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Preventing Fear from Becoming Hatred


Gregory J. Rummo

”The enemies we face are resourceful, merciless and fanatically committed to inflicting massive damage on our homeland, which they regard as a bastion of evil.”

These words came from FBI Director Robert Mueller, who joined CIA Director George Tenet and other intelligence chiefs in a briefing before the Senate Intelligence Committee on a day when all across the country newspapers were presenting the stark contrast of the two sides of Islam on their front pages.

As thousands of peaceful Muslims gathered to celebrate Eid al-Adha, one of two important holy days in Islam and the end of Hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca, bin Laden resurfaced in a voice recording, urging suicide missions among his followers: “We stress the importance of martyrdom operations against the enemy, these attacks have scared Americans and Israelis like never before,” he said.

If duct tape sales were any indication, bin Laden made his point. Many stores sold out shortly after al Qaeda’s Demon-in-Chief made his latest pronouncement over al Jazeera television.

American’s reaction is indicative that this country is still edgy about another terrorist attack. And perhaps there is some good that can come from this fear which again has become palpable the way it was shortly after 9-11. Let it steel our resolve to rid the world of these monsters from the pit of hell once and for all.

But we must be careful that our fear does not breed hatred.

Earlier this year middle-eastern men received notices—arrest warrants for all practical purposes—ordering them to appear at the INS headquarters here in New Jersey at Newark Airport.

The usual crowd of bleeding hearts was quick to protest this as an assault on civil rights, an absurd argument since most if not all of the individuals the INS wanted to interview had overstayed their visas.

I suspect memories may be fuzzy about the potential for terrorism such an immigration status implies—many of the 9-11 hijackers had entered the US legally but overstayed their visas also.

Nonetheless, anytime a dragnet is thrown out, everyone is caught up in its mesh, both good and bad individuals.

Yusuf (that’s not his real name) is one of the good ones. He entered the US from Syria in 1995 and overstayed his visa. Most of his family is here legally but unfortunately Yusuf is not.

When I spoke to him in January after his first meeting with INS officials, he was frightened. “I love America,” he told me. “I came here because there are so many opportunities. I don’t want to be deported.”

He said it was chaos inside the INS office. “The building was mobbed with Arabs, some in handcuffs, some yelling angrily,” he said.

After extensive questioning by INS officials which Yusuf characterized as “mean,” he was released on his own recognizance and ordered to re-appear monthly. When he went back for his first visit in February, he was flatly told he would be deported on February 28.

He went home and dejectedly told his family what had happened. But then his father called the immigration lawyer who has been working on Yusuf’s case for several years. Apparently something had fallen through the cracks and he was able to convince INS officials that they had made a mistake. Yusuf’s father, who became a citizen several years ago, is sponsoring his son for citizenship.

Yusuf will have to pay a $6,000 fine for overstaying his visa, but eventually he should get his green card. “I am willing to do whatever the INS wants me to do in order to stay here,” he said.

America is a nation that prides itself upon tolerance of all people regardless of race or religion. One of the greatest political thinkers of all time—a 19th-century Frenchman named Alexis de Tocqueville, wrote, “There is no country in the whole world in which the Christian religion retains a greater influence over the souls of men than in America, and there can be no greater proof of its utility, and of its conformity to human nature, than that its influence is most powerfully felt over the most enlightened and free nation of the earth.”

We are at war. We have identified the enemy. The Department of Homeland Security and the INS are to be applauded for carrying out their mandates to enforce existing laws and keep America safe.

But as individuals you and I have a responsibility, based on America’s biblical foundation, to “love our neighbors as ourselves,” no matter where those neighbors originally came from.

Gregory J. Rummo is a syndicated columnist. Contact him through his website at

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