On Saturday night I sat in a room of 16 or so students and debated legislation regarding sending Humanitarian aid to Lebanon. A student walked in with a sheet of paper. In our mock-congress world something devastating had happened: ISIS had taken control of Jordan. Accordingly, we all tweaked our speeches, keeping into consideration the unfolding “events.” I walked out of the round feeling strange. Not because it was anything new, it’s just, we were pretending that ISIS had taken control of a country. To some degree, I feel that this detracted from the seriousness of the terrorist threat. In Spring of 1939, I doubt we’d simulate Hitler’s invasion of Poland before it actually happened…it was too real. So I wonder why we treat the Middle East and terrorism so different from Nazism and Stalinism decades before. In my last post I drew the conclusion that terrorism has taken on a narrow definition in our dialogue: A brown person who inflicts damage on western peoples. It makes sense then, that we’d feel less sadness over a Jordanian invasion than say, a French one. But just because it makes sense doesn’t mean it should be this way. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that our attitude towards terrorism is contributing to its staying power.
Recruitment is a dangerous reality. The propaganda put out by ISIS members like Jihadi John is not only frightening, but it is also incredibly manipulative. Moderate muslims are swayed by messages like “the west is out to defeat us” or “we need to defend Islam.” While on the outside it seems obvious that these are blatant lies, as a Muslim in a place as, at times, xenophobic as Europe, the messages start to seem more valid. Before we proceed—I am in no way defending terrorism…But I also don’t want to simplify the issue into something it isn’t. Our perception of these organizations and the people who join them is allowing some of the messages to ring more true. When presidential candidates argue for a “Muslim Database,” we ostracize the very people that ISIS recruitment targets: innocent muslims. Again, when Syrian refugees are stationed in camps of more than 160,ooo, resources are anything but plentiful. And when the UN or other countries fail to come to their aid, terrorist organizations such as Hezbollah and ISIS come in with false promises. Jihad, translated from Arabic, means struggle–not terrorism, down with the west, or evil. The struggle for a Muslim identity and basic resources then becomes the goal of moderate Islam. If we don’t defend these people, who will? Terrorist organizations because they need to control people to have any power.
I suppose this whole rant was just an effort to say…we have to fight our tendency to generalize entire populations into something they’re not. Muslims are NOT terrorists. But it goes much deeper than that. We have to accept these people all over the country because if we don’t, ISIS will. Yes that’s right. ISIS will find the starving populations of Syrian refugees and recruit them. And guess what the worst part is? The Syrian refugees were, in large part, fleeing Asad. By joining ISIS, they’re joining an effort to create a whole new state, one where Asad isn’t in power. We have to stand up and get over our fear of these people because the alternative is much, much worse. Genocide, a larger ISIS, and millions of starving victims go unattended to. A world where we deny millions their right to life is a world I don’t want to live in and a world I hope I never again have to debate in a classroom. I could go on and on about this issue, and I probably will write another post about it eventually, but for now, I will end on this note. We are part of the problem. If we take in refugees, ISIS has millions less people in its power and its case becomes much less attractive. 10,000 isn’t enough. 65,000 isn’t enough. To our governor, I sincerely hope you understand that you don’t have any power to deny these people entrance into our state. To our national congress, be aware of the consequences of refusing these people. To the American people, your fears are valid, but blatantly misinformed.