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Syrian Refugee Debate Reveals Deep Seated Anti-Muslim Sentiment

by Kyle Labe

The worst attack that ISIS has committed against the U.S. is a manifestation of the underlying racism in our society. Since the infamous Paris bombings just half a month ago, paranoia has spread rampant, and on a global level. This supposed Muslim “problem”―as right-wingers have so euphemistically labelled it―concerns the influx of Syrian refugees into our nation, yet even more recently dealing with the present Muslim-American population. This crisis has merged its way into the current presidential campaign, pitting GOP candidates such as Donald Trump and Dr. Ben Carson against opposing democrat Hillary Clinton and socialist Bernie Sanders. But what’s even more unsettling than this alone, that a topic of ethnicity governs our politics, is the wide exhibition of xenophobia unearthed by these acts of extremism.

What do I mean by “unearthed?” This seemingly disinterred―and completely senseless―racism feels an abrupt response to the Paris attacks, much like a grade-school student raising their hand out of habit and not knowledge. For example, Michigan governor Rick Snyder, who had both previously and recently proclaimed himself as the most “pro-immigration” governor in the country, immediately shut down all effort to accept refugees subsequent to the Paris attack. Republican frontrunner Dr. Ben Carson swore for the nation to accept zero refugees, reiterating his opinion that he “would not support having a Muslim president in the White House.” GOP candidate Jeb Bush held firmly the idea that the U.S. should allow solely Christian refugees into the nation. Plus, I won’t even begin on what Donald Trump had to say ….

But not every politician feels this way. President Barack Obama promised to accept 10,000 refugees into the country, sharing his support and sympathy for their aim. The Guardian reports that since 2012, the U.S. has welcomed in a slim 2,174 Syrian refugees, a mere 0.0007% of our population.

This is a crisis―and it’s not the refugees that are the problem at hand. It is not a left-right matter; it is a human issue. We are considering turning helpless, hopeless victims around, closing the gates on them to a chance at the freedom land, forcing them back to an oppressive theocracy. There is just something amoral in stating that. Are we willing to risk freedom for an artificial sense of security?

So I say: let them in. Let them in by the numbers, because I am not willing to judge an entire peoples based on the actions of a few extremists. That, by definition alone, is xenophobia, and the fact that so many people are assimilating it without the label is the problem. And it is a fear. We, as a nation, are scared, and in our paranoia we’re taking to extreme measures to thwart any potential source.

So why are we blaming refugees? As USA Today reports, in the last 35 years, not one terrorist attack has been at the hands of a refugee. The only shared commonality between these refugees and these heinous attacks are a base in religion, yet I forbid to associate any attack, be it past or future, to have any affiliation with Islamic beliefs whatsoever. Radicalism is not connected to any religion, just like terrorism is not connected to any ethnicity. To look at IS as Islamic extremism is to see terrorism as having a religion, and that’s the issue. If we keep branding IS as Islamic, no wonder we’re “afraid” of these Syrians. We’re viewing these shootings and bombings and raids as having a Muslim base, and since we’re scared of these massacres happening in our territory, of course we’ll be afraid of what’s causing it. But the thing is, what’s causing it is not religion. What’s causing it is evil in its purest form. As Huffington Post writer Rev. Dr. Chuck Currie puts it, “People of faith across the world are united against the idea that there is any justification for terrorism…Terrorism in the name of the Almighty is a sin. There is nothing noble in killing civilians or in suicide bombings.”

Let us consider Past Europe and Modern America. By “Past” and “Modern,” I’m referring to pre- and post-WWII, the war based around intolerance. At the outset, without American cognizance of the horrors of the Holocaust, our nation was gleefully turning away Jewish refugees because of, as Washington Post states, “skepticism or unveiled bigotry.” The news source goes on to explain that “Jews were viewed as harbingers of dangerous ideologies, particularly communism and anarchism. There were pronounced fears that fifth communists and spies would infiltrate the country through the tide of refugees fleeing fascist Europe.”

Does that not have some eerie connection? Are we not seeing Muslims as bringing in “dangerous ideologies” (in this case, extremism)? Are politicians like Donald Trump not reflecting “dangerous ideologies” to fight the same? Please explain, I implore, how banning every single Muslim will at all solve the issue of extremism? IS, largely, is concerned with antagonizing Western values. If we openly devalue the Muslim community, is that not contributing to the issue on hand? Will we not turn them to distrust Western civilizations, maybe enough that they’ll become the problem against us? As cliché as it may ring, hate cannot solve hate, only bring about more.

In the end, this is scary. I am scared for the Muslim community. I am scared that there are people who agree with the rejection of refugees, that there are actual supporters of buffoons like Donald Trump. We cannot be a nation to allow fear to rule us. As Star Trek star George Takei―who just after Pearl Harbor was sequestered into oddly-familiar camps with fellow Japanese-Americans―stated in CNN about the connection of the two incidents, there “was a lack of political leadership. Political leadership failed. And the same thing is happening now.” National, universal even, paranoia has sparked a common trend of casual racism in our society. Yet what’s truly terrifying is the understanding that that racism has always been there, lurking, dwelling underneath the surface, hidden yet present. Sometimes I wonder if this is what IS wants: to destroy us from the inside out, not with bombs or shootings, but with fear.

About CD Ram Page (112 Articles)
The student-run, student-edited newspaper of Central Dauphin High School. Adviser - Mr. Mark Britcher Editors-in-Chief - Elizabeth Ebert, Senior, and Cleo Robinson, Senior

1 Comment on Syrian Refugee Debate Reveals Deep Seated Anti-Muslim Sentiment

  1. Mr. Labe:

    Thank you for this thoughtful editorial. If you decide against American University, think about joining us at Pacific University here in Oregon:

    Best wishes,

    Rev. Dr. Chuck Currie


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