Set aside fear and prejudice and become a freedom fighter

Regarding the Syrian refugees, we should let them in, of course.

First, it’s good policy. To undermine support for radical Islam, we have to win moderate and liberal Muslim hearts and minds. By denying entry for the refugees, we give ISIS and similar groups the public relations and moral victory that they want.

It is also just the right thing to do – to help those in need – especially in times of war.

However, we still need to ask why so many Americans are opposed to the Syrian refugees. Some of it might be because they’re uniformed. (The resettlement process is actually quite rigorous.) Undoubtedly some of it is just rank, un-American religious bigotry. I applaud everyone who in the last week has fought against the ignorance and intolerance out there.

But I think advocates of admitting the Syrian refugees need to acknowledge that many Americans are genuinely worried about the safety of their families and friends. It’s unfair to just ignore this worry. After all, we need be honest that, while the risk of terrorism from the refugees – and overall – is small, it will never be zero. There simply cannot be perfect safety.

And that is why we need to enlist our fellow Americans in this battle for hearts and minds. We, as a people, can take a positive, active role in defeating radical ideologies. We don’t do it by closing off our country – and our own hearts and minds. We don’t do it by destroying our open, liberal republican society and its promise of inclusiveness and freedom. Instead, we defeat these radical ideologies by remaining open – and yes, somewhat exposed – and proving that our society is stronger than the illiberal, pre-modern ideologies – like radical Islam – that oppose it.

In a sense, this puts U.S. citizens on the “front lines”. But as the saying goes, freedom isn’t free. Normally that’s used to celebrate soldiers, but I say we use it to celebrate ordinary American citizens who take the risk of setting aside fear and prejudice and dedicate themselves to realizing American values at home. That’s a noble cause. And it’s one all Americans should support.

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