Thursday, the House of Representatives is poised to pass a bill that will stop the United States from accepting refugees from Syria. Speaker Paul Ryan is pushing the bill, which follows on the heels of the announcement by 30 Republican Governors, and one Democrat that they will not allow Syrian refugees in their states.
This is happening despite the fact the United States has the most stringent refugee screening procedures in the world. Since 2011, the U.S. has rejected 90 percent of the 20,000 Syrian applicants submitted by the U.N. according to Chuck Todd on MTP Daily.
Republican presidential candidates have made Syrian refugees a major campaign issue. Jeb Bush and Ted Cruz say we should only allow Syrian refugees in if they are “provable Christians.” Donald Trump, Marco Rubio, Mike Huckabee, Carly Fiorina, Ben Carson, and John Kasich have all blasted Obama over refugees. They equate the refugees with the French and Belgian citizens who perpetrated the recent attack in Paris.
Perhaps this has something to do with the fact 56 percent of Americans feel that we should not take in refugees from Syria according to a new NBC poll. Only 41 percent think the U.S. should allow them in
President Obama said he would veto the Ryan bill if it gets to his desk. At his news conference at the Asian summit in Manila, Obama blasted Republicans, particularly the presidential candidates. He said that their rhetoric plays into the hands of ISIL, and he said it is politically motivated. Representative Tammy Duckworth of Illinois told Rachel Maddow Wednesday night that she does not want to see a whole new generation of Muslim grow up hating the United States because they view us as being anti-Muslim.
Fear mongering is not new to American politics. In the 1930s, anti-Communist politicians persuaded FDR not to allow Jews into the U.S. who were trying to flee Hitler fearing they were communists. As a result, 6 million lost their lives and we ended up in a war anyway.
Fear is an effective political tool, however. In 2004, nearly all polls predicted George Bush would not win re-election. Karl Rove developed a fear strategy. He filled the airwaves with ads claiming only Bush would keep us safe from another 911. Despite the fact that 911 happened on Bush’s watch, he was re-elected. Fear works.
Regardless of the motivation, fear mongering over the Syrian refugees will not make us safer. It will do the exact opposite. It will make us unsafe.
All terrorist groups find fertile recruiting ground among disaffected and alienated populations. In many nations, including the United States, many young Muslims feel they are not welcome. Rightly or wrongly, that is how they feel. ISIL and other terrorist organizations exploit that alienation. They use social media to convince these young people that Americans hate them because of their faith. They use that alienation to entice them to fight.
When Americans, particularly religious leaders and politicians, make anti-Muslim statements, it gives credibility to groups like ISIL. When all Muslims are blamed for the words and actions of a few, it reinforces the belief that Americans are indeed anti-Muslim. It makes it appear that America is actually at war with Islam. Like the fear mongering that riled up Christians during the Crusades, radical Islamic leaders use religion as a justification for Jihad against the United States.
Americans say that we are the land of opportunity. Our Statue of Liberty says that we welcome all those who yearn to be free. When politicians and preachers espouse hatred toward Muslims, or other ethnic groups, it sends a message that the words on our statue of liberty are a fraud.
If we do not want a whole new generation to grow up hating the United States so badly that they want to hurt us, then we need to stop giving them a reason to hate us. Hate speech, discrimination, and banning refugees all give them cause to hate us. Politicians who use terms like “I will bomb the “sh*t out of them” causes them to hate us. Immigrant bashing also causes them to hate us. When they hate us, we are unsafe.
We can’t bomb the sh*t out of an idea. We cannot destroy a belief by guns or boots on the ground. Just look how well the Iraq war worked out. When we were attacked, we wanted to fight. When they are attacked, they want to fight. Maybe it is time for Americans to actually be who we say we are.