Response — February 13, 2017, 4:49 pm

The Indefensible

Victims of terrorism discuss Donald Trump’s Muslim ban

In March of 1985, three members of the Islamic Jihad Organization in Beirut captured my father, the journalist Terry Anderson. My mother was pregnant with me at the time, and so I did not meet him until he was released in December 1991, more than six years later. The man who came home was not the father I’d imagined. Being beaten, tortured, chained and blindfolded had changed him—made him numb, dismissive, quick to anger and slow to empathy. Looking back, I can see he did his best, but his kidnappers had robbed him of his ability to be an effective parent. They also took away my childhood and any chance my mother, my father and I had of being a healthy, functional family unit. That said, I don’t hate Muslims for what we went through. I’ve spent much time working as a journalist in the Middle East, and I know that people like my father’s kidnappers represent a tiny minority of those who adhere to the Islamic faith. Countless Muslims have treated me with respect, kindness, and hospitality. They have protected me in every conflict zone I’ve covered. Two of them saved my life. Like much of the country, I was outraged at U.S. president Donald Trump’s recent attempt to institute a ban on immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries and shut down the refugee resettlement program. A week after Trump issued the ban—which was halted by a federal judge—I reached out to other victims of terrorism and their families to ask how they felt about it.

Julie Paez is a survivor of the 2015 shooting in San Bernardino, California, where fourteen people were shot and killed at a non-profit center that provides services for individuals with developmental disabilities.

Paez: I don’t blame Islam or Muslims for what happened to me. ISIS doesn’t represent the religion of Islam any more than the Westboro Baptist Church represents Christians. I do believe that most [proponents of the ban] have good intentions. There is a lot of racism, but I do believe many of them just want to protect us. But this is giving us a false sense of security, because most of the people who have committed terrorist acts were United States citizens, like the guy who shot us. They may be of the Islamic faith, but they were American citizens, and this ban will not make them stop…When people don’t feel wanted and don’t fit in, they search for something that makes them feel like they fit in, whether that’s ISIS or a gang or whatever—groups that make promises to them that they can feel special. So this kind of ban will make things even worse.

Parents of an American hostage killed by the Islamic State in Syria in 2014.

FATHER: [The ban] plays right into the hands of extremists who need an us-versus-them scenario to justify their actions in aid and recruitment…From a counterterrorism perspective, it ultimately may cause more harm than good by further alienating each side from the other. On moral grounds it is simply indefensible. The condemnation of all for the deeds of a few punishes vast numbers of innocent people who only wish to live their lives in peace…Our son was murdered by a deranged man who grew up in the U.K. How can I blame his death on a Syrian or Iraqi family fleeing those same extremists?

MOTHER: I think that there’s an ample body of documentation to make the statement that feelings of powerlessness and hopelessness are huge contributors to radicalization and when we have policies that take away a group’s power and hope it can be a contributing factor…I am convinced that ISIS is about revenge, not religion…and too many Americans think that refugees choose to come to the United States. The reality is that the choice is made for them by others. The life of a refugee anywhere, even in the U.S., is extremely difficult. It is not a life anyone would choose except through absolute necessity.

Terry Waite, Joseph Cicippio, and Terry Anderson were captured by the Islamic Jihad Organization in Beirut in 1985. Waite and Cicippio were held for five years. Anderson was held for six years and nine months.

Waite: Immigration has become a central part of the American way of life. America is a nation of immigrants and depends on them for its very existence. Now, suddenly, to cut off immigration in this way is grossly unfair and will rebound against America in the future…The majority of the Islamic community does not condone [terrorism] or believe in it, and would heartily condemn it. But we insist on condemning the whole of the Muslim world and grouping them under one banner, which is entirely wrong and unfair. The terrorists did the same thing to me—stereotyping everybody and saying ‘you will be punished now for the misdemeanors of a few.’ I can understand the fear and concern [of proponents of the ban], and I have sympathy for them. All I will say is that in my experience and that of some of us who have been victims of unfair and unjust behavior—putting people at a distance in this way is not the remedy. There are other, more creative, positive ways to solve this problem.

Cicippio: I don’t blame the Muslim world for what happened to me. [Terrorists] are the ones who don’t even follow the Quran. I read the Quran about 150 times while I was held hostage, and I know most of it by heart. It doesn’t say anything about any of that…It’s hard to get into our country, even if you have a visa. It sometimes takes you years just to get one…There are many people who are overseas who would love to come here, but they’re on waiting lists…This is not the spirit of America. My parents, everybody else’s parents all came in through immigration.

Anderson: I was kidnapped by a group of people that were…connected with militant Islam in Lebanon. They don’t represent the rest of Lebanon. They don’t represent other Muslims in Lebanon. They don’t represent other Shia in Lebanon. Why should we punish everybody including innocent people for the acts of a few? Those who support Trump, I’m not saying they’re all ignorant, but they have this tendency or ability to reduce complex situations to simple, thoughtless ideas…the world is a complex place and we will never be able to solve any kind of problems with simplistic thinking. [The ban] is stupid and destructive and I’m ashamed that we have been reduced to this. In fact, it causes people like ISIS to flourish.

Help support our ongoing coverage of Donald Trump by subscribing to Harper’s Magazine today!

 

Share
Single Page

Get access to 168 years of
Harper’s for only $23.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

May 2019

Where Our New World Begins

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Truce

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Lost at Sea

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Unexpected

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Article
Lost at Sea·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

A few miles north of San Francisco, off the coast of Sausalito, is Richardson Bay, a saltwater estuary where roughly one hundred people live out of sight from the world. Known as anchor-outs, they make their homes a quarter mile from the shore, on abandoned and unseaworthy vessels, doing their best, with little or no money, to survive. Life is not easy. There is always a storm on the way, one that might capsize their boats and consign their belongings to the bottom of the bay. But when the water is calm and the harbormaster is away, the anchor-­outs call their world Shangri-lito. They row from one boat to the next, repairing their homes with salvaged scrap wood and trading the herbs and vegetables they’ve grown in ten-gallon buckets on their decks. If a breeze is blowing, the air fills with the clamoring of jib hanks. Otherwise, save for a passing motorboat or a moment of distant chatter, there is only the sound of the birds: the sparrows that hop along the wreckage of catamarans, the egrets that hunt herring in the eelgrass, and the terns that circle in the sky above.

Article
The Unexpected·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Discussed in this essay: Nature’s Mutiny: How the Little Ice Age of the Long Seventeenth Century Transformed the West and Shaped the Present, by Philipp Blom. Liveright. 352 pages. $27.95. Origins: How Earth’s History Shaped Human History, by Lewis Dartnell. Basic Books. 352 pages. $18.99. The Fate of Rome: Climate, Disease, and the End of an Empire, by Kyle Harper. Princeton University Press. 440 pages. $35. “Something’s changing,” said our dear leader, “and it’ll change back again.” This particular flavor of gaslighting dates back several decades. Like any canny half-truth, it grafts insinuations onto an unassailable fact. It is true, …
Article
The Truce·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

When I met Raúl Mijango, in a courtroom in San Salvador, he was in shackles, awaiting trial. He was paunchier than in the photos I’d seen of him, bloated from diabetes, and his previously salt-and-pepper goatee had turned fully white. The masked guard who was escorting him stood nearby, and national news cameras filmed us from afar. Despite facing the possibility of a long prison sentence, Mijango seemed relaxed, smiling easily as we spoke. “Bolívar, Fidel, Gandhi, and Mandela have also passed through this school,” he told me, “and I hope that some of what they learned during their years in prison we should learn as well.”

Article
Slash Fictions·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

1. As closing time at Moscow’s Tretyakov Gallery approached on May 25, 2018, Igor Podporin, a balding thirty-seven-year-old with sunken eyes, circled the Russian history room. The elderly museum attendees shooed him toward the exit, but Podporin paused by a staircase, turned, and rushed back toward the Russian painter Ilya Repin’s 1885 work Ivan the Terrible and His Son Ivan on November 16, 1581. He picked up a large metal pole—part of a barrier meant to keep viewers at a distance—and smashed the painting’s protective glass, landing three more strikes across Ivan’s son’s torso before guards managed to subdue him. Initially, police presented Podporin’s attack as an alcohol-fueled outburst and released a video confession in which he admitted to having knocked back two shots of vodka in the museum cafeteria beforehand. But when Podporin entered court four days later, dressed in the same black Columbia fleece, turquoise T-shirt, and navy-blue cargo pants he had been arrested in, he offered a different explanation for the attack. The painting, Podporin declared, was a “lie.” With that accusation, he thrust himself into a centuries-old debate about the legacy of Russia’s first tsar, a debate that has reignited during Vladimir Putin’s reign. The dispute boils down to one deceptively simple question: Was Ivan really so terrible?

Article
Ruina Mundi·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Something’s changing,” said our dear leader, “and it’ll change back again.” This particular flavor of gaslighting dates back several decades. Like any canny half-truth, it grafts insinuations onto an unassailable fact. It is true, after all, that the global climate has changed drastically before, and that it will change again . . . some millennia from now. It is also true that many of these past changes brought on mass global death. Our concerns about climate change, to restate the obvious, are not for the climate itself. Our concerns are for our civilization, which has organized its infrastructure, trade, national borders, food production, and cities around specific climatic conditions under the assumption that they are permanent. Even a slight unsettling of these conditions will, like the shifting of tectonic plates, cause seismic upheavals. Unlike most matters of global political significance, there is no direct historical analogue for our situation—the unprecedented nature of the crisis is part of its horror. But human beings have endured climatic changes before. A growing historical subdiscipline (cli-hi?) has developed to examine how they managed it. With horrific suffering is the short answer, but Philipp Blom, a German translator and journalist who lives in Los Angeles, proposes in Nature’s Mutiny an artful corollary: that the hardships of a changing climate spurred the creation of what we think of as modern civilization, while at the same time inscribing within its genetic code the germ of its own demise.

Cost of renting a giant panda from the Chinese government, per day:

$1,500

A recent earthquake in Chile was found to have shifted the city of Concepción ten feet to the west, shortened Earth’s days by 1.26 microseconds, and shifted the planet’s axis by nearly three inches.

The Cairo, New York, police department advised drivers to “overcome the fear” after a woman crashed her car when she saw a spider.

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

HARPER’S FINEST

Happiness Is a Worn Gun

By

“Nowadays, most states let just about anybody who wants a concealed-handgun permit have one; in seventeen states, you don’t even have to be a resident. Nobody knows exactly how many Americans carry guns, because not all states release their numbers, and even if they did, not all permit holders carry all the time. But it’s safe to assume that as many as 6 million Americans are walking around with firearms under their clothes.”

Subscribe Today