ISIS Wants Us To Shut Out Refugees

Photo by Mstyslav Chernov.

America’s dismissal of incoming refugees is misguided, and exactly what ISIS wants.

By Alexandra Werner Winslow
BU News Service

The House voted to suspend the Syrian and Iraqi refugee program in the U.S., reacting to the deadly attacks in Paris. The House bill, which passed 289 to 137, is jingoistic and misguided, and perhaps as alarming as the attacks themselves.

“If only we had a seasonally appropriate story about Middle Eastern people seeking refuge being turned away by the heartless,” tweeted Oliver Willis, a research fellow for Media Matters for America.

With more than 20,000 people retweeting Willis’ comment, the debate over how the U.S. should handle incoming refugees is just heating up. Earlier in the week, two dozen governors announced that they would refuse to allow Syrian refugees from entering their state, including our own governor, Charlie Baker. The White House, meanwhile, has aggressively defended President Obama’s plan to take in 10,000 refugees within the next year.

“We can both welcome refugees seeking safety and ensure America’s security,” the White House posted on Instagram Friday.

What is so disturbing about the hysterical scramble to refuse refugees entry is that it validates ISIS’ narrative about us. To groups like ISIS, America is the oppressor. Of course, we would stand idly by while the greatest number of refugees since World War II knock on the West’s door, as the UN reported in June. That’s what makes us worthy of attack.

“Bush spoke the truth when he said, ‘Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists,” published ISIS in its magazine, Dabiq. “Either you are with the crusade, or you are with Islam.”

Ironically, the way to make America more vulnerable to attack is to actually be in favor of refusing refugees’ entry. ISIS, Al Qaeda, even the IRA: none of them have the capacity to engage in traditional warfare with a state-backed military. Hence, the choice to engage is an onslaught of a different kind — a psychological attack that, at the time of publication, the House is all too willing to sign off on.

Terrorists can’t beat us on a conventional battlefield. However devastating the results of their attacks, terrorists hurt numerically far more people if they can instill the fear that is right there in their name.

The argument for refusing Syrian refugees entry to America is based on evidence that one of the attackers in Paris gained entry to Europe by posing as a refugee. That possibility has been like oxygen to a fire in the debate over whether we should take in Syrian refugees. Arguments that Muslims pose an inherent security risk have proliferated right alongside proclamations that they couldn’t possibly assimilate — their values are just too different.

So if we give into Islamophobia — creating a registry of Muslims, as Donald Trump suggested Thursday, or altering the Constitution to increase surveillance, as President Hollande has proposed — we’re actually strengthen ISIS’ claims that America’s enemy is Islam itself. And what then for American Muslims? Or the 1.6 billion Muslims who are not jihadists, but members of the fastest growing religious group in the world?

Replace the word “Muslim” with “Christian,” and you have a virtual carbon copy of jihadist justifications for attacks on the West. America is dangerous. American values are the problem here.

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