Xenophobic Response to Paris Attacks is Misguided

by Brook Gardner-Durbin

Like much of the world, I watched with horror as the attacks in Paris unfolded on Friday, Nov. 13. Like many on campus, I knew fellow students studying in France and had friends in Paris. The initial attacks, consisting of coordinated suicide bombings, mass shootings and hostage taking, left at least 136 dead and 352 injured.

After the initial shock and confusion, the world responded. Famous monuments around the globe were lit in the blue, white and red of France’s flag as a show of solidarity and numerous world leaders offered their sympathies and support.

Since the initial outpouring of support, however, another response has surfaced, equally as misguided as the first response was touching. A disturbingly large number of Americans have responded to the attacks with xenophobia and Islamophobia, calling on President Obama to stop accepting Syrian refugees.

While these people mean well and are acting in good faith for what they believe is the greatest good of the country, there is little doubt that they are mistaken. The decision to harbor refugees or turn them away is not simple, but it is not connected to the Paris attacks.

At the time of publication, the majority of those responsible for the atrocities in Paris have been identified. They were nearly unanimously European nationals and do not appear to be connected to the Syrian refugees. Despite what some may say out of ignorance or desire for political gain, the Wall Street Journal says that, “numerous studies going back more than a century have shown that immigrants — regardless of nationality or legal status — are less likely than the native population to commit violent crimes or to be incarcerated.”

The U.S. has already allowed more than 2,000 Syrian refugees, fleeing their country’s civil war, safe haven within its borders. Another 10,000 are scheduled to be brought in over the coming year. Despite the presence of thousands of refugees from Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East, however, The Atlantic recently reported that “most lethal political violence since Sept. 11 has come in the form of attacks by white supremacists, anti-government extremists, and the like,” by nearly a two-to-one ratio. Dylann Roof, the blond-haired white supremacist who confessed to attacking an African-American church and shooting nine, is a more accurate picture of terrorism in the U.S. than anyone from outside its borders.

There are reasonable justifications to not want additional Syrian refugees within the US. The belief that they will pose a credible threat to American safety, however, is simply without merit. All current evidence points to the opposite, and we as a nation would do well to remember that.

Responding to the attacks in Paris with calls to shut down mosques or close our borders, as some politicians have done, or otherwise attacking the Muslim population, plays into ISIS’s hands. It makes the United States seem uncaring towards those in need and alienates potential Muslim allies in our fight against ISIS.

Do not vote for fear-mongers who would promise safety in return for the civil liberties of some, as rights in the U.S. are supposed to be “inalienable.” Do not treat any students on campus from abroad any differently than you would have before Friday’s attacks, as they are almost certainly as horrified as anyone else at MSU. Instead, remember a sense of compassion for those who have fled from war and have nowhere to return to. Remember The Statue of Liberty stands on our eastern border, greeting arrivals with the words:

“Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”