Monday, November 16, 2015

The Refugee Crisis and Islamophobia: Should States be Allowed to Turn Away Refugees?

After the devastating bombings in Paris, 19 U.S. governors, including Lindsey Graham (mentioned in the previous post), have voiced strong opinions against allowing immigrants in to the United States. All of the governors are part of the Republican Party. One additional democratic governor from New Hampshire also is against accepting refugees. Currently, the Justice Department is investigating the legality of the states’ refusals to accept Syrian refugees. What they have concluded so far is that technically, it is legal for these states in interfere with the organizations who are helping the refugees get in to the country (NGOs) to a certain extent. The investigation is still ongoing. 

       Several Republican candidates have also spoken out against the idea of having Syrian refugees, specifically Muslims entering the United States. Senator Ted Cruz calls the idea “lunacy”. He goes on to say, "Christians who are being targeted, for genocide, for persecution, Christians who are being beheaded or crucified, we should be providing safe haven to them.” Former Governor Jeb Bush offered similar sentiments, stating, “We should focus our efforts as it relates to the refugees for the Christians that are being slaughtered." Many other Republicans (Kasich, Paul, Carson, the list goes on…) also have voiced their opinions against permitting victims fleeing ISIS from entering the U.S.. Christians most certainly are targeted by ISIS; both Bush and Cruz are absolutely correct in that regard. However, ISIS, even though it is an “Islamic” (and that does not mean that the organization represents the true values of Islam in any way) persecutes against many Muslims as well. ISIS is a Sunni extremist group, and if you are a Muslim who does not agree with their ideology, especially if you are a Shiite Muslim, you are automatically a target—and being a target of ISIS can often be a death sentence.

       Up until now, the United States has taken in ~1,900 Syrian refugees over the past four years, but has pledged to take in up to 10,000 during the next fiscal year. In comparison, Germany has accepted 40,000 in August alone (lately, they have been taking much fewer). During the past 4 years, the United Kingdom has accepted almost 5,000 refugees, but the government recently enacted a plan to allow 20,000 spread out over the next 5 years.

       One fear (among many) that some harbored against refugees fleeing from the violence in Syria was the possibility that some are bound to be ISIS-affiliated and are using their refugee status to gain access into a country in order to coordinate and carry out a terrorist attack. Now, after the attack in Paris claimed by ISIS along with the pair of suicide bombings in Beirut—also claimed by ISIS—this fear, for many, has become very real. There was even a Syrian passport found near the body of one of the terrorists. Whether or not this is of any significance remains to be seen, as it is not unheard of in places like Turkey for non-Syrians to purchase fake Syrian passports on the black market in order to get preferential treatment in the refugee/asylum process in Europe. Even so, one of the attackers was indeed able to enter France under refugee status. That is a scary thought.

       What do you think about the idea of states refusing to accept refugees? Should that decision be up to them or up to the federal government? Obama and most democrats support the idea of allowing Syrian refugees to enter the country. What about the comments by G.O.P. presidential candidates? Would you consider them racist? A manifestation of Islamophobia into national politics? Justified given the circumstances? Other comments? 
       Unfortunately, this is a sad story any way you spin it. 



Nick J said...

Sorry about the weird highlighting. I was trying to fix the font. For some reason, I used different ones. Didn't show until the article was published. I went back to fix it and parts got highlighted. Just FYI...the highlighted portions are not particularly important compared to the rest of the article. My bad!

Steven Lee said...

I personally find the Republican xenophobic rhetoric against Syrian REFUGEES to be absolutely disgusting. These people are fleeing from the conflict and yet the Republican candidates for the highest office are acting as if these Syrian refugees are ISIS sleeper cells. It is absolutely disgraceful that while Germany is taking in 1 million Syrian refugees that we are too scared to take in about 10,000. During World War 2 we never questioned the legitimacy of the refugees coming out of Nazi Germany. As I have said before, of all the coalition bombs that have been dropped so far, about 90% of those bombs were coming from the United States. If we are helping to create an environment in which people must run away from their country, we have a direct obligation in taking in those refugees. We are absolutely responsible for our actions in the Middle East. The United States has always been a beacon of hope for those who were needy and it would definitely go against our values to reject the refugees because of their religious faith which leads me to my next point. I have no idea why conservatives are so scared about Muslim terrorists when 56% of terrorism in the United States after 9/11 was conducted by white, Christian supremacy groups. Also by having it a requirement to be Christian to come to our country goes against the secular nature of our country that the Founding Fathers intended. It clearly states in the first amendment that Congress shall not favor one religion over another. As a last point I would like to mention that to favor Christian refugees over Muslim refugees from Syria gives a distorted picture that Muslims somehow more prone to be violent than Christians, which is absolutely ridiculous.

Nick J said...

Steven- First, thanks for your comment. We agree in with several issues. In regard to the U.S. bombing in the region playing a part in the hatred some of these factions direct towards the United States and other western else should countries go after ISIS? What strategy, if any, would you recommend embracing in order to remedy the mess over in Syria? If we have a responsibility, to take in refugees, then we should have a responsibility to attempt to fix the root cause of the refugee problem, right?

Jeffrey Song said...

I'm not Steven but I can attempt to answer your question Nick. I think that the current approach for eliminating ISIS militarily is neither sustainable nor capable of creating lasting stability in the region if ISIS is defeated. According to huffingtonpost, ISIS "introduces itself as a militant organization that is not seeking to rule directly but rather to defend Iraq's Sunnis and their choices." Because of tactics like this, ISIS is actually able to gain the popular support of the local people in their region. Directly attacking ISIS militarily raises the possibility of alienating Shiites and Sunnis who would otherwise want no affiliation with ISIS; the war in a sense justifies ISIS's stated goal of "fighting back against the West" and legitimizes the organization to not only the people of the Middle East but that of the rest of the world as well - a big issue in of itself (CNN reports that nearly 4000 Westerners have attempted to or successfully joined ISIS since its inception).

Instead, the US should focus their efforts on making political change in the Middle East to separate the ISIS extremists from the general populace on a social and economic level. The US need to help the regions of the Middle East achieve internal consensus and be able to shape their future systems of government in which the rights of ethnic and religious minorities will be protected. Essentially, the success of this process would allow the region itself to defend itself from ISIS and eventually eliminate it. It's going to be extremely difficult, but at least the success would be a real and permanent success as opposed to the bloodbath and turmoil that resulted from the US's military invasion in 2003. Specifically, the US should first prioritize their efforts in reform regarding Iraq, which is a central hub of political and economic influence in the Middle East and able to start concessions and change by other regional leaders and powers.