BY JENNIFER BREEDON
Wednesday, April 12, 2017 – Syrian refugees arrive in the U.S. after spending five years in a refugee camp in Turkey (Illustrative Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images)
The evidence strongly points towards a lack of assimilation of Western values as a common denominator among jihadists — not forms of inequality like poverty, lack of education, unemployment, etc. Thus, “assimilation” is a powerful weapon against radicalization and the growing phenomenon of Islamist politization of society.
Promoting healthy assimilation into Western culture can give an immigrant a patriotic identity versus an identity solely based on religion, which is what Islamists prey on.
Most immigrants come from countries ruled by brutal, oppressive regimes. To be able to support their new country, which offers many freedoms and opportunities they have previously been denied, patriotism offers an identity of hope over fear and love over hate.
Keep in mind that immigrants that feel welcomed (and thus valued) can also give to the West much-needed insights into Islamic extremism.
Take, for example, the story of Amina. She was a doctor in Afghanistan before the Taliban made life unbearable in her village. When she came to the U.S., she had years of medical training and experience as a women’s rights activist.
While she cannot practice medicine since she is not licensed in the U.S., she has dedicated herself to advocating for rights of women for all faiths (especially in the Muslim world).
She has her first-hand knowledge of the Taliban and its ideology to aid local law enforcement officials in fighting terrorism.
Here are three simple ways you can help immigrants like Amina establish a meaningful new life as a “Westerner”:
Volunteer with an organization that aids refugees
Some programs provide job training. Some bring meals to a newly placed family. Alternatively, invite a new family to your local community activities.
Many of these families have never had the option of going to such an activity or even watching a child’s soccer game. They most likely haven’t experienced a stranger from a different religion reaching out in an act of kindness.
Immigrants are most likely very interested in American life. Most also have children that have been traumatized by violence.
Most aid organizations have their own experts in extremism that vet people. They also have translators who speak fluent Arabic or Farsi/Persian (for those from Afghanistan or Iran).
Many immigrants sought asylum in the U.S. because they became political targets after speaking out against certain concepts of sharia law.
You may be amazed at some of the stories they tell and you’ll be able to have more insight into the war on terror just from their stories than from anything you’ll hear in the news these days.
Get Involved With a Progressive Muslim Organization
If you are a Muslim and you are interested in the progressive Muslim Reformation, get involved! See Clarion’s page on Muslim Reform organizations and ask what you can do to help.
Maybe you can start a community group in your home for like-minded Muslims where you can explain the organizations and leaders like Dr. Zudhi Jasser and Raheel Raza who are fighting against extremist ideologies.
For those that are not Muslim, maybe you have Muslim neighbors that you see on a daily basis. Include them in a neighborhood activity.
Odds are, they also want to wipe out Islamist terrorism but don’t have a platform where they can speak out and make a difference – especially if they don’t want to be involved with groups like CAIR and others. (A Gallup poll showed that only a small percentage of American Muslims felt that the Islamist organizations like CAIR, ISNA, etc. represented them.)
Start a Student Group
If you are a college student or you work at a high school or university, start a student organization where students of all faiths meet to talk about the threats of radical Islam and terrorism.
Perhaps you are (or know of) a student that has felt chastised for their beliefs and is afraid to speak out and have an honest conversation. Perhaps you’re a Muslim student in the United States who is tired of professors whitewashing the threats and pretending that the problem isn’t in Islamic doctrines!
Start an organization with likeminded students of all faiths to work together against the narratives you reject without any political leaning, bias, or motivation – beyond mere understanding and strength in unity.
The best way to aid the assimilation of those different from us is to show them what hope means. As “Hunger Games” villain, President Snow stated to the heroine Katniss in explaining why he didn’t like her as a beacon of freedom, “The only thing stronger than fear is hope.”
Jennifer Breedon is an attorney and the legal analyst for Clarion Project. Jennifer’s specializations are in international criminal law, Middle East policy and U.S. Constitutional Law. To invite Jennifer to speak please contact us.
This article was originally published at clarionproject.org.