The terrorist attacks that killed 129 persons in Paris last Friday has unleashed a wave of military attacks against ISIS and calls to block settlement of Syrian refugees. Terrorists may be hiding among them is the fear.
This xenophobic reaction is echoed by some American political leaders. At least 24 governors have declared they will not allow Syrian refugees to enter their states—including Iowa despite its long history of welcoming victims from previous war-torn countries.
Several Republic Party presidential candidates have voiced similar views.
The Wrong Message
Instead of blocking refugees, we Americans should work harder to get to know our Muslim neighbors in order to minimize the temptation among young Muslims attracted to religious fanaticism that in turn feeds terrorism.
One reason young people feel alienated is because they are. They are easy targets for any group that offers support and comfort—be it big city gangs or radical Islamic terrorists. We, their parents, everyone have failed to intervene before it became too late.
Muslims have long been part of America’s social fabric. But while we celebrate the contributions and culture of other groups, Muslims historically have either been ignored or shunned.
This month we pay tribute to the contributions of Native Americans.
October was Hispanic Heritage Month. A celebration of the culture of America’s largest minority population.
In May we observe Jewish American and Asian-Pacific American Heritage. And we have Black History Month in February.
Recognition of the Muslim community is folded into Black History Month as if all Muslims were black. That’s not true, of course, and it underscores America’s failure to recognize either Islam or Muslims as a distinct and important segment of our society worthy of individual observance. American Muslims deserve more than a footnote.
Winning the War at Home
How many Muslims do you know? Are there Muslims in your social groups or at work? When was the last time you invited a Muslim into your home?
Our answer is why young Muslim Americans feel isolated, alienated, frustrated and angry. It’s no wonder they feel rejected by mainstream America and are easy pray for groups—no matter how radical—that extol their religion and culture.
And the GOP attitude will further alienate that community and make things worse. Such intolerance will increase the risk of terrorism here in the U.S.
Recognizing and embracing the Islamic community and Syrian refugees has nothing to do with political ideology. Our American values should remind us of that.
We need to do a better job of reaching out to Muslims in our neighborhoods and they should extend the same hand to us. The war against Islamic terrorism can be won here by showing young people of every class, race, sexual orientation and religion that we are all valued Americans.