MAI Urges Governor Pence to Reconsider Recent Syrian Refugee Decision

MAI Urges Governor Pence to Reconsider Recent Decision
by Hafsa Nalim
On November 16, Governor Pence announced that he is suspending the resettlement of refugees from Syria in the state of Indiana until “proper security measures” can be assured, in light of the recent tragic attacks in Paris, at the hands of the so-called Islamic State.

We at the Muslim Alliance of Indiana express our disappointment and shame at Governor Pence’s decision to turn away families that have been terrorized and forced from their homes. Over 12 million Syrians have been forced to flee their homes in the recent conflict; the majority of the refugees that would be accepted into the United States are women and children, orphans, victims of torture, the elderly, the disabled—the most vulnerable members of society.

Pence’s position is largely redundant. All refugees, including those from Syria, already go through a more extensive screening than any other type of immigrant or tourist, undergoing multiple investigations of their biographies and family history, medical screenings, fingerprinting, and lengthy interviews, a vetting process that involves multiple government agencies and can take upwards of three years.

Furthermore, multiple legal sources have shown that Governor Pence has no legal authority to prevent the arrival of Syrian refugees who have been admitted into the United States. President Obama has committed to receiving 85,000 refugees (10,000 from Syria) in the coming year. In comparison, Germany expects to receive 1.5 million refugees in the next year, and French president François Hollande recently announced that despite the Paris attacks, France will receive 30,000 refugees over the next two years, an act of compassion and resilience that should be admired.

We must recognize that the purpose of the recent terrorist attacks, in Paris and Beirut and across the world, was to make us all afraid—to make Americans afraid of their Muslim neighbors and Muslims afraid of the reaction of the West. The call to slam the door on Syrian refugees sends a message to Americans and the rest of the world that they are somehow a threat, when in reality, Muslims make up the majority of those murdered by ISIS.

The so-called Islamic State thrives on the notion that there is some great war between the West and Islam. But the Muslim Alliance of Indiana is living proof of the deeply connected values that Muslims and Americans share—justice, compassion, and moral accountability. We work to provide opportunities for the poor, to provide legal aid to the disenfranchised, to increase the channels of communication between diverse communities, to engage with American civic discourse. We hope that Indiana will stand by these shared values and reject the antagonistic narrative, which only benefits those whose objective is hatred.

Bigotry and fear are not the values for which Hoosiers stand. As Governor Pence himself stated in his announcement, “Indiana has a long tradition of opening our arms and homes to refugees from around the world.” It is a sad day for our state when we turn our backs on that tradition. MAI urges the Governor to reconsider his position, to not give in to fear and Islamophobia, and to embrace the values of resilience, inclusiveness, and compassion that have made this state and nation strong.

 

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