The Other Way to Fight Terror: Our Door is Open
The above picture shows Justin Trudeau, the newly-elected Prime Minister of Canada, greeting Syrian refugees into Canada on December 10th. He is providing them with coats, handshakes, hugs, and from time to time, selfies.
“Tonight they step off the plane as refugees,” the Prime Minister said at the international airport in Toronto. “But they walk out of this terminal as permanent residents of Canada.”
According to the New York Times, Canada will be accepting at least 25,000 refugees by the end of February 2016. “We get to show the world how to open our hearts and welcome people who are fleeing extraordinarily difficult straits,” Trudeau said.
Meanwhile in America, a video of Trump’s interview has resurfaced. In the video, Trump can be seen stating how he believes the Qur’an, the holy book of Islam, seems to be spreading “some very negative vibe.” In the interview conducted by the Christian Broadcast Network (CBN) in 2011, Trump continues to state, “Now, I don’t know if that’s from the Qur’an...But there’s tremendous hatred out there that I’ve never seen anything like it.”
This statement is coming from someone who has neither studied the Qur’an nor tried to learn the customs of Islam. I would also like to point out the irony of Trump claiming the existence of hatred in a religion when he himself is promoting exclusivity and anti-Muslim sentiments.
Trump still seems to believe in his statement from four years ago, seeing that one of his campaign releases back in December introduced his proposal for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims” entering America. Trump has prompted controversy for many of his statements. He is providing more fuel for those who increasingly believe in the false correlation between Islam and terrorism. Many media outlets and politicians have paired together the words “extreme” or “extremism” with Islam. We have to keep in mind that extremism is not a doctrine. It is a term that is used , especially today, to describe the unjustifiable acts of violence, but it is nowhere near what the religion is built from.
Nour Obeidallah, first year student at NYU studying marketing and technology, weighs in on the issue of mixing extremism with Islam. “The media acts like there is one Islam,” she says. “When in reality, the .0003% of the Muslim population that make up Al-Qaeda, Boko Haram, and ISIS are not on the same spectrum of Islam as [I am].”
Obeidallah adds that for her, Islam is a way of life. “It’s a religion that I take pride in that teaches how to be kind, patient, responsible, and behave correctly.”
Unfortunately, ever since the Paris attacks, along with other terrorist attacks conducted on the same day, anti-Muslim sentiments have grown. According to Al-Jazeera America, the sentiment is becoming “more mainstream” due to more politicians and political pundits voicing their negative opinions of Islam. Al-Jazeera further states that American Muslim communities are now seeing unprecedented amount of “hate crimes and bias incidents” due to the recent terrorist attacks. This leaves more and more Muslims in our country to fear for their safety, including those who are subject to harassment, bias, and discrimination due to their outer resemblance to the religion. In one incident among many, an Indian store clerk who called himself “Tony” was shot in the face by an American who called Tony a “terrorist.”
French journalist and former ISIS captive Nicolas Henin, who was held in Syria for ten months, states that military action against ISIS is not the correct way to approach the growth of terrorism. He commented in an interview that the invovlement of British airstrikes—alongside Russian and American ones—are encouraging more acts of violence from ISIS.
“We are just fuelling our enemies and fuelling the misery and disaster for the local people,” he said in the interview. Instead, he called for no-fly zones in ISIS’s territory. He further added that the focus of defeating ISIS should rest on providing safety for those in danger. “Providing security for people [there] would be devastating for ISIS. That’s what the international community should focus on.”
Sarah Schecker, first year student at NYU, illustrates what Henin is trying to say. With the start of Hanukkah, Schecker showed sharing knowledge and compassion is what leads to defeating the creation of international hatred against Muslims. In a Facebook post made on the evening of December 9, Schecker could be seen smiling with her friend, Ahmed, who is Muslim. Candles were lit in the background and blue Hanukkah signs were hung up on the wall.
“Tonight I was accompanied by someone who you wouldn’t typically find lighting the candles,” Schecker wrote in the post, adding that Ahmed, born and raised in Cairo, provided her company. “After the blessings and the traditional songs, I told him the story of Hanukkah,” the post continued. “I admire [Ahmed’s] interest in Judaism and his willingness to learn. I know that there are many more Muslims out there that are just like him.”
In more recent news, President Obama visited the Islamic Society of Baltimore mosque on Wednesday, February 3rd, making headlines across America. According to the New York Times, President Obama read passages from the Qur’an as well as emphasized how Muslims in America play a crucial part in its past and future. “I’m speaking now to my fellow Christians who remain the majority in this country,” he said. “We have to understand an attack on one faith is an attack on all our faiths.”
In the same article from Times, the President commented on how many Americans’ knowledge of Islam increased only after terrorist attacks. He further commented on popular culture’s view of Muslims, saying that TV shows should have Muslim characters that have no relation to national security. “There was a time when there were no black people on television,” the President added. “It’s not that hard to do.”
According to Times, President Obama had previously waived visitations to mosques due to people’s popular perception of his “Muslim” image. But during his Wednesday visit to a mosque, the President seemed at ease as he mentioned how Thomas Jefferson was also politically targeted by opponents of his time, being called a Muslim.
America needs to let its gates stay open. In the midst of terror and hatred, individuals must start to understand the roots of the problems instead of being swept by what the most popular sentiment tells them to think. It is a justifiable question to ask if America needs to begin stricter security measurements of immigration. But to treat Muslims any differently from immigrants of other religious backgrounds is the wrong way to approach the migrant effects of terrorism.
What must be enforced is protection of those who are facing hate crimes, whether that be speedy and just prosecutions of those who terrorize Muslims (or those who look Muslim). Another solution is to follow President Obama’s words by pressuring popular culture to lend its hand in portraying Muslims correctly. The big issue behind religious hate and racism is rooted mostly due to what the younger generation are taught through television shows.
It now seems easy to forget that the “United States” was built from immigrants and refugees. We are sons and daughters of immigrants and refugees. No matter whether your ancestry dates back to the 1600s, or no matter whether you are first generation American, or even a recent immigrant, we need to step back and think about the consequences of shutting out a population that is vital to the functioning of national and international politics. Saying no can only restrict the options to resolve problems. Saying yes, on the other hand, will show the politics of peace that will have a big impact in fighting off domestic and foreign terror.
- Yeho Hwang