Vetting Travelers from Radical Islamic Countries: Why Is It Necessary?

The question often arises as to why the government feels a need to scrutinize travelers from specific countries in the Middle East and Africa. Isn’t that discrimination? Isn’t that wrong somehow? Why does it matter anyway? All of these questions are valid, but take a few moments to consider the responsibility of the government. It has a duty to protect the citizens of its country to the best of its ability. A great way to think of how the government is approaching the problem of terrorism is to think of how a parent would deal with bullies that want to enter his child’s playground.

The parent takes his children to a park with a fence around it to play. He or she takes a seat on a nearby bench to keep watch over the children as they enjoy all the good things the playground has to offer. As time passes, the parent notices a group of rough-looking, older, larger kids loitering by the fence. They hang around for a while until another child comes walking down the sidewalk. The rough-looking bunch jumps the child, demands his money and begins beating him up. Once they get what they want from him, they force him to join their group. A few minutes go by; another child comes along and stops to speak with the bullies. They all laugh and talk for a while and then saunter over to the entrance to the playground. The parent, observing all this from the bench, can tell that they plan on entering the playground.

What would the parent do? Would he or she just sit back and let the bullies enter the playground to beat-up the unsuspecting children, or would the parent get up and refuse to let the bullies into the playground while his kids are there? Would the parent do an interview of each of the kids wanting to enter, remembering that one of them had just arrived, or is that child just assumed to be a bully too since he is hanging out with the rest of the bullies? Most parents would simply turn the entire group away from the playground in order to protect the innocent children who are playing.

Think of America as the playground and radical Islamists as the group of bullies. The government of the United States (U.S.) is the parent who is watching everything unfold and is slated with the protection of the people within the playground. Although the idea of the U.S. having open boarders so that refugees and immigrants who are fleeing from horrible circumstances to a safe haven is a great idea, some basic facts about radical Islam and how terrorists work make having open borders here in the U.S. both impractical and downright dangerous.

Keep in mind that not all Muslims are part and party to the practices of radical Islam. Many who practice Islam are not part of the terrorism that the radicals believe in inciting. Thus far, the government has been able to trace terrorist activity back to three basic radical groups: the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS/ISIL), al-Qaeda, and al-Shabab. Radical Islam is defined as, “a militant, politically activist ideology whose ultimate goal is to create a worldwide community, or caliphate, of Muslim believers.” This belief, and not a contempt for Westerners, becomes the driving motivation for all of its followers’ actions. All other religions must be removed, people must be converted, and those who refuse must be executed. Obviously, many people are not going to be agreeable to being forced to give up their faith and to practice something they don’t believe. The radical Islamic solution to this problem is to resort to extreme bullying through the acts of violence, terror, mass murder, and Jihad (holy war).

For Americans, the whole idea of forcing a state religion upon people goes against the very core upon which the country was founded. Article I of the United States Constitution states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. . . .” Freedom of religion was of paramount importance to the founders of America, and this very freedom flies in the face of the radical Islamists.

Going back to the example of the bullies and the playground, the parent watches over those who are on the playground, keeping the bullies from entering and disrupting the unsuspecting and the innocent at play. Those who have been entrusted with protecting the lives of Americans see how the radical Islamists are forcing their religion on those around them. In 2015, 74% of all terrorist attack deaths in the world happened in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nigeria, and Syria. Each of these countries are radical Islamic strongholds, although Nigeria is only considered to be 50% Muslim. The State Department knows that Iran was the foremost sponsor of terrorism in 2015 and has a hand in creating trouble in Syria. It also knows that ISIS/ISIL poses the greatest global terrorist threat and is responsible for many terrorist attacks around the world. With this kind of knowledge, the State Department is much like the parent who has observed the group of bullies beating up the kid on the street. If the State Department simply allows people with known ties to these groups, or even people who have been seen “hanging around” and visiting these countries frequently, into America, it would be like a parent who watched the bullies beat up the kid and then allowed them to enter the park so they could continue to abuse other innocent children.

To take the analogy further, imagine that the parent who has seen what the bullies have been doing, turns to another parent sitting on the bench. The first parent points out the bullies to the second parent and explains what he or she has seen. The second parent then goes on to tell the first parent that the bullies live on the side of town that is filled with gang rivalries. In fact, each of the bullies’ parents belong to one particular gang. The second parent goes on to tell how almost every child in the bully group has been in trouble in school and with the law. Upon hearing this information, would the first parent be more inclined to let these children into the playground or keep them out? Because of these children upbringing and violent tendencies, parents would generally not be inclined to allow them into the park.

This same idea is what inspired the Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015. Syria, Iran, Iraq, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen, and Libya are known to be countries controlled by ISIS/ISIL, al-Qaeda, and al-Shabab. Specifically, Yemen and Somalia are extremely unsettled and torn apart by civil wars incited by the al-Qaeda and al-Shabab groups. Syria, Iraq, Iran, and Libya are ISIS/ISIL strongholds. Because these seven countries have such unsettled governments and strong ties to radical Islamic groups, former President Obama followed the recommendations of the State Department to make entrance to the U.S. much more difficult from these countries for the sake of national security. Those who want to come into the States have to go through a much more strenuous visa application process that includes use of e-chips, comparing visas with Interpol’s lost and stolen visa database, and being entered into a travel database. Applicants may be denied a visa because of where they have been traveling. The strong ties to radical Islamic groups that gladly admit to inciting terror gives cause for treating those who travel to and from them with caution. The government is being like the wise parent who treats the bullies with caution. It would not be doing due diligence if it did not take extra precautions in granting visas to people from these countries.

The State Department and National Security Administration have been slated with the task of keeping America safe from the bullies of the world. Their obligation is to act as wise parents watching over the playground and the children within. America enjoys relative safety from terrorist attacks that plague so much of the world because those who have an obligation to protect the country seek to find the best ways to keep it safe.

Everett A. Stern