Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Syrian refugee crisis: America has a moral responsibility

Desperate Syrian refugees / Lost, afraid, unsure, disoriented, alone.

Imagine how you might feel if you were lost, afraid, unsure, disoriented, alone. Or, a parent trying to make sure your kids didn't starve. How desperate might you be if that person was you, a Syrian refugee?

As the leader of the free world, the United States has a moral responsibility to do its fair share to come to the aid of Syrian refugees seeking compassion after having been displaced from their home country. Yet, an irrational fear and political demagoguery from right-wing zealots brought on following the recent Paris terrorist attacks has replaced human kindness in my country.

Many democratic nations of the world are doing their fair part to admit and welcome Syrian refugees. For instance, Germany has already accepted 38,500 and Canada 36,300. In the days after the Paris attack, French President François Hollande said that his country would accept 30,000 Syrian refugees over the next two years. Meanwhile, the United States has pledged to take in a modest 10,000 Syrian refugees, a paltry figure compared to the compassion shown by our Canadian neighbors to the north and our European allies across the pond. We could -- and should -- do so much more.

And yet, one Republican Party candidate for President, Donald Trump, is calling for a ban on a Syrian refugees, calling them "Trojan horses" for terrorism, while another, Dr. Ben Carson, likens Syrians to "rabid dogs." The scapegoating of refugees by these American politicians is not only very aggravating, it's mean-spirited. Their demagoguery -- out and out fear mongering -- about the refugees is a very mean punch in our nation's collective gut. Ever since the Paris attacks, Trump has ratcheted the populist rhetoric all the while spewing lies and half-truths, channeling the anxieties of Americans into fear and hate.

"We are not well served when in response to a terrorist attack we descend into fear and panic," President Barack Obama said last week. He reinforced his position during a joint press conference with Mr. Hollande at the White House on Tuesday afternoon.

As The New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof wrote in his Sunday column, "As anti-refugee hysteria sweeps many of our political leaders, particularly Republicans, I wonder what they would have told a desperate refugee family fleeing the Middle East. You've heard of this family: a carpenter named Joseph, his wife, Mary, and their baby son, Jesus.

"According to the Gospel of Matthew, after Jesus' birth, they fled to save Jesus from murderous King Herod (perhaps the 2,000-year -ago equivalent of Bashar al-Assad of Syria?). Fortunately, Joseph, Mary and Jesus found de-facto asylum in Egypt -- thank goodness House Republicans weren't in charge when Jesus was a refugee!" 

A Syrian father tries to comfort his two children /
 Together, they are refugees yearning for freedom.
So far, more than 200,000 people have been killed in the Syrian conflict. What is happening in that ravaged, Middle East war-torn country is one of the largest humanitarian crises since World War II. These desperate Syrian refugees should be admired for their courage and seen in the same yearning for freedom as refugees from any other war-torn or repressed country.

Instead, here in the United States, thanks to the Islamic State's terrorizing strategy of "creating a wedge in the West between Muslims and non-Muslims," according to Kristof, an anti-Syrian backlash has been created and many "fear mongers" such as Trump, Carson and Republican presidential hopeful Ted Cruz are looking upon immigrants and refugees as the enemy. They are effectively trying to de-humanize every Syrian person, branding them as "Not Like Us."

Listen, the problem is not the Syrian refugees, the ones who are fleeing persecution from the barbaric acts and twisted ideology carried out by murderous ISIS radical jihadists. As I see it, the problem in America is a political clouding caused by partisan politics that's more than just prejudiced -- it's become downright xenophobic, with a lot of finger-pointing aimed at all Muslim people. It's an insult to the more than 1.5 billion Muslims who peacefully worship Islam throughout the world.

While security within the U.S. borders is a legitimate concern -- and we can't rule out the slim possibility that a terrorist might slip in with the refugees -- let's take a moment and put things into proper perspective. Refugee admission into the United States is the most deeply vetted pathway, one which can take a couple of years for the process to be completed. So, do you really think a terrorist will wait two years to try to infiltrate our borders as a refugee? Not very likely. A terrorist who really wants to attack America would more likely be sent to this country by ISIS or any other terrorist organization as a student or as a tourist, and I don't see any of my country's political leaders calling for a ban on international students coming to study in our prestigious colleges and universities, or a ban on tourists coming to visit America's vibrant cities. As some have rightfully suggested, security must be permeated, but "with common sense and a bit of heart."

I am in agreement with Kristof and applaud how he summed up his feelings: "To seek to help desperate refugees in a secure way is not naïveté. It's not sentimentality. It's humanity."

Indeed, it's humanity, a moral responsibility.

Photos: Courtesy of Google images. 

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