While as many as 30 governors around the country say they oppose hosting Syrian refugees in the wake of the Paris attacks, Gov. Jay Inslee said Washington state will do no such thing.
“Washington will continue to be a state that welcomes those seeking refuge from persecution, regardless of where they come from or the religion they practice,” Inslee said in a statement Monday.
That’s not to mention that governors actually don’t have the authority to deny refugees, as stated in the Refugee Act of 1980. But that hasn’t stopped this issue from gaining lots of media coverage (Inslee was interviewed on NPR’s Morning Edition) and traction among Seattle Times readers. We’ve received around a dozen letters from readers on the issue, and a select number of responses are published below.
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Why is all of Islam being blamed?
In the wake of recent tragic events in Paris, Beirut and Afghanistan my heart is broken. As an Afghan-American Muslim who came to the U.S. as a refugee after the Russian invasion in 1980, I am saddened to see the nation that sheltered and embraced my family and me become divided. Over the last few days, governors of various states have declared that they would not be accepting any refugees, particularly Syrian. Don’t they realize that the refugees are fleeing from the same group of people who are terrorizing the world under the cloak of Islam?
Islam is not to blame in this situation, and making blanket characterizations of an entire religious tradition and block of humanity as being evil is uneducated and inappropriate. These forms of violence have no context in any religion, let alone the religion of my faith. Instead of making this an us-versus-them situation, I’d like to think that we have become more evolved over the last 50 years and that when we see a group of people suffering, we would extend a hand to help them, not take it away — this is one of the moral ethics of what our country was founded on.
When the KKK or any extremist Christian group commits an atrocious act on this homeland, I don’t blame all Christians for the actions of a few. So why is it that when a fanatical Muslim group commits an awful act, the whole religion is blamed? This constant blaming and finger-pointing has to end. Unless we can come together and have a better understanding of each other, then the Islamic State will win.
The key point to realize is that it’s not Islam that needs to reform. What needs to change is the toxic political and social conditions present in the western and Muslim worlds that lead to alienation and anger in a subset of disenfranchised young men, which in turn produce these violent outcomes. This nation was built on immigrants of all walks of life coming here to build a new life. What makes this nation great is that we have been working together regardless of our backgrounds to be a successful and strong country.
The world has been hemorrhaging for a while now and we are able to see it coming closer to our front doorstep. Now is the time for unity not division.
Shinkai Hakim, Tacoma
Progressives are too compassionate
U.S. Rep. Jay Rodne, R-Snoqualmie, is right. Gov. Jay Inslee’s rush to take in Syrians who might be refugees, but could just as easily be suicide bombers (and, come to think of it, who might not even be Syrian), is indeed “utterly irresponsible.” But it’s also much worse than that. It’s emblematic of the Democratic party’s slide into what I call “toxic compassion syndrome.” Others call it “pathological altruism.”
Toxic compassion syndrome is characterized by unconditional love for your theoretical neighbor and a complete disregard, and sometimes even contempt, for your actual physical neighbor. It also involves profound denial of the consequences of your actions, such as your next-door neighbor getting blown up at a soccer game. Progressives correctly point out that corporations often internalize their profits and externalize their costs, but they don’t realize that they do the same thing with their self-harming do-goodery.
Progressives get the smug moral superiority, and we, their neighbors, suffer the costs.
Maggie Willson, Shoreline
Learn from the mistakes of WWII internment
Considering the threats of governors across the United States to block the settlement of Syrian refugees, Gov. Jay Inslee’s principled stand is a breath of fresh air. My mother’s family was interned during WWII and her grandfather separated from his family and imprisoned for the crime of being a community leader. The family did not find out what happened to him until the end of the internment.
When I asked my grandmother how America could do such a thing to loyal citizens and immigrants, she told me, “Sometimes we react so strongly to our fears that we hurt ourselves.” Just as FBI findings negated the possibility of a Japanese American threat prior to the internment, the Homeland Security Department has assured us that Syrian refugees face the highest level of security screening of anybody entering the country.
I can only hope that unreasoning fear will not lead us to once again hurt ourselves by forsaking the promise made to those who yearn to breathe free, inscribed inside the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty.
Amy Nielsen, Seattle
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Wait time is long for refugees, resettlement in the U.S. is not a means to terrorist acts
In 1939, 61 percent of Americans surveyed said the United States should not accept 10,000 largely Jewish refugee children from Europe. Is that something people would still agree with today?
If not, we need to stop advocating reactionary, fear-based policies. The risk of admitting refugees is not zero, but it is also not so high as to be unmanageable. Gaining admission to the U.S. as an official refugee takes 18 to 24 months. No refugees admitted since 9/11 have committed acts of terrorism.
If the Islamic State really wants to attack targets within the United States, are they really going to queue up waiting for two years to obtain official status? Or is it more likely they would simply send people as “tourists” using the legitimate passports of their many Western recruits? The attackers in Paris were almost all (and perhaps even exclusively all) French and Belgian. Shall we keep all of those nationalities out of our country too?
Xenophobia is part of the problem, not a solution. We should expect more from our leaders than the promotion of fear.
Tara Van Niman, Redmond
Saudis need to be part of the solution
“Don’t just stand there — do something stupid” summarizes what I am hearing, especially from conservatives. How about doing something smart instead?
We need to focus on Saudi Arabia for two reasons. The Saudis style themselves champions and protectors of Sunni Muslims. They need to match actions with rhetoric by assembling and leading a coalition of Arab boots on the ground to “take and hold” the areas currently controlled by the Islamic State. As fellow Arabs, Muslims and Sunnis, they actually would be greeted as liberators. Recent history tells us that American or European soldiers would instead be seen as invaders. That’s the short term.
In the longer term, the Saudis need to stop their generation’s long support of the radical Wahhabi sect that provides legitimacy and political cover for jihadi activities. That would close the spigot on the next generation of radicals.
In the short run, we should be putting pressure on the Saudis to take the steps outlined above. With oil prices down, the Saudis are now weaker than ever. In the long term, we need to move away from the oil that allows the Saudis to blackmail us into supporting them. And that means renewables and other non-fossil fuel energy alternatives.
Patrick J. Russell, Seattle
Let the president host refugees at the White House
I am beyond angry when the president of the United States says I am non-American because I don’t believe in his political agenda of bringing refugees from Syria into the United States. As a veteran I am incensed for such a comment from a man that never served in the military.
I would welcome them if the following would be done.
Our president, governor, the editor of your paper, and anyone else that wants them to immigrate would open their home to feed, clothe, educate and pay for health care and take responsibility that they adhere to the laws of our nation.
You know that will never happen.
Denny Wagenman, Renton