Editorials

Too simple to turn Syrian refugees into scapegoats

Four million people fled Syria, and nearly 40 percent are children 11 and younger according to United Nations registrations. Only 22 percent are males 18 and older. Here, migrants and refugees on Thursday walk towards the Macedonian border with Serbia.
Four million people fled Syria, and nearly 40 percent are children 11 and younger according to United Nations registrations. Only 22 percent are males 18 and older. Here, migrants and refugees on Thursday walk towards the Macedonian border with Serbia. AP

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner was an early arrival to the group wanting to close the gates on Syrian refugees. As more folks came to the party, it was disappointing to see it fall along party lines.

A few Democrats were in the mix, but for the most part it was Republican governors and Republican congressmen lined up to question Pres. Obama and Homeland Security’s ability to screen Syrian refugees and protect the U.S. from a Paris-style attack or another 9/11 — all because a fake Syrian passport was found after the Paris stadium attack. They may have a point, but allowing the issue to smack of our national pastime of political tag is offensive and distracting. Intelligence failures and successes have had little to do with our presidents’ parties.

Judging a group of people based on their nationality is wrong. The leader of the Paris attacks was from Belgium, but no one is talking about scrutinizing those who smell of chocolate or have police dog hair on them.

Moreover, the United Nations is reporting that of the 4 million Syrian refugees nearly 40 percent are children 11 and younger. At least one presidential contender asserted the majority were prime jihadist-aged young males, but the count shows just 22 percent are males 18 and older.

As local universities were mourning the Paris attacks, they noted there are students from 40 nations at Lindenwood University-Belleville and from more than 50 nations at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. Are they a foreign threat to be isolated, or potential ambassadors after living among us?

Watching for threats while maintaining our open society is a matter of providing the professionals with the right tools and taking personal responsibility for sounding alarms when we see something amiss. Being wise enough to balance personal freedoms and police powers is one of the things that separates us from those who twist their faith into justification to murder innocents. Being vigilant and seeking justice on behalf of the innocents does not extend to being vigilantes.

Let’s not forget that our foundation as humans remains the Golden Rule and the many ways we’ve chosen to restate it.

Lindenwood University-Belleville President Brett Barger said it this way: “You can’t drive out hate with hate. You can only drive out hate with love.”

And in the Quran: “Let not a group’s hostility to you cause you to deviate from justice. Be just, for it is closer to piety.”

And in the Bible: “Hear the causes between your brethren, and judge righteously between every man and his brother, and the stranger that is with him.”

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