Bay Ridge

Brooklyn Arabs outraged by rhetoric on Syrian refugees

November 20, 2015 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Bay Ridge Arab-American leader Linda Sarsour has started a petition drive calling on governors to accept Syrian refugees. Eagle file photo by Paula Katinas
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Arab-American leaders expressed outrage over the reaction by elected officials across the country against President Barack Obama’s plan to resettle 10,000 Syrian refugees in the U.S.

To date, the 30 governors have said they will deny entry to Syrian refugees to their states.

And on Nov. 19, the House of Representatives voted 289-137 to bring a halt to Obama’s plan. Proponents of the legislation stated that they want the resettlement program stopped until the Obama administration can ensure that a stringent vetting process can be put in place to investigate every Syrian refugee seeking asylum here.

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The actions took place in the wake of the ISIS attacks in Paris on Nov. 13. There were reports that at least one of the ISIS members who took part in the attacks had slipped into France by posing as a Syrian refugee.

But the U.S. shouldn’t paint all Syrians with a broad brush, said Linda Sarsour, an Arab-American leader in Bay Ridge.

Sarsour, executive director of the nonprofit Arab-American Association of New York, has started a petition drive to call on the nation’s governors to stop their rhetoric.

We demand these governors and other elected officials stop using their hatred and xenophobia to shut out Syrian refugees who are in dire need of normalcy and safety. We call on these governors to refrain from making decisions and engaging in rhetoric rooted in misinformation and fear,” Sarsour said in a statement.  

Sarsour and other Arab-American leaders contended that the vetting process refugees are subjected to is already stringent enough.

“The current process is already rigorous and takes years. This could potentially bring refugee resettlement of Syrians and Iraqis to a halt. We can’t turn our backs now. We can’t let the terrorists win,” Sarsour stated. 

The refugees are trying to escape the same terrorism that the world has witnessed in Paris, according to Sarsour, who said that thousands of Syrians have been killed and millions have been displaced by the violence taking place in Syria.

But there were also signs of divisions within Brooklyn’s Arab-American community over the issue.

Ralph Succar, a Syrian-American community leader in Bay Ridge, told the New York Post on Nov. 18 that he believes members of ISIS are already in the U.S. Succar claimed that the ISIS terrorists entered the country by posing as refugees and are now involved in sleeper cells.

“I believe the terrorists from Syria have been coming into the United States, not only in the past few years, but way before that. I think they’re already at work,” Succar told the Post.

Succar, a building contractor, claimed that people in Syria pay bribes to obtain false identifications and then use the crooked paperwork when they come to the U.S.

Meanwhile, there is a great deal of concern over the treatment of the refugees and the treatment of Arab-Americans in the U.S., according to leaders of the Council of American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a group based in Washington, D.C.

“The picture is getting increasingly bleak,” CAIR spokesman said Ibrahim Hooper said. “There’s been an accumulation of anti-Islamic rhetoric in our lives and that I think has triggered these overt acts of violence and vandalism.”

While 30 governors have stated they will not allow Syrians to enter their states, CAIR leaders pointed out that states are prohibited from stopping houses of worship and other nonprofits and charities from coordinating with the federal government to provide services. 

“State governors and members of Congress should know better than to use the tragedy in Paris to spread doubt about our government’s own ability to process Syrian refugees,”  CAIR Government Affairs Manager Robert McCaw said.

 


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