Angelina Jolie has become one of the most recognized spokespersons for the United Nations High Commissioner of Refugees (“UNHCR”). She has been volunteering for the UNHCR since 2001, and has donated millions of dollars and gone on more than 50 field missions. Jolie’s work has focused extensively on Muslim refugees, and having witnessed firsthand the misery of the people now banned by Donald Trump’s Muslim Ban, she has very strong views.
In a scathing New York Times op-ed, Jolie argues that refugees are the victims of terrorism themselves, and the arguments made to bar them are based on fear rather than facts. Refugees are subject to more scrutiny than any other type of traveler, with months of interviews with four separate federal agencies.
She also explains that only the most vulnerable people are put forth for resettlement, such as those who have suffered from torture or those needing immediate specialized medical assistance. She writes:
“When the United Nations Refugee Agency identifies those among them who are most in need of protection, we can be sure that they deserve the safety, shelter and fresh start that countries like ours can offer.”
Jolie also points out the deep hypocrisy of Americans when it comes to offering asylum. We are in the midst of the largest refugee crisis since WWII, yet America only resettles less than 1% of the world’s refugees. Meanwhile, poor and middle-income countries are shouldering almost the entire burden alone. Jolie writes, “There are 2.8 million Syrian refugees in Turkey alone. Only about 18,000 Syrians have been resettled in America since 2011.”
Indeed, as altM has previously reported, Muslim countries house the largest number of refugees. According to Amnesty International, of the 5 million people who have fled Syria in the last five years, most of them live in just five countries: Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt.”
She states that when America begins to discriminate on the basis of religion, “[w]e are lighting a fuse that will burn across continents, inviting the very instability we seek to protect ourselves against.” Discrimination against Muslims will only foster greater unrest, discord, and radicalism.
Jolie quotes Ronald Reagan in arguing that we cannot undermine America’s diversity by turning Muslims into second-class citizens. Reagan stated, “America is committed to the world because so much of the world is inside America.”
She ends by stating: “We must never allow our values to become the collateral damage of a search for greater security. Shutting our door to refugees or discriminating among them is not our way, and does not make us safer. Acting out of fear is not our way. Targeting the weakest does not show strength.”
Uzma Mariam Ahmed is a lawyer and the chair of AltMuslimah’s Advisory Board.