The brutal ISIS attacks in Paris last week paired with another gruesome suicide bombing in Beirut shook the global community to its core, and with good reason. Images and accounts from the ground were the stuff of nightmares — nightmares that people in countries where ISIS strikes like this on the regular live out everyday.
But for others, it was a stark reminder that this kind of violence often seen in the Middle East is not confined to the region, and that there is always the potential for such attacks to take place, no matter how safe or comfortable we think we are.
For some, this was motivation for their own form of extremism. Many of the GOP presidential contenders began banging the war drum early and loud. Donald Trump, in particular, proclaimed that he would “bomb the shit out of” countries where ISIS is active… innocents be damned.
Conservatives further demonstrated their disregard for victims of ISIS as they became hysterical about Syrian refugees coming to the U.S.
Republican Governors played into the xenophobic fears of their constituents by throwing the equivalent of a gubernatorial temper tantrum about who they’d let into their states. Vox reports:
As of Tuesday afternoon, 26 governors had issued statements saying they would bar Syrian refugees from settling in their states, citing fears that violent extremists will masquerade as refugees in order to gain entry to the United States.
Legally, these proclamations have little effect; states don’t have the authority to bar refugees from settling within their borders. But they can ask the State Department not to send refugees there. And once the refugees have arrived, they can try to withhold state funds to help them learn English, get job training, or help their kids succeed at school.
The growing list of states that will not accept Syrian refugees currently includes Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Wisconsin and Wyoming. All are lead by Republican governors.
In all fairness, not every Republican leader has decided that everyone from Syria is a terrorist. As long as they believe in Jesus, it’s no problem. Sen. Ted Cruz announced a few days ago that he is in the process of drafting legislation that would bar any Syrian refugee from entering the country unless they are Christians because it’s “nothing short of lunacy” to allow Muslim Syrian refugees to enter the country after the attacks in Paris.
His reasoning? There is no “meangingful risk of Christians committing acts of terror.”
To be fair, I can see how pretending that’s true is easier than admitting that, since 9/11, white supremacists, far right extremists, and Christians have been responsible for 5600% more terrorist attacks and 500% more terror-related fatalities than Islamic extremists. It’s certainly more comfortable than recognizing the fact that police officers see fringe elements within Cruz’s own party as a bigger terrorist threat than Muslims. And it’s so much more convenient that addressing Christianity’s long, blood-stained history of terrorism around the globe.
But it doesn’t make Cruz and his ilk any less bigoted and xenophobic. It only proves the point. Unfortunately for all of us, the consequences of such bigotry may be grave.
Think about this logically. Not all Muslims are terrorists; those who are have been radicalized. Much of the radicalization and recruitment efforts for groups like ISIS rely on casting Western superpowers (and the U.S. in particular) as villains. When our supposed leaders shrug off the suffering of Muslim refugees, or cast all Muslims as evil, or promise to bomb their homes with reckless abandon, those caricatures feel validated, and those radicalization and recruitment efforts grow stronger. For all their bluster about keeping America safe, Republicans in the U.S. are functionally adding neon lights to the target on our back while bolstering the number of people aiming at it.
President Obama agrees, and is having none of the GOP’s nonsense. Taking Republicans to task during a press conference, he said:
When candidates say, we wouldn’t admit three-year-old orphans — that’s political posturing. When individuals say that we should have a religious test and that only Christians — proven Christians — should be admitted — that’s offensive and contrary to American values.
I cannot think of a more potent recruitment tool for ISIL than some of the rhetoric that’s been coming out of here during the course of this debate. ISIL seeks to exploit the idea that there is a war between Islam and the West, and when you start seeing individuals in positions of responsibility, suggesting that Christians are more worthy of protection than Muslims are in a war-torn land, that feeds the ISIL narrative. It’s counterproductive, and it needs to stop.
The adults in the room can comprehend that. Unfortunately, the Republican party seems to be fresh out of adult leadership, not to mention basic human compassion — a deficit for which we may all pay the price.