On Friday, I, along with millions of people whose loved ones are visiting or residing in Paris, was frantically texting and emailing to see the whereabouts of my friends. Fortunately, everyone I knew was safe, and thanks to a Facebook and their safety check feature, anyone who had access to the site was able to see that their family, friends and colleagues were safe.
Tragically, there were too many who didn’t, couldn’t check in. Too many deaths. Too many injured. It was the worst display of violence Paris has witnessed since the Second World War
By the end of the devastating day, an Islamic Militant group ISIS (also known as ISIL) claimed responsibility for the attack, and the city of light was left in a state of shock.
Almost immediately after, France enacted a country-wide state of emergency and closed its borders, and people around the world rallied behind the country and showed solidarity in any way they can.
As a former New Yorker who lived through the terrorist attack on 9/11, I know all too well the devastation that Parisians are going through. If the horror of the attack wasn’t enough, they must also deal with the aftermath of realizing that such barbarity can happen in their home town.
Irrational fear takes over, and even if they’re able to move on and settled back into the rhythm of life, they will be hunted by the anguish of not knowing if and when it will happen again. It was an unsettling feeling that lingered on for many months, years after the attack.
Therefore, it’s understandable that France is going through the same concerns over the security of their nation, and European as well as Americans fueled by the memories of the 9/11 are questioning how did this happen – again.
However, France’s reaction along with other European countries has been extreme. Much like the hysteria that engulfed the Western world after September 11, 2001, reactionary politicians have begun exploiting the terror attacks as a platform for fueling xenophobic sentiments toward refugees.
John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International’s director for Europe and Central Asia, predicts the attacks will now be used by anti-Muslim or anti-immigrant leaders, particularly in Eastern Europe, to justify intensified border crackdowns based on perceived security threats (however baseless), which in turn “will make it increasingly difficult for Germany, the [EU] Commission, others who are in favor and see the need for a [refugee] redistribution system, to get the necessary support for that.”
Like many of my countrymen, I, too, am deeply concerned about our national security. After living through the devastation of a terrorist attack, I am acutely aware of the impact such atrocity has on human psyche.
The fear and the need to make sense of what has happened take over. We find someone to blame, a scapegoat that becomes the target of all the anger and fear. The world is divided into good guys versus bad, and the enemy becomes merely a caricature of an evil villain, much like the ones in a movie or Netflix series.
It was the logic that allowed a whole nation and a coalition of the Western world to wage a war on a country that had nothing to do with 9/11. On the basis of supposedly-hidden weapons of mass destruction, we allowed our fears to dictated foreign policy that destroyed and devastated a country.
Sadly, that is a stain on our conscience that risks being repeated. Since Friday’s terrorist attack in Paris, the pernicious sentiments have seeped into shaping the United States’ policy on refugees and asylum seekers, as 34 state governors and nearly all the Republican presidential candidates have said the United States cannot take the risk of allowing any more refugees from Syria.
The rash decisions of European and American politicians overlook the fact that the links between terrorism and Syrian refugees is unsubstantiated. Even if the user of a Syrian passport found near the body of an attacker belonged to the attacker, he did not receive refugee designation from the United Nations or vetting from intelligence agencies. He was never approved for refugee status in any country.
However, once again, we are generalizing an entire nation of people, and even worse, an entire faith, and we are allowing fear to dictate policies that effects the people who are in dire need of help.
I agree that national security is critical. However, we cannot and must not send those fleeing persecution back to their persecutors. Furthermore, although we need calibrated force, we need to address the underlying socio-economic conditions and issues that fuel hate and terror.
The refugees are fleeing precisely the type of senseless slaughter that occurred in Paris, and closing our borders would be a betrayal of our values as a nation. More importantly, we can’t allow those who have committed such atrocious act of terror to take away our humanity.