Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The Frustrating Trouble With Syrian Refugees: Tolerating Intolerance

Donald Trump's resilience in some ways is a direct reflection of his hard-line anti-immigrant stance, which of course has many members of Team Blue waving the flags of tolerance and welcome for Syrian refugees from that country's civil war, one the United States has foolishly subsidized. The libertarian-leaning Cato Institute recently published a fine essay in defense of the pro-immigration side:
Of the 859,629 refugees admitted from 2001 onwards, only three have been convicted of planning terrorist attacks on targets outside of the United States, and none was successfully carried out.  That is one terrorism-planning conviction for every 286,543 refugees that have been admitted.  To put that in perspective, about 1 in every 22,541 Americans committed murder in 2014.  The terrorist threat from Syrian refugees in the United States is hyperbolically over-exaggerated and we have very little to fear from them because the refugee vetting system is so thorough.
In addition, it actually takes longer to get in the United States as a refugee because "the vetting can take about three years because of the heightened concerns over security", though this comes in an environment in which the FBI claims they may not be able to do much actual screening. Likewise, distance also plays a role: "[r]efugees are processed from a great distance away". The real threat of terrorist activities is in fact quite low.

But it seems to me that the great cultural issues of admitting large numbers of Muslims to western countries are much less certain. The example I keep returning to is a poll earlier this year indicating 11% of UK Muslims thought the attacks on the Charlie Hebdo offices in France were justified. That is to say, there is a wide streak of intolerance there, and what the supposedly tolerant west is being asked to do, is to tolerate that intolerance, even if it is in a minority. That is still a very sizable minority, which gets us to our latest news from Germany's Der Spiegel: we have a story indicating Germany's Central Council of Jews has gotten behind efforts to dramatically curtail the number of Syrian refugees that country will accept. The Google Translate version is here:

"Sooner or later we will not be able to avoid ceilings", the Central Council President Josef Schuster told the newspaper "Die Welt". He pleaded for controlled entrances to the Federal Republic, referring to the big challenges of integration. "Many of the refugees are fleeing the terror of the 'Islamic State' and want to live in peace and freedom, but at the same time they come cultures where the hatred of Jews, and intolerance is an integral part," said Schuster. "Think not only of the Jews, think of the equality between men and women or dealing with homosexuals."
My perpetual problem with all such talk falls largely into two categories: first, the usual issues of label-based argumentation,  but second and more importantly, a towering lack of polling data to find out what said refugees' actual opinions really are. That said, the little we have seen from other Muslims in the west is disquieting, at least.

Update: David Harsanyi has a good essay at The Federalist on this subject:
But, as Bill Maher recently said on “Real Time“: “This idea that all religions share the same values is bullshit and we need to call it bullshit. If you are in this religion, you probably do have values that are at odds [with American ones]. This is what liberals don’t want to recognize.” We see this in Pew poll of the Islamic world, which shows vast numbers of Muslims philosophically opposed some our basic liberal notions, but also in polls closer to home. Bringing up 1095 or stringing together random, unconnected incidents perpetrated by some nuts doesn’t change these numbers.
 Enormous numbers of Muslims support the installation of sharia (Islamic law) in many places, especially the Middle East and North Africa (74%). What that might mean as a practical matter is obviously murky. "[I]n South Asia and the Middle East and North Africa," the Pew report states,"medians of more than half back both severe criminal punishments and the death penalty for Muslims who renounce their faith." One of the interesting side effects of this is that support for religious legal systems appears to directly correspond to where one resides. In Turkey, for instance, only a small (12%) minority approves of sharia as official law.

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