COMMENTARY: Like most people, I’m liberal on some issues and conservative on others.
There has been serious discussion in this country regarding Islam, those who practice the faith, and whether or not any Muslims should be allowed to immigrate to the United States.
Because of recent terrorist activities perpetrated upon innocent civilians throughout the world by those professing to be killing in the name of Allah and the Islamic faith, there has been a backlash against Muslims and a proposed policy that would allow Syrians and Iraqis refugee status. This debate has carried on at the national level in Washington, D.C., the state level with a majority of governors, and the local level with the citizenry.
Certainly, the fear is understandable. If we duplicate Europe’s fiasco of blindly accepting tens of thousands into our societies without background checks, that would be a mistake. If I were a terrorist leader, I would be remiss in my terroristic duties to not advance as many terrorists as possible through the gates of Europe.
Properly vetting anyone seeking refugee status is the only appropriate method, and this needs to be accomplished without bringing them to our shores to be a burden to taxpayers while we sort it out, and without rushing the process. There is no way that 10,000 people can be vetted in 12 months. That is an unrealistic proposal.
Unlike many of those who make policy decisions at the national, state, and local levels, I have lived and worked in Muslim countries and societies. In Kosovo, a province of southern Serbia seeking autonomy, the population was 90 percent Muslim. I served in Afghanistan, where the Islamic majority was close to 100 percent; Liberia, with a Muslim population of 30-40 percent; Lebanon, which was approximately 60 percent Muslim; and South Sudan, with a significant Muslim population. I also served two years in Haiti, which was nearly 100 percent Christian, but had hundreds, if not over 1,000, United Nations employees who were Muslim (typical for a UN Mission).
My experiences with Muslims were positive, whether they were from Europe, Asia, the Middle East, or Africa. I found them to be genuinely nice people with a value system equal to that of any other faith, and with a desire for nothing more than the opportunity to work, provide for their families, and make a contribution to society. They are normal people.
I knew many that drank alcohol, and even a few that ate pork (shhh, don’t tell anyone). In Beirut, I bought a Harley and rode with the Beirut HOG (Harley Owners Group). I never heard anyone in that group voice concern about anyone else’s religious affiliation, even though the riders were Orthodox Christian, Catholic, Sunni, Shi’a, Druze, and who knows what else.
I often rode by myself in that country and never experienced problems. Overall, I found Muslims to be tolerant and respective of other people’s faiths and beliefs — in fact, more than many Americans are toward those who practice Islam.
Allowing people of any faith, from any country, to immigrate to the United States should not be an issue if they are properly vetted. If done right — and by that I mean vetting candidates by conducting a thorough background investigation and not letting politics hurry the process — it will take time, but time is not an issue because there is no rush getting them here.
American embassy personnel are experienced in the vetting process, have done it for decades, and it works.
To deny someone the opportunity to come to this country based on religious beliefs is a failure of democracy and goes against the very grain of what we stand for as a nation.
J.R. Lonsway served 22 years with the Las Cruces Police Department and retired as a deputy chief of police. After retiring, he served with the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs as a police advisor in various countries. He blogs at jrlonsway.com and is the author of Twenty.