When Republicans are forced to explain their determination to refuse refugee resettlement in America, they like to suddenly pretend that they are deeply concerned with our population of homeless veterans and children, and that we don’t have enough resources to do both. Two Syrian refugees in Seattle have proven that the two are far from mutually exclusive.
After Nabil al-Salkini and his older brother Yazan al-Salki arrived in America two months ago (after being “vetted” in Jordan over the past three years) they joined their local mosque and volunteered at their annual Day of Dignity, where they hand out “sleeping bags, haircuts and other items to hundreds of homeless people.” They said they wanted to give back to their community in thanks for giving them a home after they fled Syria four years ago. “Life stopped. We lost our home. It got bombed. Burned down. We couldn’t go to school because civil war started. We were about to be persecuted or killed” says al-Salki. “I really have hope that other people from my community who are seeking help as I do, have opportunity to come here and start a new life, as we are starting to do…the image of ISIS does not represent us.”
The event is organized by the Islamic Relief nonprofit, which raised $20,000 from the local Muslim community to help keep the homeless warm during increasingly harsh winters. Ken Peterson, a local homeless man, spoke out against the Islamophobia that has been making its way around right-wing echo chambers. “It is a shame our politicians are condemning a whole group of people for the acts of a few crazy ones. They don’t have to organize this event, and we (the homeless) really appreciate things like this.”
Stories like this never make the mainstream media, but it’s critically important that we not get bogged down in the absurd paranoia of the right wing. These refugees are just like our own forefathers who left their home nations in search of a better life, for peace and stability. They have every much a right to live here as any of us do. ISIS is no more Islamic than the Ku Klux Klan is Christian; these young boys are living proof of that. “We love humanity … we don’t discriminate” says al-Salkini. “Our religion taught us to love.”
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Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.