Syrian President Bashar al-Assad recently told Yahoo News that there were definitely terrorists among Syrian refugees seeking asylum in the United States and Europe.
President Trump’s so-called “Muslim ban” has arguably been the most controversial move made by his administration since his inauguration less than a month ago. Though the “ban” is only a temporary restriction banning the entry of citizens from 7 Muslim-majority countries for only 90 days, it has been billed as a sweeping exercise of executive power that has drawn accusations of racism and Islamophobia. Since its issuance, the Trump administration’s edict has been mired in problems, largely due to the difficulty of its implementation as well as a convoluted legal battle that recently culminated in a federal court’s full rejection of the measure. Federal judge Ann Donnelly, in her ruling, argued that sending immigrants back to their countries could cause them “irreparable harm” after two Iraqi immigrants defended by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) had accused the Trump administration of constitutional and legal overreach. The Trump administration, in defending the measure, has argued the restriction is necessary in order to prevent the entrance of terrorists into the United States as the 7 nations named in the executive order are designated by the Department of Homeland Security as “countries of concern” for terrorism.
Though much media attention has focused on those criticizing or condemning the order, Trump has found an unlikely ally to support his contention that the restriction will prevent terrorists from entering the United States. In a recent and explosive interview with Yahoo News, President Bashar al-Assad of Syria told journalist Michael Isikoff that some of the refugees seeking asylum in the US and Europe were “definitely” terrorists. While Assad stopped short of taking sides on Trump’s freeze on refugees seeking asylum, he confirmed to Yahoo News that those who have fled Syria and other nations named in the “ban” are undeniably “aligned with terrorists.” Assad added:
“You can find it on the Net. […] Those terrorists in Syria, holding the machine gun or killing people, they [appear as] peaceful refugees in Europe or in the West.”
When Isikoff asked how many among the estimated 4.8 million refugees were likely aligned with terrorists, Assad responded that “nobody has any number” because “nobody knows all the terrorists to give a percentage.” Assad then argued that the number of terrorists or potential terrorists was largely irrelevant as “you don’t need a significant number to commit atrocities,” noting that the events of September 11th were allegedly carried out by fewer than 20 terrorists “out of maybe millions of immigrants in the United States.” He then added “it’s not about the number, it’s about the quality, it’s about the intentions.”
Assad’s words came at a much needed time for the Trump administration as international and domestic criticism of this particular policy has been quite strong in recent weeks. While media coverage of the interview has been somewhat scant, it affirms that the previous “wide open” refugee policy that has been employed in Europe as well as the United States has been fraught with problems. Though xenophobia and racism have no place in the making of public policy, practical concerns can no longer be ignored.