Exactly three weeks ago, coordinated terrorist attacks carried out by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) shocked the globe. These dramatic events grabbed the world’s attention, and in doing so have brought a critical situation to the forefront of international discussion.
As I watched the events unfold on various news and social media sites, I could not help but wonder if a similar catastrophe were to strike Cleveland, would I be safe? Would I still attend Case Western Reserve University? It wasn’t an unreasonable fear, but after giving it some thought, I figured it was pointless to dwell on the unknown.
I could, however, dwell on the various issues that ongoing terrorist activities have created, such as the growing number of refugees fleeing Syria. The Syrian refugee crisis has become a considerable point of controversy among politicians and United States citizens alike. From a regional perspective, accepting refugees has been blatantly opposed by Ohio’s governor, state legislature and even Cleveland city council. However if the proposal to accept Syrian refugees into the U.S. proceeds as initially planned, the reality is many of them could utilize refugee services offered in the Cleveland area. This means refugees could resettle as close as Cleveland Heights, and perhaps even attend CWRU in the not too distant future.
With the current political climate in Ohio as well as many other states indicating a staunch opposition to accepting Syrian refugees, the prospect of relocating to the United States is beginning to look quite bleak for those fleeing the turmoil in their homeland. Much of this resistance to refugee assistance is centered on a strong pre-existing paranoia conflating the whole of Islam and acts of terrorism. As such, the attacks on Paris by ISIL seem to have reinvigorated this ever present fear, which has been translated into an approach of shunning by the Ohio government and is continuing to gain traction among the populace.
While recent events would certainly justify a reevaluation of security concerns, the rush to the extreme of obstructing any sort of asylum is a brazen move that is bound to backfire. By displaying strong anti-refugee sentiments through media rhetoric and political action, overt animosity toward refugees can be exploited by ISIL recruiters as reasoning for turning to a life of terrorism. With nowhere else to turn to, the abstract promises made by recruiters provide more hope for a favorable future than the decreasing chance of being granted asylum in the United States. In this regard, Ohio officials along with others who wish to stymie the acceptance of Syrian refugees fan the flames of terrorism instead of putting them out.
Instead of acting under the assumption that every refugee granted asylum is a terrorist, there should be consideration for how each refugee accepted is an ISIL recruitment attempt thwarted. By working within the prevalent paranoia of terrorism from a positive perspective, there is a stronger capacity for mediating xenophobic tensions. If the time does come that Syrian refugees make Cleveland their new home and CWRU their choice for post-secondary education, it is my hope that they can be met with acceptance.
Austin Stroud is a first-year student.