. While we seek to be more reflective this month and gather with families and neighbors to keep the spirit of Ramadan alive; this month accentuates individual and social well-being, fostering rituals that connect us and bring out the best of us spiritually.

Ramadan is also a time of reaffirmation that we are one diverse Muslim global community. Each night at the longer taraweeh prayers, we stand shoulder to shoulder with people from every race, ethnicity and socioeconomic status. Our diverse Muslim cultural heritages and narratives are also evident in the smorgasbord of foods that are prepared each night, the shared meals that both nurture and nourish us. Facing these slight hunger pangs and thirst during daylight hours also highlights how insignificant our minor temporary discomforts are in comparison to the daily fears and obstacles faced by a large segment of the world’s refugee population.

Most people have no idea that two-thirds of the 20 million refugees around the world are Muslim. As we Muslims fast for our holy month of Ramadan, we must also help those dispossessed stateless people who don't have the food & water we take for granted every day.

This month I reflect on the fact that in our lifetime- at this very moment- we are each witness to the largest humanitarian crisis the world has seen in modern history. Some recent tallies from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) place the number displaced peoples at an staggering 65.3 million people. Among them are more than 22 million refugees globally, with over half of them children under the age of 18.

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According to the Pew Center for Research, today nearly one in 100 people worldwide are forcibly displaced from their homes, the highest number since the UNHCR began collecting this data in 1951.

This number is higher in the Middle East, with six in ten people displaced in Syria, the highest number ever for a single country. In large part thanks to what Eisenhower termed the “military industrial complex,” the largest number of refugees are from countries that include those where the US has had active military presence: Syria, Afghanistan, Somalia and Iraq.

In addition to the vast diaspora of global refugees, there are over 11 million undocumented individuals living in the United States today. These are people who have difficulty accessing basic rights that affect their everyday lives: education, employment, healthcare, social services, and freedom of movement.

Most people have no idea that two-thirds of the 20 million refugees around the world are Muslim. As we Muslims fast for our holy month of Ramadan, we must also help those dispossessed stateless people who don't have the food & water we take for granted every day. You can help feed refugees, help sponsor orphans in Pakistan or Gambia, provide a small flock of livestock for sustaining income for farming families or even sponsor water wells for an impoverished village today.

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During this Ramadan, we Muslims should reflect on the wider communities beyond our homes, communities and mosques who are less fortunate than us. As the number of refugees and stateless people continues to grow, we have a chance to make a difference during this holy month to reinforce our collective efforts to millions of people singing the Ramadan blues this year.

Arsalan Iftikhar is founder of TheMuslimGuy.com and brand ambassador for Penny Appeal USA.