In a sunny and cold day at Victor Steinbruck Park, over 100 activists gathered to rally in support of welcoming refugees to Washington and Seattle. Speakers at the rally included Maha Jahshan from Mayor Ed Murray’s Office of Immigrant and Refugee affairs, American Naval Veteral Ben Wiselogle with Oxfam America, Varisha Khan from the UW School of Journalism, Linh Thai as Congressman Smith’s District Representative, and Congressman McDermott.
Varisha Khan says “It’s been 14 years since the attack on the World Trade Center on September 11th. And for the last 14 years, Muslims have been the face of the word terror. We’ve heard over and over again to fear the Syrian refugees, because a few of them maybe, could possibly, be potential terrorists. Even though we know that the number of Syrian refugees who have committed terrorist attacks on America is zero. Recently, two presidential candidates have claimed that there were Muslims celebrating and cheering as the towers came down on September 11th. Of course, that claim has been debunked and falsified…between 9/11 and June of 2015, 26 people have been killed by self proclaimed jihadists in mass killings in the US. At first blush, that number seems large and worrisome, 26. But, double that number and you’ll find the number of people who have been killed by white supremacists, anti-government fanatics, and other non-Muslim extremists have killed double that number in the same time. Yet, we are told to still fear Muslim’s more than anyone else and to fear these “jihadists”. As a Muslim, let me tell you, jihadist is not an Islamic term. Let me also tell you what jihad really means. An Arabic term, jihad is commonly referred to as holy war, actually only means struggle…In Syria, every person is struggling to stay alive, from the threat of oppressive regime and armed insurgents. That’s their jihad. Being able to protect themselves by any means necessary from those impending threats. And for those that made it out of Syria and are lucky to be on a shore, safe and sound, somewhere, their jihad is different. Their jihad, their struggle is to find shelter, and food, and to stay alive. Their solution, is to find help so they can find food for just one more day. In the US, Muslim Americans have their own jihad, our struggle is going about our daily lives without being attacked on the street just for wearing a hijab, or speaking a different language at an Applebees. And to deal with the shouts and comments to go back to our countries, by people in person and on TV. We forget that we take pride in calling America a melting pot. We forget that our country was built on the backs of immigrants.”
Congressman McDermott spoke and said, “What you’re doing is very important. It’s important because the country has to see that there are people in this country who care about refugees… This should be a place of refuge for people from the rest of the world…When I look out at this crowd, maybe there are 1 or 2 exceptions, we all came to this country as immigrants…The strength of this country, has been the immigration of people to this country. When you’re a refugee, you don’t have anywhere else to go. There’s no place to go back to. You have to make it here. And so the energy that goes in from all the refugees and immigrants that come into this country drive this country forward. There’s no other choice, you have to make it here…What’s being posed for the American people today is a choice between a safe country and a compassionate country. That is not the choice. We don’t have to make that kind of choice. You can be an empathic country and a safe one…This whole idea that you can scare the American people is a political tactic.”
When asked about today’s event, organizer Anny Khan says she “just wants for people to educate themselves. We cannot as a world leader be intimidated by a group of thugs. We have no reason to question a system that has been effectively put in place and successfully bringing refugees [for] decades.”
From the Facebook event page…
“Americans for Refugees & Immigrants calls for unity. We will not give in to fear mongering, xenophobia & Islamophobia. We are in concurrence with Governor Jay Inslee‘s stance. We have a moral obligation to help the Syrians find a new home. 10,000 Syrians are a mere 0.0003% of our population. We cannot accomodate 10,000 out of 4.2 million Syrians? We are Americans. We have a history of helping the persecuted not shutting our doors on them. We stand united as a community, a city, a state, a nation. We are not afraid! Welcome refugees!…” – https://www.facebook.com/events/725262674241173/