Regrettably, in the aftermath of ISIS’s inexcusable attacks on innocent people in Paris, amidst admirable calls for support and assistance for victims and their families and the people of France, conservative policymakers are also calling for a response that plays right into the hands of radical Jihadists. Twenty-six U.S. governors don’t want Syrian refugees in their states for fear of terrorist attacks. Much of the rhetoric on the Right further polarizes the West and Muslims. Most policymakers are only concentrating on a military solution to the problem and are ignoring the ideological war that needs to be won.
Here are three peaceful ways the West can fight ISIS on the more important Ideological Front:
1 – Take in Syrian Refugees – Yes, they need to be more carefully screened. Agencies report it takes 18-24 months for most refugees to be approved for resettlement. There is a process that can be beefed up. The fear of “Trojan Horse” terrorist attacks is not rational because by shutting out Syrian refugees, it makes extremism among them more likely, not less. Hospitable treatment of Muslim refugees and their economic empowerment make them the least vulnerable to radicalization.
2 – Work Harder to Build Bridges to Muslim Communities – Radicals attract recruits when they claim Western ways and values are irreconcilable with Islam. By reaching out to Muslim communities, by demonstrating we don’t show favoritism to non-Muslims or Christians because we are a true democracy, by helping Muslims integrate and thrive in Western democratic countries, we take that argument away from groups like ISIS.
3 – Make Our Land a Refuge for Muslims and All Disenfranchised – Aaron Zelin reminds us that ISIS hates that swarms of refugees are fleeing Syria. Why? Because it’s proof that their Caliphate is not a safe haven for Muslims. Refugees rather risk death and flee than live under ISIS’s authority. In trying to convince Muslims to avoid the infidels and live in their land, ISIS propaganda warns that “the ‘Jews and Christians’ do not have [your] interests at heart, and will force [you] to convert in order to remain in their countries.” When we prove them wrong it steals their attempts to gain moral authority.
What do you think? Which is more important and why, the ideological war or the physical war?