syrian democracy

  • US liberal media: Trump is a dangerous autocrat with spurious ties to Russia who'll make the world a more dangerous place with military spending and foreign interventions
  • also the US liberal media: Go Team America, Trump is defending the Syrian people by dropping hundreds of bombs on their country without Congressional approval
The Mistake of Repeating History

Selaedin is a current senior at NYU pursuing a double majoring in Religious Studies, and Middle Eastern & Islamic Studies. Along with being a co-president for MuCh (Muslim-Christian Dialogue at NYU) he is also the Director of Membership for TMN (The Muslim Network of NJ). He is also an active and participating member of the Islamic Center at NYU. As an open minded and driven student, Selaedin very much enjoys interfaith dialogue, and exploring the history and theology of the many faiths and traditions of the world.

At least eight million men, women and children emigrated from Ireland between 1801 and 1921. The peak of Irish immigration came about during the Irish Potato Famine. The Great Famine (1845-1852) was a period of mass starvation and disease. It is estimated that nearly one million people died, and a million more emigrated from Ireland during the famine, most of whom were Catholic. Ireland lost between 20% and 25% of its population.

Waves of Irish Catholics tried to escape certain death in Ireland by setting sail for the Americas. Enduring dreadful conditions on vessels that became known as “coffin ships,” many voyagers didn’t survive the trip. In 1847, the first big year of Famine emigration, New York City was swamped with 37,000 Irish Catholics. The numbers continued to grow in cities like New England, Philadelphia, and Kansas City.

 Ill will towards Irish Catholic immigrants quickly escalated. Their poor living conditions and their willingness to work for low wages fueled the fire of hatred against them. Religious conflict soon took center stage. Tensions between Protestants and Catholics skyrocketed in the United States. Verbal attacks on Catholics often led to mob violence. In 1831, St. Mary’s Catholic Church in New York City was burned down, while in 1844, riots in Philadelphia left thirteen dead. Similar incidents occurred in Boston, such as Protestants burning down Catholic convents and homes.

Stereotypes meant to dehumanize the Irish began to spread. Irish Catholic men were depicted in political cartoons as drunkards and criminals, who were lazy and eternally fighting. Irish women were sometimes stereotyped as “reckless breeders” because some American Protestants feared that high Catholic birth rates would lead to a Protestant minority. Many Irish children complained that their Catholic tradition was routinely mocked in the classroom. The anti-Irish and anti-Catholic sentiment led to “No Irish Need Apply” signs being posted across American cities.

 Many Americans believed that the increase in Catholics would give way to Papal influence in America. This simplistic view held Catholics as anti-democracy. Their assumed “allegiance” to the Pope was thought to be a barrier that prevented Catholics from accepting American democracy. This prevalent belief that Catholics could never assimilate and become “good” Americans became normalized. Fear of the Papacy thus became fear of the Irish, and resulted in outright violence.

Groups from the militant right sprang up to combat immigration. Political parties, such as the “Know-Nothings,” sought to curtail Irish immigration and keep immigrants from becoming naturalized Americans so as to prevent them from ever gaining political power.

 If we substitute the words “Catholic” with “Muslim” and “Irish” with “Syrian,” we see a stark resemblance to the immigration dilemma of the 21st century. For the past two years, Syrian refugees have been pouring out of the Middle East through Turkey and the Mediterranean Sea and into Europe in search of a new home. While the Irish were escaping famine and starvation, the Syrians are fleeing from a civil war that has devastated the country they once called home.

Not only is starvation the reality of the Syrian people, but their cities and villages are also no longer inhabitable due to daily bombardment. The streets are stained with blood; rubble is all that remains of the once beautiful city skylines; the wind carries with it the smell of gunpowder, expositions and death; classrooms have been emptied; supermarkets and farmlands left barren, and the cries of children are heard near and far. While the Assad regime continues to level entire cities with carpet-bombs, groups like Daesh (ISIS) terrorize the people with their backward ideology and unspeakable acts. Not only does Daesh impose their rule through mindless violence, but they also indoctrinate and spread a twisted ideology that is foreign, unwelcomed, and detested by the Syrian people. Life in Syria has become a living hell.  Thousands of innocent people are seeking a better future.

Many of the surrounding countries (Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, and Egypt) have taken the brunt of the mass emigration from Syria. Other Western nations are being called to do their part in bringing relief to the humanitarian crisis. Germany and other European nations have opened their doors to thousands. Refugee camps line the borders of many Balkan countries providing safe havens for refugees as they pass through on their journey to Central and Western Europe. The world is now asking America to step up and do the same. The problem is, not all Americans are enthusiastic about the proposal.          

Xenophobic and Islamophobic rhetoric has dominated American conversations on the Syrian refugee crisis. Much of the same fear that was once directed towards the Irish Catholics has been rekindled. The fear of the unknown, Islam, a religion shrouded in mystery, instills hatred for Syrian Muslims in the hearts of many Americans. Stereotypes and sheer racism have dominated immigration discourse once again. Some Americans are quick to draw a line between the violence in the Middle East and terrorism abroad with something “inherently” evil in Islam. Sweeping claims that label Muslims as terrorists, violent, radical, backward, and alien have become normalized.

Furthermore, demonization of Sharia law (abstract Islamic law) draws a stark resemblance to the demonization of Catholicism. Similar to what happened with the Irish, allegations of Sharia law as anti-democracy portray Syrian Muslims as incapable of becoming “loyal,” “trustworthy,” “good-willed” Americans. Fear that Syrians will not give up their assumed loyalty and “allegiance” to “Sharia law” and turn their devotion to America is poisonous thinking. Syrian Muslims are then perceived as a threat to “American” values and ideals as they will never be able to “assimilate” due to their “oppressive” religion. It is now Islam that is seen as an obstacle to becoming an American.

Much of this ignorance and hate is translated into violence against Muslims across America. “Muslim-free zones,” few in number, have popped up in parts of America. The rise in hate crimes against Muslims has skyrocketed. Mosques too often are vandalized with hateful speech. Hate speech such as “Sand N****rs,” “Go back home,” “F*** Islam,” and “Muslims are terrorist” is all too familiar to the Muslim communities in America. Many Muslims have expressed fear and distrust in their own government officials, as spying on Muslim communities has become the norm.

Irish, Jewish, Chinese, and other immigrant communities have experienced first-hand the realities of xenophobia and racism. Their religions were routinely demonized. They suffered mental and physical pains because of who they were and what they wanted – all of this to become American citizens and find a better life for their families.

As an American Muslim and grandson of Turkish immigrants, I ask my fellow Americans to stand with me in the face of xenophobia and Islamophobia. Let us stop history from repeating itself. Let us not make the same mistakes. Let us learn from our past. Let us realize the humanity in Syrian refugees, and all immigrants, Hispanic, African, and so on. Let us embrace them with open arms, welcome them into our great nation, and help them in their time of need, so they may bear witness to the loving character of America.

anonymous asked:

How did America pretty much start the isis problem? I feel like it's really political but also religious.

The irresponsible 2003 invasion to enact regime change greatly destabilised Iraq, which is even why ISIS could emerge today. Saddam Hussein was a terrible and genocidal dictator, but all the same, he could have been squeezed and isolated with sanctions instead. 

I don’t want to suggest the ISIS militants and their leader Al-Baghdadi don’t have any moral culpability because they DO, they’ve chosen to be hideous human beings of their own volition. They bear responsibility for the genocide and religious cleansing they’ve undertaken. So yes, it’s political.. Other people like Syrian dictator Assad bear responsibility for allowing ISIS to rise to power because his violent reprisals against peaceful pro-democracy Syrian protesters is what even started the ongoing civil war. But I feel it’s important to recognise the role of the US when it interferes in the region like this- far too often the US has made its own demons. It’s still paying for the 1953 coup that overthrew PM Mossadegh of Iran to reinstate the widely-despised and dictatorial Shah, for example. That’s why the new regime that came after the Shah was toppled has pretty poor ties with the US. 

There’s an area of international law that argues when genocide is occurring, military intervention is justified because the government of that country often can’t or doesn’t want to protect its citizens. So yes…I think that certain things like the US bombing the ISIS militants who had surrounded the Yazidis trapped on Mt Sinjar and threatened to slaughter them is sometimes necessary, because it’s the only way to stop crimes against humanity and you have a situation where the government of the country itself asked for help from other countries. In the case of Saddam, he enacted a 1980s genocide against the Kurdish minority and there was some sort of protected international zone set up in response by the UN. But in the context of 2003- yes, his regime was being oppressive…but there wasn’t any compelling case for this kind of regime change. Especially considering the massive instability and death toll of Iraqi civilians ever since. 

Even the best intentioned military intervention on humanitarian grounds is very likely to cause unforeseen problems. All the more it can’t be undertaken lightly- military intervention should at least be in concert with the larger international community, not the brazen way Iraq was invaded in 2003, in defiance of the UN.