The Question of Syrian Refugees in Our Communities
by Lynda Friesen
I’d like to speak to the controversy regarding the refugee resettlement issue.
No one wants to see innocent people suffer. We all aspire to help our fellow man in need. I believe that people on both sides of the aisle desire to do the right thing by way of helping refugees from war-torn Syria. However, we are encountering diverse perspectives on how the “right thing” is defined and achieved.
In a nutshell, only the cold and heartless would turn their backs on suffering refugees who have lost everything. And only imprudent idealists would put one group of people at risk in an effort to help another. What, then, are we to do?
It is time for ideological hot buttons and the confinements of political correctness to be set aside. The issues facing us are addressed successfully only by objective facts. This is not misanthropy. It’s not racism. And it’s not xenophobia. It’s appropriate caution and care for everyone impacted by these decisions, hosts and refugees alike. It’s doing our due diligence and letting wisdom lead us rather than emotions alone.
Though far from exhaustive, here are some points for consideration.
1. The law of unintended consequences: Any time public policy is enacted, there are unforeseen consequences that play out and have to be addressed down the road. The larger and more complex the issue, the greater the potential for unintended, undesirable consequences—many of which can be impossible to undo at that point. That’s why we can’t afford to simply follow our hearts and embrace refugee relocation proposals without thorough prior scrutiny of all salient issues which would attend such measures.
2. Fully understand any proposals before acting: There was a lesson to be learned when, upon being questioned about the Obamacare proposal, Nancy Pelosi made the famously idiotic declaration that we’d just have to pass it if we wanted to find out what was in it. Because it was rushed through without thorough public or legislative scrutiny, we continue to discover more bad juju within its arcane provisions. Some insurance providers are now dropping out. UnitedHealth, the nation’s largest health insurer, has lost half a billion dollars so far under the Affordable Care Act and warns it may soon pull out. Physicians are ceasing to practice or radically altering their practices. Costs continue to escalate far beyond predictions. No one knows where all this will end, as the face of health care in America is transformed.
Yet this is a minor issue compared to profoundly altering the character of our communities and our nation.
The more we are being railroaded into accepting relocation proposals before pressing questions are fully explored and answered, the more resistance will be encountered—and rightly so. All proposals must be thoroughly scrutinized, and concerns adequately dealt with, before any action is taken.
3. Guilt is questionable motivation: We must bear in mind that we are not the ones responsible for the distress of these innocent people. Their suffering is part of the continuing toll inflicted by apocalyptic Islamists in their homelands. I mention this because many who support relocation to the US appear to be doing so out of a vague sense of guilt as much as simple compassion.
We also need to clarify that the provisions of our Constitution, along with our domestic programs, apply to the citizens of our country. Our government is not required to provide the same benefits to citizens of other nations. We incur no guilt for making this distinction.
Misplaced guilt skews our objectivity.
4. The Trojan horse—the obvious and greatest issue: President Obama has mocked those who oppose Syrian resettlement in the US, saying opponents are “afraid of three-year-old orphans.” But let’s be clear. Despite empty and unfounded assurances to the contrary, terrorists embedded with refugees remain a real and present danger inherent in any relocation plan. This is not some vague possibility: It’s already happening here and across Europe. And there is no way to avoid it.
On 12 February 2016, US Senate Judiciary Committee members sent a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry and DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson. The senators wrote, “We continue to be troubled by the Administration’s plans to admit 10,000 Syrian refugees, especially in light of the shortcomings in the Department of Homeland Security’s ability to adequately screen and vet such refugees, as has been discussed in hearing after hearing in both the House and the Senate over the past few months. The Administration’s refusal to suspend or even slow the pace of such refugee processing is particularly disturbing when reports abound of ISIS terrorists intentionally inserting themselves into the Syrian refugee stream.”
Senior Obama officials (including FBI Director James Comey, DHS Director Matthew Emrich, and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper) have warned that it is impossible to properly vet refugees, principally because their homeland does not maintain criminal and terrorist databases needed to do so. According to Investor’s Business Daily, Senior FBI officials recently testified before Senate oversight committee “that they have no idea who these people are, and they can’t find out what type of backgrounds they have—criminal, terrorist or otherwise—because there are no vetting opportunities in those war-torn countries…. Syria and Iraq, along with Somalia and Sudan, are failed states where police records aren’t even kept. Agents can’t vet somebody if they don’t have documentation and don’t even have the criminal databases to screen applicants.”
The Washington Post cited a list of 72 Muslim immigrants in the US charged with terrorist activity. The list doesn’t include an additional several dozen suspected terrorist bomb-makers brought into the US as Iraq war refugees. Two were al-Qaida terrorists, mistakenly resettled as refugees in Kentucky. Both had been detained by authorities in Iraq for killing US soldiers, yet both somehow passed background checks and were declared “clean.” They were then placed in US public housing and given other welfare benefits. While enjoying our hospitality, the two “refugees” plotted to obtain Stinger missiles and attack homeland targets. Fortunately, these two were caught by the FBI before they could execute their plans. We can’t count on this always being the case.
French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian has repeatedly warned that ISIS fighters hiding among refugees traveling from Libya to Italy pose a “major risk” to Europe. Most people don’t realize ISIS already has WMD capabilities. CIA Director John Brennan is the highest-ranking U.S. intelligence official to confirm this, in an interview with CBS News aired on 60 Minutes (14 February 2016). Brennan warns us that the leaders of ISIS are actively engaged in producing and using chemical weapons of mass destruction. He said ISIS has already, a number of times, used chemical munitions on the battlefield—chlorine and mustard gas, delivered via artillery shells. They appear to be working out how to use poison gas on a much wider scale.
So—we know terrorists have WMDs and are developing more. We know they have already entered, and continue to enter, the US and Europe along with legitimate refugees. Should we increase the numbers of immigrants to the US from that region, we can expect ISIS and other terror groups to step up their exploitation of this gaping security breach. It remains their stated goal to attack us, the “Great Satan.” Relocation proposals offer them an unprecedented invitation to settle all over the country, develop terrorist cells and recruit nationwide.
Many have observed the high numbers of single young men among the refugee populations. This raises obvious concerns. The suggestion has been made that these combat-aged single men should be taking up arms to fight in and for their homelands. Be that as it may, the question remains: In what world is it a good idea to give your house key to a murderer who has voiced his intention to harm you?
5. Cultures in conflict: Should refugees be resettled into our communities, we face a twofold threat: First is the obvious menace of unrecognized terrorists embedded with the refugees. Second is the challenge to our fundamental way of life due to the serious clash of cultures, as is being experienced throughout Europe.
Those who believe that the best thing to do is simply to relocate unfortunate, displaced Syrians to our country demonstrate an unhelpful ethnocentrism—judging via one’s own cultural norms and biases, with a lack of understanding of nonwestern cultures. They are making assumptions based on their own Western world- and life-view, not with an educated understanding of Middle Eastern culture.
Anyone who has not spent extensive time studying and experiencing nonwestern thought and way of life has no foundation for understanding the enormous, byzantine issues our communities and our nation will face if we open our doors to those of a radically different culture. It’s a huge issue that is seldom addressed. This is a culture whose beliefs, values and goals often clash jarringly with our own. As a whole, immigrants of this culture have no desire whatsoever to become Americans in our tradition as the great Melting Pot. (Why would they, when the majority are Islamic who view Americans as kuffar—infidels? This idea is deeply ingrained and not given to easy amendment.)
Our fundamental lack of understanding of their culture leaves us unprepared to anticipate and deal with the inevitable clashes when the two dissimilar cultures face off.
Here is a real-life example of cultures in conflict: In the West, women are free to move about unaccompanied by a male relative (or anyone else) with the expectation of safety and respect. What happens when a lone woman here encounters a group of male refugees from a strongly male-dominated culture—a culture where “everyone knows” unaccompanied women are fair game for sexual assault? In their minds, she is deliberately flouting the rules. They feel entitled, if not obligated, to teach her a lesson.
Think this is an exaggerated example? Then you haven’t kept up with what’s happening in Europe.
Perhaps this issue is a reflection of Islamic doctrine as demonstrated by Al-Azhar theology professor Suad Saleh. Al-Azhar University is considered Sunni Islam’s most prestigious university. This respected Muslim scholar says it’s okay to rape non-Muslim women. A YouTube video of her TV show (which aired 12 September 2014 on El Hayah 2) went viral. In the video she justifies sexual enslavement of non-Muslim women by Muslim men “in order to humiliate them.” Her audience is instructed that such women become property, as the spoils of war, under the Islamic concept of milk al yamen. YouTube has since (wisely) terminated the account. Unfortunately, the cultural lesson is not so easily deleted. Ideas have consequences. What is taught in school and mosque will have repercussions in our communities.
Another example of cultural clashes: A domestic disturbance in the US was reported to 911. When police arrived, they found a Middle Eastern man had beaten his wife, knocking out several of her teeth. He could not understand why he was being arrested, because in his culture it was perfectly reasonable for a man to discipline his wife by beating her if she was late with his dinner. This is made more complex by the fact that this sort of physical “discipline” is prescribed and defended by his culture’s religion (e.g., Qur’an, Sura 4:34 and the hadiths). Given how violently they defend their religion, including murdering those they deem to have slighted their Prophet, this is problematic. Their free exercise of their religion runs afoul of our human rights sensibilities regarding women, homosexuals, children, and more. Whose values win? And at what cost?
This is the tip of the iceberg of what host nations in the West are currently experiencing.
This is Part 1 of a three-part series highlighting some of the issues involved with refugee relocation. Part 2 will cover more challenges of cultural clashes and what we can learn from nations having experience with Middle Eastern refugee resettlement.