Jill Derby guest col: Keeping Syrian refugees out is not the answer

Turning our back on all Syrian refugees is not only bad foreign policy, which plays directly into the hands of ISIS, but is also a complete contradiction for a nation that calls itself Christian: see Hebrews 13:1, Matthew 25:35, Romans 12:13. We cannot fly a Christian banner, if our deeds deny its message.

Refugee vetting by the U.S. is extremely rigorous. It takes close to two years to be cleared to be admitted to the US as a refugee. The FBI, Homeland Security, the CIA are all part of that vetting process. These are desperate people — mostly families, women, children and orphans — look at the pictures — who left their homes and everything they had out of fear for their lives. They are fleeing ISIS as well as Assad’s horrific brutality.

ISIS champions the narrative that the West is at war with all Muslims — with Islam. They promote that religious division. The reason they spew that rhetoric is to alienate Muslim youth and convince them that joining them is their only option of acceptance and dignity. It is their primary narrative that the West will never accept nor welcome them. Do we really want to hand ISIS that victory, that justification?

George W. Bush made it clear immediately after the 9/11 attacks that we are not at war with Islam. We are at war with terrorists. Islamist terrorists. That is the position the U.S. has continued to advance. He announced that to the world for good reason. Right now, we are supporting and depending on the Kurds as our ally in the fight against ISIS. It is their boots on the ground and their blood being spilled to retake the cities and territory that ISIS has captured. They just retook Sinjar with our support in arms and air power. The Kurds are Muslims. Jordan, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the Gulf states — key allies of ours with their skin in the game — they are all Muslim nations.

To give fuel to the ISIS narrative that the West is at war with all Muslims, with Islam, undermines those alliances and our commitment to degrade and destroy ISIS.

Our Statue of Liberty bears the inscription “Give me your tired, your poor; your teeming masses yearning to breathe free.” Syrian refugees are all of that. If you had been forced from your home by horrific violence and destruction, how would you feel about doors slamming in your face because of your religious affiliation? These are people like us. Let us not sell out our moral convictions from the fear that ISIS so successfully sows by its despicable and barbaric acts. We are bigger than that; we are better than that.

Jill Derby is a higher education governance consultant and cultural anthropologist.


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