Admitting Syrian refugees into the United States presents two concerns — one over security, and one over identity. The first is urgent and concrete, and failure will be measured in bodies; the second is long-term and, though more difficult to assess, no less consequential. If we want to aid the persecuted, without granting sanctuary to people who threaten our security and who are in tension with American ways, putting Syrian Christians and certain persecuted religious minorities, such as Yazidis, at the front of the refugee line is an obvious, common-sense proposal.
Predictably, it has not been treated as such. When Republican candidates Ted Cruz and Jeb Bush made the suggestion recently, they were roundly excoriated, the president of the United States going so far as to call any such proposal “shameful,” and that we ought “not to feed that dark impulse inside of us.” President Obama has since suggested: “When you start seeing individuals in position of responsibility suggesting Christians are more worthy of protection than Muslims are in a war-torn land — that feeds the ISIL narrative.”
The president’s fondness for strawmen is among his better-known traits. But the reduction of Cruz’s and Bush’s proposal, whatever one may think of it, to “xenophobia” is an insult not only to them, but to millions of Americans who espy legitimate concerns in our refugee-resettlement program. After all, Cruz’s statement in South Carolina over the weekend, “There is no meaningful risk of [Syrian] Christians committing acts of terror,” is, of course, correct. There is no significant minority of Syrian Christians engaged in slaughtering Yazidis in the Syrian hinterlands, or in murdering civilians in French cafés. Responsible for those abominations is an organization that, however much it might pervert or distort doctrine, finds its inspiration in a different religious tradition, Islam.
Furthermore, we know that the Islamic State is exploiting the relatively free movement of refugees and migrants to insinuate itself into Western countries. On Wednesday, Turkey detained eight persons it believes are Islamic State fighters posing as refugees at the Istanbul airport. A few hours later, Honduran authorities arrested five Syrian men using fake Greek passports to travel, officials believe, to the United States. A Turkish refugee-smuggler told the U.K. Express that he knowingly smuggled ten Islamic State fighters into Europe. And it is now being reported that eight Syrians were detained this week trying to cross the U.S.–Mexico border.
#share#We know, too, that the sympathies of Syrian Muslims are mixed. An Arab Opinion Index poll of 900 Syrian refugees found that one in eight hold a “to some extent”-positive view of the Islamic State; another 4 percent said that they did not know or refused to answer.
And, finally, we know that Christians are being specially persecuted by the Islamic State. We cannot underestimate the deplorable conditions in which many Syrian Muslims find themselves, but unlike most Muslims, who are being conquered, Christians are being out-and-out exterminated, as a matter of Islamic State policy. Furthermore, Syrian Christians are loath to go to U.N. refugee camps, where they are regularly attacked by Muslim gangs, and for the same reason have shied away from traveling along the Muslim-dominated refugee routes toward Europe.
#related#To this, one can add the well-documented problem of Muslim assimilation. Consider, for example, the Somali population in Minnesota’s Twin Cities, from which more than 60 young Somali men and women have left to join up with Islamic terrorist organizations, including the Islamic State, in the Middle East and Africa in recent years. Moreover, there are local frictions — Somali cashiers at Target stores have refused to check out pork products; Somali cab drivers at the Minneapolis–St. Paul International Airport have refused to transport passengers with dogs or with alcohol — that cannot be chalked up to inadequate attention from federal resettlement authorities. And, as my colleague Andy McCarthy describes, problems are vastly worse in Europe.
Yet anyone who suggests that the above are legitimate causes for concern can only be, per the president’s statements, a bigot. Thus on an issue of pressing importance — of national security, and long-term cultural stability — the president has made impossible a reasonable, good-faith debate. It turns out that Obama is not a Marxist, but a Groucho Marxist, oozing at his detractors: “Who you gonna believe — me, or your lying eyes?”
— Ian Tuttle is a National Review Institute Buckley Fellow in Political Journalism.