Reprinted from The Nation
President Obama should not have had to explain to the Republicans who would be president that one of the basic premises of the American experiment is that this country does not apply religious tests in establishing programs and policies, regulations and rules. Yet, after Jeb Bush and Ted Cruz began peddling proposals to discriminate against Syrian refugees based on faith traditions, the president had to do just that.
"That's not American," declared Obama during a press conference at the G-20 meeting in Turkey. "That's not who we are."
Obama is right, morally and constitutionally. And he should keep stating and restating his point as a counter to the rising cry from prominent Republicans for exclusion and discrimination.
In the aftermath of Friday night's terrorist attacks in Paris, amid reports that one of the assailants entered Europe with Syrians fleeing violence in that country, prominent Republicans have been arguing that the United States must block Syrian refugees from entering this country. Several of these Republicans have proposed that Muslim refugees should be barred, while Christian refugees should be admitted. One of them, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, declares, "The No. 1 job of the president is to protect America, not protect the reputation of Islam."
This politics ignores the diversity of Islam. It also ignores realities on the ground in Syria, along the reality of the American experiment.
Never mind that Muslims have been primary targets and victims of Islamic State violence and oppression in Syria -- and that they have suffered profoundly from the general chaos that has developed in that country. Never mind that Muslims and Christians are fleeing Syria to escape the sort of carnage that Paris has now experienced.
More than two dozen Republican governors (and at least one Democrat) are now saying that their states do not want to accept Syrian refugees. Top congressional Republicans want to upend programs that have been developed to assist in the resettlement of refugees. And Republican presidential contenders are openly calling for an official policy of discrimination.