Today I depart from the usual teaching stuff. I am a teacher of English as a Second Language. I have a great deal of experience with refugees, many of them Muslim. From time to time, friends and acquaintances ask me about the issue of Islam, refugees, and terrorism. I probably get these questions more than most ESL teachers because, I travel in different circles. (In addition to being an EMT, licensed security guard with large event and concert experience, and martial arts and self-defense enthusiast, I am also a Paladin Press author with some wonderful cyber-contacts in these fields.)
It’s kind of an elephant in the living room issue in English as a Second Language teaching with few wishing to talk about it. These days, many, many ESL students are Muslims and if one cannot work with Muslims, you probably should not be working the field. (Should one wonder, I can work with Muslims. In fact, when I applied for my job teaching ESL to refugees, I used a Muslim refugee as a reference.)
Claims of a connection between a terrorist threat from Islamic refugees are much exaggerated, in my assessment. I have tried to keep abreast of the issue and if forced, I could offer less than a handful of examples where there is a very loose, often tangential link between Islamic refugees and terrorism in the USA. Much of the issue hinges on definitions. For instance, see: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/fact-checker/wp/2015/11/19/the-viral-claim-that-not-one-refugee-resettled-since-911-has-been-arrested-on-domestic-terrorism-charges/
A Washington Post article on the issue.
This article from the Brookings Institute offers further valuable insights.:
However, there were problems.
The system has been overhauled and had some problems as detailed in this LA Times article: http://articles.latimes.com/2011/jul/18/nation/la-na-refugee-terror-20110719
This was in response to the arrest and conviction of two Iraqis, Mohanad Shareef Hammadi and Waad Ramadan Alwan, who are reported to have entered as refugees and were found to have extensive histories of terrorist and insurgent activities.
These can be detailed here:
However, when I read the articles I was left a bit confused as to whether or not the pair had entered on refugee or asylum visas, a quibbling, unimportant distinction perhaps but one that crops up again and again when looking at this issue. (For instance, the Tsaernev brothers, the Boston bombers, entered on asylum visas as teenagers, but were at times described as “refugees” in some reports.)
However, there is this case:
Dahir Adin, a 23 year old who entered the USA on a refugee visa while one year old, did commit a mass stabbing at a mall in Minnesota before being shot by an off duty police officer. In other words, he was a refugee, but a baby at the time with little memory of what it was like to come here.
So what should an ESL teacher do? Well, honestly, nothing at all is usually an appropriate response. Most refugees are ordinary people and most Muslims are ordinary people too. It is important to remember that there are 1.6 billion Muslims in the world. Of these, an estimated 3.3 million live in the USA. If they were inherently violent and dangerous, at the very least, the world would look quite different.
On the other hand, if you do see something quite strange or that raises your suspicions it is probably best to quietly report it to the authorities. That way you won’t have to worry about charges of “islamophobia” from your supervisor. Also the authorities are more qualified to judge the seriousness of what you’ve seen than a typical ESL school administrators. The authorities often come at the state, local, and federal level and ideally interact with each other. Often a local police officer should have some idea of where to go to report a terrorism related concern should you see one.
I hope to write a second post soon on how to recognize fundamentalist Muslims and distinguish them from ordinary, mainstream Muslims.