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Embracing the Infidel: Stories of Muslim Migrants on the Journey West Hardcover – November 29, 2005
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From Publishers Weekly
Yaghmaian's second book is an eye-opening account of Muslim immigrants traveling from Africa or the Middle East to the West, where they hope to find opportunities not available in their homelands. Yaghmaian is a native Iranian, now a U.S. national, who lived among Muslim migrants in Istanbul, Sofia, Athens, Patras, Paris, Calais, London and New York while collecting these accounts of leaving home, traveling illegally from country to country, suffering harsh punishments and imprisonments, and feeling the wrath of poverty. "We stand like beggars in the food line... but we came here with dreams," says one Afghan stuck in Patras, the gateway between Greece and Italy. Perhaps the most intense story is that of Tufan, a closeted Iranian homosexual who wants to be a writer and provide for his wife from an arranged marriage. It's clear Yaghmaian's subjects trust him, but why they do so is less obvious; Yaghmaian sticks to the facts of his travels and conversation, avoiding speculation about his subjects' motives, in effect becoming a conduit for the refugees' storytelling. It's a refreshing approach to an emotionally loaded and timely topic. Photos.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
From Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Angola, and other countries in the Middle East and Africa, thousands of desperate migrants are crossing borders to escape ethnic, political, and religious persecution. Yaghmaian, an Iranian American journalist and professor, speaks to the refugees in Istanbul, Athens, Paris, Sofia, London, and New York about why they left and what they left behind, their harrowing journeys, and their desperate need for asylum, made more difficult by "terrorist" stereotypes. Exploited by smugglers, assaulted in prisons and at borders, often denied refugee status by UN committees, many struggle to survive in tent cities, parks, and shacks. With none of the rambling typical of unedited oral histories, Yaghmaian tells these unforgettable stories with terse drama, combining his sympathetic commentary with the immediacy of rich, diverse voices. Most are men, many of them Kurds and Afghans; then there is the gay Iranian driven by prejudice at home; and the sharp woman, whose comment, "borders are illegal," says it all. The endings are heartbreaking. Up to now, few have found resolution. They are waiting to hear. Hazel Rochman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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This book examines the lives of middle and working class migrants
from Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, and parts of Africa, (Sudan, Somalia, Angola) on their journey to find "normalcy" somewhere in the West.
For most of these "Ultimate Risk Takers"; the city of Istanbul represents the first disppointment along the journey of disappointments en route to the United Kingdom. We'll have to see how the inclusion of Bulgaria to the European community next year will effect the Turkish-Bulgarian border in the years to come. Hopefully the Bulgarian authorities will begin to adopt a more humane treatment towards the migrants at their border crossings. The cowardly conduct of Turkish Border guards and brutal behaviour of the Greek coast guard toward the migrants is beyond criminal.
These exceptionally brave souls suffer frequent extortion, detention, drug addiction, forced prostitution, verbal and severe physical abuse.
The migrants are seen with extreme suspicion, contempt, hatred, and treated like refuse.
Waiting for 3-4 years for the UNHCR to approve an asylum application is an insidious ploy since most of the applicants are turned down while not being able to gather enough resources to make a lasting impact on their lives.
The state of "statelessness" and "not belonging" take on emotional as well as physical tolls on all people. I commend their entrepreneurial spirit for taking their lives in hand and trekking into the unknown.
These migrants are not so dissimilar to the European pioneers that settled North & South America, and Australia during the 19th century.
However these migrants will not be expropriating the west for some Islamic cause as many fear in the West (Patrick Buchanan types). They will be assimilated overtime and make their own unique contributions in the process. The reason is because they have a real hunger to succeed, and success requires assimilation into the broader culture of their adopted country. For some assimilation may prove too difficult and they may choose to return to their homeland.
In reponse to the commentator from Sweden, the point of this book is not about changing anyone's view of Islam. This book does not deal with Islam; it deals with political disfunctionality disguised as Islam pushing the local populace to the brink of destruction.
Is it any surprise why these Nations(Afghanistan, Iran, & Iraq) are Economic Basket cases? They destroy their homegrown talents, and export their disfunctions around the world.
Why should any Swede, Dane or Dutchmen feel unsafe in any neighborhood in their own country?
But then again why should any Afghan, Iranian or Iraqi feel unsafe in their respective countries? I am certain if given the choice the majority of people from these countries, would return home in a heartbeat, when they finally democratize on their own terms.
It's impossible not to be sympathetic to the migrants who have such harrowing stories to tell. The most touching things are how they help each other and how they extend traditional courtesies and warm friendship to the author in the most difficult circumstances. I recommend this book to everyone, but it may not change your views.