Last week I had a Facebook friend request from someone I didn’t know but who looked legitimate. The profile was male – scammers usually come after men with female profiles. There was the usual mixture of family and current events posts that looked organic, rather than thrown together to create a fake profile. The political posts were on the conservative side, but that’s OK – I don’t live in a bubble and if you’ll listen to me, I’ll listen to you.
But as I scrolled down, I started seeing multiple posts about Muslims and especially about Muslim immigrants. The one that grabbed my attention was a picture of refugees with the caption “Muslim countries won’t take them because they’re already Muslim. They aren’t immigrants, they’re invaders.”
Request deleted. You can take your anti-Muslim garbage somewhere else – I don’t want it in my feed.
If you can look at refugees and see “Muslims” and not human beings in great need, there is something wrong with your conscience. Have you seen the pictures from Syria? Have you read the reports? Have you heard the first-hand accounts of people fleeing these war zones?
What would you do if you were in that situation? You’d do what these people are doing – you’d evacuate or you’d die.
It amazes me that some people will rant about Daesh and the horrors of their laws and how they enforce them (which is a worthy rant – I’ve done it myself) and at the same time show zero compassion for people trying to get away from these same evil terrorists.
Muslim countries have taken in most of the refugees. When I googled this question, I came up with this CNN article from late 2015 showing how Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan have taken in 3.7 million of the 4.1 million (at the time) Syrian refugees. Right below it in the search results was a headline from Breitbart claiming “Muslim countries refuse to take a single Syrian refugee.” As you might imagine, the Breitbart headline is false – the text of their story explains that some Muslim countries have refused to accept Syrian refugees.
Like many other religions, Islam places a high value on hospitality, and leaders of rich Muslim countries like Saudi Arabia will answer to Allah (as a polytheist, I see Allah as one God among many) for their failure to care for their Muslim brothers and sisters. But their failure to fulfill their religious obligations does not absolve us of our human obligations to help those in great need.
Refugees want to go where they have a chance to build a new life. Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan simply do not have the resources to settle this many refugees. Europe and North America do. Beyond that, having lived with the conflict and instability in the Middle East for many years, most refugees are looking for some place where they’re reasonably sure they won’t have to evacuate again in a few years.
Direct your anger at those who caused this crisis, not their victims.
Islam is not a monolithic religion. Sunnis and Shias believe different things, and both are different from Sufis. Islam as it’s actually lived and practiced in Egypt is different from how it’s lived and practiced in Malaysia, and both are very different from how it’s lived and practiced in Saudi Arabia. Al Qaeda, Daesh, and the government of Saudi Arabia are no more definitive of Islam than the Westboro Baptist Church is representative of Christianity.
There are some Christians who want to force everyone to live exactly as the Bible says – I’m trying to keep them out of our government. Fundamentalist Christians are a far greater threat to freedom in United States than any Muslims.
What do you want American Islam to be? There are about 3.3 million Muslims in the United States – about 1% of the overall population. The Pew Research Center projects that ratio to double over the next 30 years, but even then Muslims will still be a tiny minority.
Left to their own devices, immigrants from places like Syria, Iraq, and Sudan will follow the same pattern as earlier immigrants from Germany, Italy, and China. The first generation will struggle to assimilate. The second generation will carry a dual identity. The third generation will speak only English and will be thoroughly American.
Most will keep their Islamic religion, as immigrants from other countries have kept theirs. But just as Islam in Bosnia and Herzegovina is very different from Islam in Saudi Arabia, Islam in American will be its own thing as well.
If Muslim immigrants are welcomed and allowed to be a part of America, their version of Islam will look very American. But if they’re constantly harassed, told to “prove your loyalty” and made to feel like they don’t belong, their Islam will be resentful and will be dominated by Islam from places that do not share our values.
The Bible is right about one thing: you reap what you sow.
I support religious freedom for all. I’m a polytheist who worships many Gods, practices magic, and loves wine. I’m under no illusion as to what would happen to me if I wandered into a region controlled by Daesh. They are evil – an accusation I do not throw around lightly – and they must be destroyed. Further, the conditions that allowed them to arise must be addressed or something just as bad will take their place, but that’s another rant for another time.
But I enjoyed visiting Turkey – a Muslim country – in 2012. My Pagan and polytheist friend Cynthia lived in Egypt for four years. Read some of her first-hand experiences of living in a Muslim country. I work with Muslims in my paying job – some of them are my friends. The idea that all Muslims are terrorists or that refugees are invaders is patently false and insulting to those of us who have gotten to know real live people who practice the religion of Islam.
So, my would-be Facebook friend, if you want to rant against Daesh, Al Qaeda, and the Saudis, I’m right there with you. If you want to screen Syrian refugees before bringing them to America – something the Obama administration started – I won’t object. My heart tells me all people should have complete freedom of movement, but my head tells me most people in most countries will never accept open borders.
But if you want to ignore the facts about the diversity of Islam, if you want to judge 1.6 billion people by the actions of the worst few thousand, and if you have no compassion for refugees fleeing war and oppression, you can take your anti-Muslim garbage somewhere else.