Even before the terror attacks in Paris last week, the possibility of terrorists was the reason the Harper government gave for being so incredibly slow to accept Syrian refugees.  When the news of the attacks broke Friday afternoon my time, it was literally minutes before I heard it in the office water cooler talk: “No wonder, there’s so many refugees there.”  And of course we have the Governors of Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Wisconsin, and Texas, saying their states will not accept refugees, and the Premier of Saskatchewan asking our Prime Minister to put his ambitious refugee resettlement program on ice.

This is racist, indecent and inhumane garbage, and pants-on-head levels of stupid.

As a pacifist-leaning liberal arts major, I am pretty much the opposite of a military strategist.  And if somebody like me can see how low the ROI is for terrorists to try to infiltrate foreign countries under the guise of refugees, then I have to conclude wilful ignorance (or worse) on the part of officials in higher levels of government, whose job it is, last I heard, to think strategically.

Radicalizing and training up a terrorist is an investment.  Are you seriously going to put that investment on a leaky boat that may or may not reach its destination, and then, assuming the boat makes it, have your investment walk for months, sleeping rough, with little to eat, and provisioned with only what he can personally carry, only to have his route to the target country barred by intermediary countries that may or may not let him through?  Then, assuming he reaches his destination, he still needs to learn to fit in with the society he intends to attack, enough to walk the streets unnoticed, and you still have to arm him, because he probably opted to carry food rather than explosives on his long walk.

The refugees fleeing IS are unlikely to be a useful source of terrorist recruits – if they agreed with IS, they would presumably be staying and fighting under their banner.

As the attacks on Paris demonstrate, there’s a much higher-ROI way of blowing up people in a foreign country:  have their own citizens do the dirty work for you.

The narrative emerging after these attacks is that IS wants to create division and hatred.  That they want to destroy what they call the “grey zone” of society, where Muslims and non-Muslims live and work together productively and peacefully.  What will ultimately destroy IS, is expanding and solidifying those grey zones.

Domestically, it means combating Islamophobia and the othering of Muslims, and ensuring that Muslims are not excluded from the benefits and opportunities inherent in living in a well-to-do secular democracy.  Failure to do so will only produce disaffected angry youth who feel like they have nothing to lose, a rich recruiting ground for induction into radicalism and ultimately terrorism.

When it comes to the refugees fleeing Syria, we need to get them safe, get them homes, and provide them all the support they need to adapt to their new countries and become full and contributing citizens.

Or, we can do IS’s radicalization work for them.  All we have to do is watch while more children drown; let children freeze this winter; not find a place for all these families to be safe and call home; not give them full opportunity to belong when they get here.

 

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