I have long been a proponent of counter-terrorism and counter-radicalization and have volunteered proudly in the space, often encountering youth who have been radicalized with promises of Paradise, and working to pull them back to Earth ― and to honoring our Constitution.
In this light, I reviewed our president’s executive order on the immigration of foreign nationals, released this week. There are a minority of alterations to our current policy that are perhaps vital for our security and to keeping us alert in a stunningly unpredictable era of war, terrorism, and strife. Yet two striking clauses on the religion of the “refugee” being a minority religion in their home country unequivocally make one point clear: “Christians yes, Muslims no.” And there is so much more that must raise alarm for anyone who holds our American values first in their beliefs on the intended direction of our nation.
Just weeks ago, many still believed the president to be most often speaking with hot air. In too many cases, he now seems to have meant what he declared. While this in a rational sense would be exceptional for a leader, in this case, may God help us through what is to come next.
Each of us as Americans are entitled to our own opinions. Yet we are not entitled to our own set of baseless facts. And when it comes to counter-terrorism, the facts delivered by prominent intelligence officials remain clear. More than 50 percent of terror-related cases that involve a Muslim perpetrator are reported by Muslims themselves. Refugees and immigrants from all countries ― Muslim-majority nations included ― are among the most proud and productive of new Americans. Their crime rates, compared to most, are exceedingly low. And we are generally good as a nation at finding the bad ones and delivering them to justice ― without en masse policies that breed suspicion of the innocent rest.
Terror groups use this thinking and policy to recruit, and we are flatly giving them fire for their catastrophic views
Another fact: overblown fear breeds irrational decision-making. This holds today for policies on ethnic groups such as Latinos, and for faith-based groups such as Muslims. My grandparents, who arrived in the United States nearly 50 years ago as proud immigrants, lamented this week that they would have never imagined that both rhetoric and action would come to this under our Constitution ― knowing our already tumultuous history of discrimination, learning, and progress ― here in the greatest nation on Earth. That the narrative of exclusion, the about face from equal justice, and the breakdown of our most cherished values as pushed by terror groups would become increasingly victorious not only in perception, but in policy. That hero and terrorist alike would be poured into the same cast iron of suspicion.
What is most alarming ― what deepens my own fear ― is that as an American Muslim who engages youth of all ages, I am incessantly imploring Muslim youth to firmly understand that they indeed live under an exceptional Constitution, with a government ― Democrat or Republican ― that will never in policy discount the American-ness of the traditions that they hold dear, and that have proven themselves compatible with our greater society and with loyalty to our Constitution for generations. It only becomes increasingly difficult to establish this case in the ears of our youth when demagoguery allows for discriminatory policy, that would perhaps have gone even further had the Constitution not more explicitly banned it.
President Trump’s team is clearly ignorant of the fact that this manner of broad-brush discrimination in rhetoric and policy ― this kind of irrational fear ― factually feeds into the feeling of isolation and radicalization among youth that are the most vulnerable. Keeping our nation safe requires vetting and vigilance ― but also pragmatism and inclusion against the perceived odds ― not a trampling of our golden door in favor of steel walls.
Terror groups use this thinking and policy to recruit, and we are flatly giving them fire for their catastrophic views. It is incumbent upon us to mobilize and to speak out, to fill in the growing cracks in our foundation, and to establish effective policies that keep our nation safe ― while unapologetically upholding the value of American inclusion in the face of terror, and the Constitution that continues to make our nation stand as a beacon above the rest.