Friday, January 27, 2017

Assyrians in California

I have known Assyrian Americans for years, and got to know more of them well here in the Central Valley of California. Many have been my students and my friends. It pains me to see rising sectarian tendencies in the community, with people cheering the exclusivist sectarian (blatantly bigoted) visa and refugee standards targeting Muslims. I see the bigoted anti-Muslim propagandists, like Robert Spencer and others, have become popular in the community. I am not generalizing about all Assyrians, of course, as I know many who reject bigotry and exclusion. But you should remember that after Sep. 11, hateful (official and social) bigotry targeted all Middle Easterners (and even Sikhs) here in the US, without regard to sect or religion. And for those who count the Syrian refugees admitted into the US last year (a mere 10,000) by sect, and who complain that there was a small number of Christians among them, remember that Lebanon admitted more than a million Syrian refugees without regard to sect, as did Jordan). Furthermore, remember that since WWII, US visa and refugee policies have consistently favored Christians and Jews from the Middle East (Muslims in the US are more affluent and better educated than other immigrant groups not because of their brilliance but because the US is very strict about Muslims who enter the country, and they have to have specialized professional degrees and occupations). Syrians are suffering regardless of sect, and I wished that the narrow sectarian Christian perspectives of the right-wing Phalanges in Lebanon (and their affiliated groups) did not permeate the Assyrian community of this area.

PS And many Assyrians are peddling the story that only some 50 odd Christian refugees were admitted into the US last year. That is false: this is a lie peddled by the likes of Elliott Abrams. According to Pew Research Center, 37,521 Christian refugees were admitted in the 2016 fiscal year, while 38,901 Muslim refugees were admitted (you do the math factoring the percentages of Muslims and Christians in the region).