Paris Attacks Fuel Questions On The Refugee Crisis

When millions of refugees had already left Syria because of the violent conflicts, surrounding countries were swamped with the flow of people seeking solace. After some time, the United States also agreed to accept and resettle Syrians, amidst debate about whether the action would pose a threat to citizens. After the terrorist attacks in Paris on Nov. 13, this controversy has only been renewed. Politicians in the US as well as some countries in Europe have started to consider closing their borders. Their major concern is that Syria-based Islamic State militants could come into the country among the flow of refugees.

The United States should follow the lead of French President François Hollande, and continue with plans to accept 10,000 refugees in the next fiscal year. Hollande announced on Nov. 18 that France would continue to honor its agreement to take in 30,000 Syrian refugees. This came as a surprise to some, after the Syria based Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attacks on Friday.

Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush said in an interview on Sunday that refugees should only be allowed into the country if they can “prove they are Christian.” This is not a valid proposition. “Proving” a person’s religion is not something that can be easily accomplished. When Bush was asked to clarify, he merely responded with, “I think you can prove it.”

The idea of using this kind of discrimination to determine who to provide aid to is contrary to the beliefs that the United States was founded on. Freedom to practice one’s religion is one of the rights stated in the First Amendment to the Constitution. The Constitution represents how the country and its officials should conduct themselves. and should guide current office holders in their policy making.

Perhaps the most important fact is that eliminating terror in the US is not equivalent to relieving the country of Islam. Classifying ISIL, or anyone responsible for Friday’s attacks, in the broad category of “Muslim” instead of as part of a small extremist group — ISIL makes up less than 1 percent of the global muslim population — can only create fear and prejudice against a religious group making up over 20 percent of the global population.

In recent years ISIL has been prominent in the media, but it is vital to realize that not all evil and all crimes in the world stem from the same people. In June 2015, a white American man named Dylann Roof, who practiced Lutheran Christianity, opened fire in a historically black church in Charleston, SC., killing nine people. Attorney General Loretta Lynch compared this incident to hate crimes committed by the Ku Klux Klan, a white and christian supremacist group. Are the actions of these people justified because they are Christian? No. Politicians who support automatically favoring Christian refugees over those that follow another religion need to reconsider.

Extremist views can exist in any culture or ideology. For example, views in the US government are often considered on a spectrum. The furthest right is very conservative, the far left is very liberal. But there are many views that fall somewhere between the two extremes. The government should not hold a grudge against a large population, such as all Muslims or all Syrians, for the actions of a small percentage.

The even more pressing problem, when some US officials suggest we turn away Syrian refugees, is that in 2015 alone, over 10,000 civilians have been killed in Syria — including hundreds killed by US and other western forces. If the United States refuses to provide humanitarian aid to thousands, those men, women and children could make the death toll climb still higher.

Despite strengthened concerns after ISIL attacks on a major western capital, the United States should honor the agreement it made – to help Syrians who have been driven from their homes by war.