I have needed few days to organize my thoughts since the horrific terrorist attacks in Paris on Friday. I have more feelings of insecurity and concern over the future of the world than feelings of surprise or shock. These terrorist groups strive for a flavor of Islam that is completely unchanged from the 7th century version – when Muhammad was driven from Mecca to Medina and became more militaristic in nature – and believe it is a requirement of their faith to impose it on everyone else. The forcible imposition of their faith on others is seen as a religious duty. The recent attacks by ISIS prove that they are willing to advance this “duty” by any means necessary. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t believe these groups were a threat to the United States. I guess sometimes war is necessary. Maybe now is one of those times.
Let’s not get it twisted though. The members of these groups are the extreme minority of a religion with approximately 1.6 billion followers. Last year, CNN estimated around 106,000 people are members of or identify with these organizations. That means about .006625% of the Muslim population are “extremist.” Of course, that number might be – and probably is – higher now but even if you triple or quadruple it, we’re still talking about an extremely small percentage of Muslims. Do the Westboro Baptist Church or Ku Klux Klan accurately represent the moral tenants of Christianity? Of course they don’t. Neither does ISIS represent the entirety of Islam. We shouldn’t lose sight of that.
The growth of these groups may be evidence that it’s time for us to step up our military action against them. Maybe we should try to wipe them out before they gain more strength. It’ll take a smarter person than me to make that kind of decision. But why do the 99.9% of Muslims who don’t share these extremist views also have to endure our wrath?
Now, thousands of Syrian Muslims are trying to flee their homes to escape the hell that has been created by Islamic extremist groups who wield great power over their nation. Predictably, a lot of Americans are freaking out. Governors around the country – including the one recently elected by my state – are promising to close their states to refugees. It’s an interesting move since they have absolutely no power to do this. However, American politics these days isn’t much more than seeing who can come up with the best sound bite. True. False. It doesn’t matter. Just say whatever it is you think your base wants to hear. Does it matter that the federal government has authority over the states on immigration matters and that states lack legal authority to refuse to accept refugees admitted by the federal government? Not as long as supporters think their governor is somehow sticking it to Obama.
While I – kind of – understand the concern that one of these Islamic extremists may be granted access into our country by posing as a refugee, I think – based on the numbers – that fear is mostly unfounded. Refugees seeking to settle in the USA undergo a lengthy screening process with the intention of weeding out potential security threats. First, they’re screened by the United Nations to determine if each individual faces “a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, region, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion” in their home nation. If they pass that, the US government screening process includes an interview, medical examination, and “an inter-agency security screening process aimed at ensuring the refugee does not pose a threat to the United States.” This takes around a year to year and a half on average and the Syrian refugees are expected to undergo an even lengthier process. To put it simply, refugee status in the US doesn’t come quickly or easily.
In response to the attacks on Paris, some presidential candidates have suggested that only Christians from the Syrian region should be considered for entry into our country. Wow. Seriously? What could be more unconstitutional and less Christ-like than that? How can people make the claim that we are a Christian nation and then suggest we reject people fleeing terrorism solely because they share different beliefs than we do? While these candidates like to argue that the threats to religious liberty have never been greater than they are now, what is more threatening to the constitutional meaning of religious liberty than for our country to blatantly favor one religion over another? Isn’t that the definition of a threat to religious liberty?
Is there some risk – however remote – in granting 10,000 Syrians refugee status? Probably. But isn’t there also some risk in not granting them refugee status? I’m sure extremist groups won’t exactly be disappointed if there are some new recruits – recently rejected the opportunity to flee terrorism – eager to take revenge on the Western world for not opening its doors to them when they needed it most.
We have to be conscious of the fact that just because the Islamic State and Boko Haram are unquestionably evil does not mean all followers of Islam are evil. If we have the ability to help those in need, I think it’s our responsibility to do so.
“You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that?”
- Jesus, Matthew 5:43-46
Maybe it’s time that we practice what we preach.