Open Our Borders

In the wake of recent tragic events in Paris, Beirut and Afghanistan my heart is broken. As an Afghan American Muslim who came to the U.S. as a refugee after the Russian invasion in 1980, I am saddened to see the nation that sheltered and embraced my family and me become divided. Over the last few days, governors of various states have declared that they would not be accepting any refugees, particularly those from Syria. Don’t they realize that the refugees are fleeing from the same group of people who are terrorizing the world under the cloak of Islam?

Islam is not to blame in this situation and making blanket characterizations of an entire religious tradition and block of humanity as being evil is uneducated and inappropriate. These forms of violence have no context in any religion, let alone the religion of my faith. Instead of making this an “us” vs. “them” situation, I’d like to think that we have evolved over the years and that when we see a group of people suffering, we would extend a hand to help them, not take it away; this is one of the moral ethics of what our country was founded on.

When the KKK or any extremist Christian group commits an atrocious act on this homeland, I don’t blame all Christians for the actions of a few. So why is it that when a fanatical Muslim group commits an awful act the whole religion is blamed? This constant blaming and finger-pointing has to end. Unless we can come together and have a better understanding of each other, ISIS will win.

The key point to realize is that it’s not Islam that needs to reform, what needs to change is the toxic political and social conditions present in the Western and Muslim worlds that lead to alienation and anger in a subset of disenfranchised young men, which in turn produce these violent outcomes. This nation was built on immigrants of all walks of life coming here to build a new life. What makes this nation great is that we have been working together regardless of our backgrounds to be a successful and strong country.

The world has been hemorrhaging for a while now and we are able to see it coming closer to our front doorstep. Now is the time for unity not division; now is the time for tolerance and benevolence. Thousands of people are fleeing Syria and neighboring countries because of lack of freedom and fear of death from an unstable political regime. This is the time to come to them in aid, not to turn them away.

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Photo via Shutterstock

Dr. Shinkai Hakimi is an Afghan American pulmonary/critical care physician in Tacoma, Wash. She is also a board member of SAHAR, a nonprofit based in Seattle that is focused on building schools and providing education to Afghan girls in Afghanistan.