It’s been a difficult few weeks around the globe : a plane carrying Russian refugees downed in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, killing all 135 passengers; twin blasts in Beirut, Lebanon, which killed over 40 people; and the three coordinated attacks in Paris, with a death toll currently standing at 129 people, ISIS claiming responsibility for all attacks.
And now breaking news that at least one of the attackers sneaked into Paris with other refugees fleeing unspeakable violence in Syria.
We can only expect that this news will the cornerstone for some analysts and general anti-immigrant nay-sayers to argue against mass intake of Syrian refugees to Canada. Deep breath everyone: they’re already out there and tweeting about the ‘Islamonazis’ and how “most” refugees are trouble-making men, putting up lawn signs asking Muslims if they’re sorry about Paris (first, that couple should answer for the Westboro Church as Christians; second, they must have missed out on on the viral #NotInMyName campaign), and setting revenge fires to Canadian mosques. At issue is the perpetual, tired idea that jihadists will infiltrate Canada with the huddled masses, keen to disrupt our society with Sharia law and the like, ready to blow things up. Because isn’t it well known that a majority of Syrian refugees are ISIS sympathizers, amiright?
*Respectful slow clap for the Liberals*
But with the potential for fear and backlash against Muslim communities (remember – it only took electoral rhetoric to see a rise in violence against Muslimahs), will Canada continue to hold strong and keep its stance?
Canada’s continued welcome of Syrian refugees matters. And in fact, welcoming Syrian refugees is an issue which Canadian feminists must champion aggressively.
First, because Syrian refugees are facing the beginning of a harsh winter in Europe, where many of them will be exposed to horrific cold, hunger, to say nothing of the awful conditions of most refugees camps in the world. In war, women are too often under siege, the refugee camp experience too often including rampant sexual assault, early child marriage and sex trafficking.
Second, granting refugee status to Syrians and Iraqis fleeing conflict was a heated talking point in the recent federal elections. Feminists worked tirelessly during the election to ensure that women’s global and domestic issues were included in the electoral debate, and the Syrian refugee crisis is one of the most pressing human rights issues — and global women’s issues — we are facing when it comes to shaping Canada’s foreign policy. And after all: women’s rights are human rights.
And thus with this breaking news from Paris comes typical political pearl clutching about how we are opening a proverbial Pandora’s box of Isis sympathizers and potential jihadists. Cue thinly-veiled racism and Islamophobia. Cue OMG-there-might-be-terrorists-in-the-group-of-Syrians-we’re-trying-to-help-so-instead-let’s-do-nothing.
Let’s everyone calm down and look for logic and evidence from a recent series of tweets from The Globe and Mail’s Doug Saunders, author of The Myth of the Muslim Tide, which outlines and debunk the statistics that has given rise to the fear of invading hordes of Syrian refugees.
In a series of twenty sharply researched tweets, Saunders took the source statics that wrongfully asserts that 13% of Syrian refugees are sympathetic to ISIS. Perhaps one of his most interesting point comes in tweet #4, where he points out the title of the source where the 13% statistic is pulled: A Majority of Arabs Oppose ISIL, Support Air strikes on the Group.
Saunders disaggregates the data, sorting out fact from fiction, ultimately concluding, “don’t expect the ISIS tide. ISIS is struggling to get its supporters OUT of the West, to join the fight.”
Saunders’ tweets are an important reminder that there is a great deal of hard evidence to support the notion that by throwing open our doors, we are doing the correct, compassionate thing. And if I might add: that we are doing the correct, compassionate thing for Syrian women in particular.
And beyond Saunders’ arguments (and instead of a knee-jerk, panicked response), let us perhaps instead urge our government to invest the appropriate resources in the screening process to ensure both the safety/peace of mind of Canadians, but also to accommodate those suffering through a humanitarian crisis that is becoming all the more urgent by the day.
Canada: let’s remember why we recently elected the Liberal Party in a landslide election. Let’s remember our outrage when we saw the gruesome image of Alan Kurdi, a young Syrian toddler, wash up on the shores of Greece. The knot in our stomach when we heard of Syrian refugees killed in the back of an overheated truck. The rising anger in our throats when we hear of women’s stories of rape or a little girl’s wedding in the refugee camps.
Canada voted to reject fear and Harper Conservatism in favour of hope, compassion and ‘sunny ways.’ DO NOT allow the attacks in Paris, Beirut and Sharm El Sheikh to bleed dry our deeply compassionate response to a people who need support from the international community, particularly when it comes to our Syrian sisters.
To those whom we have pledged safety in Canada, those who are fleeing unspeakable violence — these future Canadians — we owe to keep our word.
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