I was born in Egypt under an oppressive socialist regime and grew up in a Muslim culture that was hostile to my Christian faith. As a boy, I read books and pamphlets about America and dreamed of freedom.
When I came to America in 1977, I got in line, took my physical, produced documents and police records, and evidence of all taxes paid. The American government took great care to make certain that I presented no threat to America. In 1984, I fulfilled my boyhood dream and became an American citizen. Though I was not a refugee from war or terrorism, I can identify with Middle Easterners today who yearn for safety and freedom.
America is now divided over a document called “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States” — an executive order signed by President Donald Trump on January 27. Some leaders are inflaming emotions and whipping up hysteria with melodramatic imagery of tears in the eyes of the Statue of Liberty. Journalists deliberately mislead the public, calling the executive action a “Muslim ban.”
This presidential order is not a “ban” on a religion. It is simply a temporary pause to allow the new administration time to put its “extreme vetting” process in place. It places a 90-day freeze on admissions from seven countries currently in turmoil or controlled by violent jihadists, allows exceptions on a case-by-case basis, and caps the number of refugees admitted at 50,000 per year.
True, the policy was not rolled out well at first. Some legal U.S. residents (green card holders) were improperly stopped at airports. That never should have happened — but that wasn’t a feature of the executive order. It was an error in implementation.
Leaders of the Religious Left have thundered against this policy, quoting the Bible for support. It’s true that Leviticus tells us, “The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born,” and Isaiah tells us, “Defend the oppressed” — but God was speaking to His own people, not to the government.
God places a different set of demands on government. Romans 13 tells us that God established government to protect innocent citizens from evildoers. Defending the nation from attack is an essential core duty of government, according to Scripture and the Constitution.
ISIS openly boasts that it smuggles terrorists into Western nations through refugee migration. In November 2015, the House Homeland Security Committee issued a report, Syrian Refugee Flows: Security Risks and Counterterrorism Challenges, documenting cases of ISIS infiltrators launching attacks in Europe by posing as refugees. The new administration seeks to prevent similar horrors in America.
Opponents of the executive order seem willing to accept a “new normal” in America, in which events like the Boston, San Bernardino, and Orlando massacres and the Ohio State rampage become everyday events. As a Christian pastor, I find that abhorrent. It’s cruelty masquerading as compassion.
Have you wondered why so many asylum-seekers in Europe are young Arab men? Why so few women and children? According to Eurostat, the official statistical bureau of the European Union, among refugees aged 14 to 34, about 80 percent were male. European countries have been importing the key demographic group for jihadists — young Muslim men — which explains the rise in terror attacks across Europe.
Also troubling: Christians have been strangely missing from refugee populations. Elliott Abrams, senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, observed in September 2016: “The United States has accepted 10,801 Syrian refugees, of whom 56 are Christian. Not 56 percent; 56 total, out of 10,801. That is to say, one half of one percent. The BBC says that ten percent of all Syrians are Christian, which would mean 2.2 million Christians… Middle Eastern Christians are an especially persecuted group.”
Why so few Christian refugees? Answer: Those who most deserve refugee status are the least likely to get it. In the corrupt UN refugee programs, only those with money and connections get help. Christians are forced to avoid the Muslim-dominated refugee camps where their lives are endangered.
The presidential order, while it does not single out Christians for preferential treatment, does require the government “to prioritize refugee claims made by individuals on the basis of religious-based persecution.” This provision helps redress de facto discrimination against Christians that prevailed under the Obama administration.
The goal of this executive order is not to “ban Muslims” but to screen out the jihadists that are unquestionably lurking in refugee populations. It is an act of Christian compassion to prevent jihadists from multiplying in America to prey on the refugee population.
Many moderate Muslims (who are frequent targets of Muslim extremists) support the executive order. Asra Nomani, a Georgetown University professor and co-founder of The Muslim Reform Movement, denounces the #MuslimBan propaganda campaign, noting that protests against the executive order appear to be instigated by billionaire George Soros and his far-left National Security and Human Rights Campaign.
It’s extremely important that the new administration be allowed to implement its vetting policy. We cannot afford to take a refugee’s word that he means no harm. The Islamic dispensation of “al-Taqiyya” (lying about one’s beliefs to further the aims of Islam) requires that we know who all the immigrants are and why they are coming to America.
Partisans on the Left try to sway emotions with photos of dead or bleeding children. I’ve seen the photos and they break my heart. But those children died because the previous administration withdrew from the region, drew a false “red line” in the Syrian crisis, and enabled the growth of ISIS by creating a power vacuum in the Middle East. Leftist protesters were silent when these atrocities occurred. It’s sheer hypocrisy to wave those photos now.
Once the government has finally, fully vetted those refugees — and it will — we American Christians will meet our biblical obligations. We will defend the oppressed. We will welcome strangers. We will love them with the love of Christ.
Dr. Michael Youssef is the founding pastor of the Church of the Apostles in Atlanta, Georgia and the author of over 30 books, including his most recent, The Barbarians are Here: Preventing the Collapse of Western Civilization in Times of Terror (Mar. 7, 2017, Worthy Publishers). Find him online at www.ltw.org and follow him on Twitter: @MichaelAYoussef.