Op-eds do not reflect the editorial opinion of The Daily Free Press. They are solely the opinion of the author.
The attacks in Paris, Beirut and Baghdad have sparked a national conversation about how the U.S. should respond to the Islamic State and whether or not we should admit the 10,000 Syrian refugees that President Obama has promised to accept. My Facebook feed has been flooded with article after article highlighting the ongoing debates and I am tired of reading about the ridiculous and utter buffoonery being proposed by some of our elected representatives and being legitimized by the national media.
Yes, every citizen has a right to express his or her opinion, but if I’ve learned anything being a student for the majority of my life, it’s that an opinion needs to be backed by facts. The arguments being made are not based in fact, but rather in fear. So here are the facts.
With regard to refugees, the Economist reported on Oct. 17 that since 9/11 America has accepted 745,000 refugees and “only two Iraqis in Kentucky have been arrested on terrorist charges, for aiding al-Qaeda in Iraq.” In addition, although every American suddenly considers himself or herself an expert on U.S. policy toward refugees, I’m sure many would be surprised to know that, on average, it takes about two years for a refugee, regardless of national origin, to gain entry into the United States. And the refugees who do gain entry have gone through a rigorous vetting process that subjects them to examination and scrutiny that most American citizens would be extremely uncomfortable with.
As a comparison, France, which just suffered a terrible terrorist attack, will continue to accept Syrian refugees—30,000 over the next two years, which is more than the United States has committed to accepting. Kudos to the French people for not cowering in fear after these attacks. In the same vein, the French people have shown their ability to distinguish between a religion and a group that has co-opted and perverted that religion to justify the killing of innocent people many of them Muslims. The United States must do the same.
Currently, our fear is driving us. Just this morning I read a piece from a newspaper in my home state of Connecticut detailing an attack on a mosque in the town over from where I grew up. The day before, I was applauding the governor of Connecticut for supporting the president’s decision to accept more Syrian refugees, but now I am ashamed. The hypocrisy of these attacks is staring me in the face. Just this summer, after the Supreme Court legalized gay marriage across the United States, I listened to many Christians argue that forcing business owners to serve gay customers or cater to gay weddings was violating their First Amendment rights. Kim Davis decided that as an employee of the government she had the right to deny citizens their legal right to a marriage certificate on the basis that her religious beliefs prevented her from doing so. If these arguments equate to a violation of a person’s right to religious freedom, then how does firing bullets or throwing feces and ripped pages of the Qur’an at a mosque not equate, if not surpass, that violation?
I grew up believing that Americans are not defined by the color of their skin, the religion they practice, or the place they were born. Our nation’s history hasn’t always reflected this belief, and I’ve come to terms with that through my studies, but what prevents us from embracing this spirit today, in a world torn by violence and hate? Our xenophobic tendencies are s—-ing on the liberal values that we proudly tout to the rest of the world. I am angered and disgusted by the conversations taking place across America right now because they are not rooted in fact, but rather in fear.
Alec Lynde, [email protected]