Letter: Rejecting refugees only benefits ISIS

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Rejecting refugees only benefits ISIS

To the editor:

Governor Charlie Baker said he opposes resettling Syrian refugees because the "security of the people of the commonwealth of Massachusetts is my highest priority." His reasoning suffers from a fatal flaw: combatting terrorism and welcoming refugees are mutually reinforcing aims.

ISIS' online messaging strategy explicitly encourages "good Muslims" to travel to Iraq and Syria and wage jihad against its local enemies. Fighters already mired in the conflict have little reason to give up this principal cause and leave the so-called caliphate. Those fleeing persecution in Syria have no reason to support violent extremism against the country providing them refuge. Rather, research shows that the primary risk of refugees and other migrants being radicalized to favor a terrorist cause occurs when migrant populations are not adequately welcomed and integrated into their new host communities. American politicians opposed to accepting bona fide refugees are doing just that.

The precedent that these politicians set by barring deserving refugees from receiving sanctuary in our borders feeds directly into ISIS recruiters' handbook. American diplomats stress that when disaffected populations in the Middle East view the United States as not doing enough to advance peace in the region (particularly vis-à-vis the Israeli-Palestinian peace process), they're more likely to feel disillusioned about the motives underlying America's presence in the region.

The absence of the United States' moral leadership, or worse, the appearance that the U.S. is flouting its binding international human rights obligations, leads many to question the value of the pluralistic and participatory societal model that the U.S. champions. Terrorists prey on this disillusionment, radicalizing youth who are frustrated by current events and feel they lack a place and purpose in the present political order.

Only by welcoming registered Syrian refugees with open arms and dramatically increasing the number of refugees accepted into the U.S. in the coming years can we counter these grievances and prevent radicalization both within third countries, like Jordan, and our own.

Zoe Rubin, Southfield


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