Jingoism, xenophobia, hatred, intolerance, racism, discrimination, isolationism; just a few of the terms used by individuals at a recent Statehouse rally to describe the individuals who choose to exercise an elevated level of caution as it relates to the absorption of refugees into Idaho from war-torn Syria.
Ironically, the misguided attribution of these ideals displays a level of disdain for an opposite opinion that is at least equal to exactly what is being derided as un-American in virtue. There exists a middle-ground that satisfies a balance between blind humanitarianism at any cost with the perceived rigidity on erring heavily on the side of cautions when it involves the processing of immigrants from a nation where the vast majority practices or holds to a religion that gives birth to a very small portion of extremists hell-bent on publicly displaying just how depraved man can become.
A contentious issue is monetary expenditure. Why would we spend money to help refugees when we have a cold and hungry homeless population as well as struggling and suffering veterans who either can’t get access to the care they were promised or who aren’t receiving enough care to sustain them given their level of sacrifice for their country? The reality is that there is money for both. With national debt standing at approximately 18 trillion dollars, it’s clear that the government of the United States of America can find ways to spend money on a variety of different programs. We can help refugees and we can help the homeless and veterans… plain and simple.
With financial considerations set to the side as an auxiliary talking-point, the real issue(s) can be addressed. How do we know that some of these refugees aren’t radicalized, or aren’t prone to become radicalized once they arrive? The simple answer is that we don’t know and we can’t know. On one side of this issue, the extensive process by which a Syrian refugee must traverse to actually arrive on US soil (12+ months) is enough reassurance for some that they have been properly vetted. On the other side is the reality that regardless of the amount of time that it takes, the data necessary to provide stringent enough security checks simply does not exist for refugees coming out of Syria. The amount of time spent on a Syrian refugee is not guaranteed to be proportional to how thorough these checks are. So it leaves us with a very simple question. Do we allow these refugees in on the grounds that we have a moral obligation to help, even if it means opening ourselves up to the possibility of being attacked from within? Or, do we let none of them in until we can be 100% sure that they pose no risk to the safety of the citizens of Idaho?
What we do know is that any religious paradigm taken to its farthest extreme can result in violence and crimes against humanity; history shows us that this is true and has been true for as long as records have been kept. It is irrefutable that some Muslims, followers of the religion of Islam, believe in a radical interpretation of their Koran that instructs them to violently execute individuals who will not profess that there is no god but Allah and that Mohamed is his prophet. Most Muslims not only do not subscribe to this ideology, but insist that it is a perversion of the religion to which they practice. Nevertheless, given “x” number of Muslims, we know that “y” (a very small percentage) are or will become radicalized.
When the media presents images of crying children and mothers desperate to remove their family from an area ravaged by war and sectarian violence, it causes well-meaning individuals to lose sight of the inherent danger associated with bringing individuals from that area of the world into our communities. In abstraction, if the world knew that a popular candy was statistically proven to contain some pieces that would kill any person who ingested it, it would not only cease to be popular, it would be removed from shelves and that product line would cease to exist. Granted, this is an apples-to-oranges comparison; but they are both fruit, and therein lies some correlation.
It is exceptionally arrogant to think that bringing a refugee into America is the best thing that can happen for that individual. The reality is that many of them land in a place where they can’t speak the language, can’t assimilate to the culture, and can’t find gainful employment that will sustain a level of existence consistent with what the average American considers sufficient. This has the potential to either exacerbate existing western-oriented hatred or provide an environment ripe for its development. It’s not true of all refugees; of course there are success stories. When it comes to radical Islam though, the issue is that it only takes one to radicalize and then to act. This is the heart of the essence of calling for thorough caution when it comes to the importation of Syrian refugees.
So where is the balance? We are going to spend money, that’s a given. What we should be doing is matching dollar-for-dollar toward humanitarian efforts that originate from countries that have a culture similar to or homogeneous with that of those coming out of Syria. Saudi Arabia, The Emirates, Pakistan, Balkan nations, as well as former Soviet Republics should be taking the lead for resettling refugees. This would give these refugees an opportunity to escape their war-torn landscape as well as placing them into a situation where they have a fighting chance to properly and gainfully assimilate. They can establish themselves as responsible citizens and apply for immigration through the proper channels. Maybe when the unrest settles, they will return home and help re-build Syria into a functioning member of the global community. This scenario acknowledges that we are committed to helping those in need while shielding our communities to the risk associated with the importation of refugees from a political climate partially saturated with Islamic extremism.
Anthony T. Dephue Boise, ID