Aren’t we all Americans? Do we not aspire to become that “One Nation under God, with liberty and justice for all?” Is it not time to put aside blurred lines, forgive poorly chosen words, halt the media’s penchant for misinterpretation, and reassure each other? Is it not time we spoke truth to each other, turned down the volume, became dispassionate, and got our facts right?
Let’s set the record straight. I am sure that most political leaders, on both sides of the aisle, know these facts, but it seems worth repeating them. They should calm fears, silence agenda-driven critics, and explain why the Trump administration has a big task ahead – one that deserves our support, not more emotion stirring. Facts make clear that Muslim Americans have nothing to fear. In fact, they may be invaluable for turning down riven emotions.
First, any Muslim born or naturalized an American citizen – is an American. Countless Muslim American families live peacefully among Christians and Jews, Buddhists and agnostics across America. They are law abiding Americans, adherents to our secular laws and Constitution, upwardly mobile taxpayers, proud to serve in the military, sing the National Anthem, salute the American flag, and put their kids in Boy Scouts. They are entitled to peace of heart. Like citizens Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox Christian and Jewish, Buddhist and atheist, they are – Americans first.
Second, law abiding immigrant Muslims on a work or education visa, are here legally. They are here by invitation of an American profession or university, from information technology wizards to Harvard students. Like those of other faiths, they are residents and neighbors. While here, they historically abide by America’s laws. Like other immigrants who conform to America’s laws, they have nothing to fear.
Third, law abiding Muslims visiting those two groups, courtesy of the visa waiver process, also have nothing to fear. The visa waiver program allows citizens of 38 approved countries to visit America without a visa, unless they are also a dual citizen of Iraq, Iran, Syria or Sudan. In that case, they must go through the visa process. That is the law. The Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Prevention Act of 2015 passed the US House by 407 to 19 – an overwhelmingly bipartisan decision, underscoring fairness.
Note that, under this law, even those otherwise entitled to come without a visa, must go through hoops if they have travelled to Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria or Yemen after March 1, 2015. That goes for all Muslims – as well as all Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Yazidi, Jains, Shinto, Sikhs, Taoists, Zoroastrians, Confucians, and – well – the amiable and confused.
So, visas are required for citizens of most countries, to include Muslim countries, such as Indonesia, Malaysia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Jordan. Visas are also required for citizens of chiefly Christian nations, such as Russia, Mexico, Poland, Colombia, Serbia, and Armenia. This is how we protect American sovereignty and security – no racism, no unfairness, no apologies.
To be clear, despite continuing repetition of campaign rhetoric rightly aimed at preventing Islamic terrorism and improved refugee vetting, Muslims in America who act lawfully should not be encouraged to fear their rights.
Which brings us to another hard reality. Today, some Muslim countries are being torn apart by radical, religiously-motivated terrorism. The disease afflicting these countries, and their tormented populations, is positively medieval in its cruelty. Purveyors of this continuing cruelty are overwhelmingly, if not entirely, professed Muslims. They are radical Islamic terrorists, straight up. They are a clear national security risk to the United States and the West.
Not to identify radical Islamic terrorists as “radical Islamic terrorists” is to lump all Muslims into one category and infer that all are terrorists, which is obviously unfair and untrue. Ironically and sadly, the vast majority of those being terrorized by these radical Islamic terrorists – are Muslim.
Obviously, this does not make all Muslims terrorists any more than all Serbs are guilty of crimes against Albanian Muslims, or all Turks are guilty of crimes against Kurds, all Hutu are complicit in genocide against Tutsi, or all Russians were complicit with the Soviets. Quite the reverse, it makes the fortune of victimized Muslims, those who once lived peacefully side by side with Christians, doubly sorry. Once pluralists in practice, in Iraq and Syria, they are now victims.
So, what does that entitle America to do, in our defense? Quite a lot, actually. Against the historical backdrop and by law, we have a right to make immigration manageable and safe – in fact, we have an obligation to do so. We have a right to slow down the refugee process, and if needed, halt the influx of Syrian refugees, most of whom are entering from refugee camps that are war-torn, criminal and rife with discontent.
Last year, Germany struggled to manage enormous inflows of refugees from Islamic terrorism. In the process, more than 200,000 crimes were reportedly committed by “Syrian refugees” in that country. The “normal” vetting process did not work. Today, Germany struggles with “hundreds of leads on terrorists” among their resident Syrian refugee population.
So, to be clear, fear of un-vetted Syrian refugees, and criminal or Islamic terrorist infiltration, is not irrational. The need for a methodical approach is not theoretical. Radical Islamic terrorism is real and presents a palpable threat to public safety, public order and peace we enjoy in the United States.
However, unlike sensible precautions, extra hyperbole is unnecessary and unwarranted. That leads to words, and how we use them – all of us. Muslim Americans are always Americans, with all privileges of citizenship. They should feel safe in America. They have nothing to fear, should be reminded of that, and may become an invaluable educational force for American patriotism within the wider Muslim culture.
By contrast, those of any stripe, by any stretch, who contemplate doing harm to Americans, engaging in criminal acts or planning acts of terrorism on American soil – wherever they are – have much to fear. Radical Islamic terrorists can expect American leaders to be unrepentant and unrelenting in their pursuit.
Here is the epiphany. We need to end this recurring cycle of accusatory rhetoric – one that was created by ignoring and not openly acknowledging the obvious, real and present danger of “Radical Islamic Terrorism.” There are certainly other dangers, but this is one. The threat of terrorism led to imprecise shorthand, words that must now be parsed, better defined, walked back, and used with care. But the bar should be raised when admitting refugees from troubled Islamic countries, and the bar-raising should be understood as a means for protecting all Americans, nothing more. Born or naturalized Americans, working or studying on a proper visa and abiding by American laws, whether Muslim, Mandarin, or Martian, should understand that they have nothing to fear.
Americans are a fair and generous people. This is why it is so distressing to see mainstream media outlets still stoking unfounded fears, fears they should know have zero basis in fact. Both Donald Trump and Mike Pence, by words plainly spoken after a heated election, have focused on assuring fairness for Americans of all creeds and colors, communities and cultures, along with peace, unity, growth and security. No one of good heart, with genuine faith in our Constitution, should believe that these two leaders want anything else. So let’s put down the campaign. Let’s pick up the promise of “One Nation under God, with liberty and Justice for all.” Looking forward, it is time to aspire again, together.