InFocus: Students speak about Islam, Syrian refugees

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An aerial view shows the Zaatari refugee camp, near the Jordanian city of Mafraq July 18, 2013. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry spent about 40 minutes with half a dozen refugees who vented their frustration at the international community's failure to end Syria's more than two-year-old civil war, while visiting the camp that holds roughly 115,000 Syrian refugees in Jordan about 12 km (eight miles) from the Syrian border. REUTERS/Mandel Ngan/Pool (JORDAN - Tags: POLITICS SOCIETY IMMIGRATION TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY) - RTX11QHF

By Pete Schulte

Editor-in-Chief

pschult6@jccc.edu

Following attacks in Paris, the Syrian civil war and the fate of Syrian refugees has been the topic of discussion for much of the country. Students have been no exception, many of them discussing the implications of taking in Syrian refugees, the reactions of major political figures in the country and what action the United States should take regarding the Syrian civil war.

With over half of the country’s governors, including Kansas governor Sam Brownback, stating that due to safety risks, they’d be unwilling to accept Syrian refugees into the country, leaders in two student groups on campus share the opinion that refugees should be allowed into the United States.

Residents wait to receive food aid distributed by the U.N. Relief and Works Agency at the besieged al-Yarmouk camp, south of Damascus on Jan. 31, 2014. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/UNRWA/HANDOUT via Reuters
Residents wait to receive food aid distributed by the U.N. Relief and Works Agency at the besieged al-Yarmouk camp, south of Damascus on Jan. 31, 2014. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/UNRWA/HANDOUT via Reuters

“I support [President Obama’s] decision to allow refugees into the country. In fact, we probably ought to let more in,” Heather Meyer, president of the College Democrats club, said. “I think one of the things people get really confused about is the process of admitting individuals as refugees and think that is where a lot of the pushback comes from. Maybe people aren’t as educated about the [vetting] process and so they’re listening to a lot of talking heads and governors go on about how scary it’s going to be and how we’ll be letting terrorists into the country, when in all reality, that’s not at all what’s going to be occurring.”

Events coordinator for the Muslim Students Association (MSA) and former U.S. soldier Isaac Kaba echoed Meyer’s thoughts on refugees, and thinks the United States should actually put troops on the ground in Syria to counter the threat of ISIS.

“I don’t think we should do drone [strikes] because innocent people might die with that. We should put soldiers on the ground to try and stop ISIS completely,” Kaba said. “As far as refugees, I think we should make sure exactly who is coming into the country. We [should] know everything about them: their family, their history, what they’ve done, what they’re going to do here. I think we should question them to the point where we know them thoroughly and then let them in … For my opinion, it’d be nice if the president lets refugees in, but then make sure he does a lot of security clearance before he does that.”

State governors aren’t the only vocal people regarding the opposition of Syrian refugees, however. GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump has openly stated his belief that allowing Syrian refugees into the country would be like allowing a “Trojan horse” into the United States and has even gone as far to say the United States should consider monitoring mosques, refugees and potentially even Muslims themselves.

“I think [monitoring people] goes against everything that this country stands for. We are not a police state … It’s kind of scary to me. First it’s mosques and Muslims, but then what’s next? It’s very Orwellian and I don’t like it and I think it stinks … I’m very shocked that so many people are on board with this and support that kind of ideology,” Meyer said. “These are people. These are refugees. They’re fleeing a war zone. The photos that you see of all these children and families and the suffering that they’re going through, we can see how important this is.”

Fellow GOP presidential candidate Ted Cruz has suggested we should only accept Christian refugees into the country, saying Muslim refugees pose a potential risk to the country. However, Kaba thinks it’s important to realize Islam is inherently a peaceful religion and that the ideals of ISIS do not represent the religion as a whole.

“Not only are [ISIS] not Muslims, I think they just call themselves Muslims, but they’re really not Muslims. Just because someone dresses up and has a beard and says ‘Allahu akbar’ doesn’t necessarily make them Muslim, you know?” Kaba said. “I think what [people] need to do is instead of looking at all Muslim communities the same, they just need to stop that group, period … Once that happens, they’ll know. A real, good Muslim would not even hurt a fly.”

Kaba’s colleague at the MSA, Rahif Turkmani, whose family is originally from Damascus, Syria, is the treasurer for the MSA and says the teachings of the Quran do not reflect what ISIS represents and that people are getting better at acknowledging this.  

“It’s frustrating that people tend to group all Muslims together and paint them with a broad brush, that all of them have the same beliefs as ISIS, but I believe some of the media is doing a decent job of denouncing that ISIS is not following the practice of Islam,” Turkmani said. “Clearly written in [the Quran] and through the sayings of the prophet Muhammad, ‘Killing another man is like killing all of humanity.’ He did not say killing another Muslim, killing another Christian. He just said killing another man, regardless of faith or any different attribute of him. It’s not up to us to take another man’s life. That’s the way people should look at Muslims and that’s what we’re taught. That’s the true belief of fundamentalists.”

Editor’s note: We reached out to the College Progressives and College Republicans as well, but as of press time, both groups were unavailable.

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