Paul's Internet Landfill/ 2016/ ISIS Refugees

ISIS Refugees

There is no question in my mind that some of the people who are coming to Canada from Syria will radicalize. Some of them might end up joining ISIS. That is not an excuse to bring in refugees.

I am a second generation Canadian: I was born in Canada, but my parents were both born in another country. I am pretty assimilated, but like many other second generation Canadians there are some ways in which I feel I don't fit into "Canadian" (read: WASP) culture. I don't consciously think of myself as being very South Asian, but others tell me I have some pretty Indian traits.

Sometimes I feel ashamed to be in Canada. I had the privilege of being born here and enjoying all of the opportunities that children of "favoured minority" (East and South Asians) enjoy: inclinations towards skills and intelligence (since the immigration process screens for these), access to a good education, fluency in English. I sometimes think of what my life would have been like had I been born in India, and I despair. I have had so many opportunities and I have squandered most of them.

Because I am self-centred to the point of sociopathy I do not often think of my brethren who are still in India. But if I did then I might feel rage and injustice for what they have to put up with. If I was a better person I might feel more solidarity, and a stronger desire to use my privilege to help Indian people who did not enjoy my advantages. I think this thought process is not that different than some of the kids who radicalize.

People are sometimes surprised because kids who radicalize are often middle-class, well-educated STEM students with bright futures ahead of them. This does not surprise me at all. It is not hard to feel guilty for being born into a wealthy society. It is not hard to resent the decadence and waste of our society, and to rage against the injustices those who are suffering face. It is not hard to find systems of oppression at work that just happen to keep the Western powers powerful (do you think all of those CIA coups were accidental? Do you think that such meddling has come to an end?). It is not hard to fall for ideologies that promise to use our rage and sense of injustice productively, that explain the problems of the world away in ways we can understand.

I embraced some radical ideas when I became a strident environmentalist, and it does not surprise me that other second generation immigrants (and kids who came over at a very young age) turn to their own forms of radicalism.

So I do think that some of the refugees coming from Syria (and elsewhere) will radicalize, and if they don't then some of their kids will. But not many will radicalize, and not all of those who hold radical views become sympathetic to terrorism. In my opinion people are most prone to radicalism in their teens and twenties, and then grow out of some of those views when they learn that the world is not as simple as their ideology of choice suggests. I believe that welcoming refugee communities into our communities and helping them integrate (not necessarily assimilate) will help reduce radicalization overall. Rejecting refugees wholesale because there will be a few bad apples is foolish, and possibly counteproductive to our security interests overall. I have been assimilated as a Canadian, and as such I hold the view that embracing diversity and welcoming newcomers to Canada makes us stronger, not weaker. Embracing diversity is not easy. It is worthwhile.