Slamming the door in the face of refugees

Maswood Alam Khan from Maryland, USA | Published: December 15, 2015 22:14:02 | Updated: October 23, 2017 13:41:07


More than 250,000 people have died since the violence broke out in Syria in 2011, and at least 11 million people in the country of 22 million have fled their homes. Syrians are now the world's largest refugee population, according to the United Nations. Countries in Europe and America agreed to accept some refugees in their respective lands. Germany has agreed to accept the maximum number of refugees.
More than four million refugees have fled Syria since the war there began in 2011. According to the UN's refugee agency, almost 1.8 million have gone to Turkey, more than 600,000 to Jordan and 1.0 million to Lebanon. Germany is expected to take at least 800,000 asylum seekers this year and the figure may go up to one and a half million.
Since 2011, only 1,500 Syrian refugees have been accepted into the United States and the Obama administration announced last September that 10,000 Syrian refuges would be allowed entry into the USA next year.
But, surprisingly, more than half the governors of the United States say they oppose letting Syrian refugees into their respective states. Among the 30 governors all but one are Republican. They oppose taking in any Syrian refugees fearing that terrorists may blend with the incoming refugees. 
Authority of admitting refugees to the country, however, rests with the federal government--not with the states--though individual states can make the acceptance process much more difficult. President Obama is nevertheless determined to give refuge to Syrian refugees in accordance with his commitment.
Such publicly expressed antipathy towards refugees may not be what the Republicans believe deep down in their hearts. Antagonism against Syrian refugees, especially Muslim refugees, has emerged as a crowded field of Republican presidential candidates is fighting to win the support of Christian conservatives.
French President Francois Hollande said his country "is at war" and his military backed up his statement by pounding ISIS targets in Syria in the form of air strikes to hit back at IS, which took 'credit' for the Paris carnage.
French jets are targeting Raqqa, the so-called 'capital' of the militant Islamic State in Syria. The United States is also reinforcing its drone attacks on oil facilities that provide IS the funding and providing intelligence and resources to the allied forces in a determined bid to annihilate the terrorists as soon as possible. Russia has also launched air strikes and cruise missiles there.
Uncertainties about the fate of the refugees and the renewed military attacks on ISIS are very much understandable in the aftermath of the recent incident in Paris.
When a shocking terrorist event like the Paris attacks occurs, the attackers know, the world will respond, there will be an outpouring of solidarity and sympathy, defiant speeches by politicians and military interventions. These predictable reactions give the perpetrators some of what they want: attention for their cause that they believe will help advance their radical aims.
What happened in Paris is an untold tragedy for the victims and deeply offensive to all we hold dear, but the world leaders should respond with their heads and not just their hearts so that their actions do not help attain the goals of the terrorists. 
The announcements of American governors opposing the entry of Syrian refugees came after it has been revealed that one of the suspects believed to be involved in the Paris terrorist attacks entered Europe among the waves of Syrian refugees perhaps using a Syrian passport. But Syrian passports, both stolen and forged, are popular on the black market. It is also difficult to comprehend why a terrorist should carry a passport during their terror operations. Was it a ploy to stoke global anger against Syrian refugees?
Categorising Syrian refugees as potential terrorists is wrong when at least five of the attackers have been identified as French nationals, indicating that one of the biggest dangers to French citizens is home-grown terrorism.  
Many Americans, by and large, have of course reasons to justify their governors' opposition to Muslim refugees. Which nation in the world would love to dig a deep canal that may invite even a single man-eating crocodile? Every nation has the right to ensure zero possibility of harbouring in their soil the kind of extremists that swooped on Paris to kill innocent people. 
As to the military reaction, there could not be a better way to give IS a lesson, if such intervention can ultimately defeat IS and other potential terrorists, drawing eventually a solid curtain over terrorism.
It would have been catastrophic if western powers instead had hesitated or responded to terrorism with an attitude of appeasement.
One can imagine how the terrorists would have felt encouraged if, for example, the Europeans (particularly the French) and the Americans declared they would stop meddling in the affairs of ISIS in the vain hope that the terrorists would leave them alone.
It is a fact that many terrorists in the recent times bore Muslim names, demonstrated Islam as their faith by shouting "Allahu-Akbar" (Allah is great) before perpetrating a terrorist attack. This makes it difficult for peace-loving Muslims to convince the world that having Muslims as neighbours, guests or refugees is safe.
But slamming the door in the face of Muslim refugees is not the way of looking at humanity. That's not what American or European tradition is like. Shunning the pitiable refugees cannot be the answer to terrorism. That cannot be the way to defeat ISIS either. 
Opponents of refugee resettlement in America have rightly called for more stringent security checks on Syrians to make sure they have no connections to ISIS or other terrorist groups.
Syrians or any refugee from any part of the world currently undergo a lengthy screening process that immigration authorities believe is already sufficient to uncover terrorist ties, though it is nowadays difficult to collect enough intelligence info from the war-ravaged areas in Syria about every single Syrian leaving the country for Europe.
Islam is a great religion that forbids anything harmful to humanity, millions of Muslims are working for uplifting the universal values of mankind and the terrorists bearing Muslim names are only a minuscule fragment of more than one and a half billion Muslims living on this planet. But, a single drop of lemon is enough to curdle a giant jar of milk. All Muslims unfortunately are paying a heavy price for the betrayal of a few radicalised Muslims.
However, Muslims cannot afford to sit on their hands, allow the bad name the terrorists slapped on their faces to spread, and the resentment of the  Westerners fester.
Good Muslims, who constitute more than 99.99 per cent of the Muslim population of the world, have to be united in their hatred against terrorism and the international community also needs to review its attitude towards Muslims in general.
Muslim scholars and leaders should go both offline and online and counter the ISIS propaganda, and say as loudly and clearly as possible that it is not Islamic and it does in no way represent the spirit of Islam. 
Western nations should also keep in mind that ISIS actually wants to see an increase in Islamophobia and anti-Muslim hate crime so that it will increase their recruitment pool. To maintain the flow of recruits in the long term, the jihadists need to make Muslims feel more vulnerable and alienated in Western societies. That's why, it's even more important for western nations to embrace their Muslim communities.
The ISIS seeks to consolidate territorial control in Syria and Iraq and then expand its so-called "caliphate" throughout the Muslim world and beyond. To do that, they want to sharpen the conflict between the Muslims and others and motivate the sympathisers to join under their bloodstained banner. 
We cannot hope to reduce the danger from this sort of violent extremism if we do not understand and acknowledge its origins. It is now an established conclusion that there almost certainly would be no Islamic State today had the United States refrained from invading Iraq back in 2003.
Decades of imprudent international policies have left many people in the Arab and Islamic world genuinely resentful toward the Western countries. Those policies include the West's cosseting of the Arab dictators, their blind support for Israel's brutal policies toward the Palestinians, to name a few. Analysts believe terrorist attacks are taking place in the world because the international community neglected Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, Palestine and Afghanistan. 
Mankind's challenge today is to defeat the strategy of all terrorists---home-grown, foreign-grown or state-sponsored. First step of this challenge is not to fall into the obvious trap the terrorists like Islamic State have set. If nations buy into their vision of relentless conflicts, the world could easily act in ways that make their vision a reality. The last thing we should do is encourage anyone to see the terrorists as heroes.
maswood@hotmail.com
 

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