The mayor of Dallas is pushing back against politicians who say Americans should be skeptical of Syrian refugees, saying he is “more fearful” of armed white men than people fleeing civil war in the Middle East.
Speaking to MSNBC on Saturday morning, Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings was asked to discuss the growing anxiety over Syrian refugees entering the United States, purportedly due to concerns they could be potential agents for militant groups such as ISIS. Rawlings staunchly rejected the assertion that Syrians are somehow uniquely prone to violence, saying he is more concerned with the rise of white supremacy and the recent flurry of mass shootings committed by white men.
“I am more fearful of large gatherings of white men that come into schools, theaters and shoot people up, but we don’t isolate young white men on this issue,” Rawlings said.
He also said that vilifying refugees only helps ISIS, as doing so falls into their “trap.” He then pushed back on the notion that ISIS is somehow representative of Islam.
“ISIS is no more Islamic than Nazi senior staff was Christian,” he said. He also subtly challenged Christian governors and other followers of Christ who have rejected refugees, referencing Jesus’ scriptural call to “welcome the stranger” in Matthew 25:41-43, asking, “Christ following people like myself — how do we deal with this issue of strangers, and are we going to let them in?”
Watch the exchange below.
Rawlings’ position is in line with current statistics on domestic terrorism, which show that right-wing terrorists have killed more people than “homegrown jihadists” since September 11, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. This includes this summer’s tragic church shooting in Charleston, South Carolina, when avowed white supremacist Dylann Roof murdered 9 African American worshippers in cold blood after sitting with them in a group Bible study for an hour. Another Christian white supremacist, Larry McQuilliams, attempted to burn down the Mexican consulate in Austin, Texas last year, firing more than 100 rounds in the downtown area before being shot dead by a police officer while trying to enter a police station. More recently, the FBI successfully thwarted a white supremacist plan to bomb and shoot up black churches and synagogues, and groups of armed, primarily white men continue to protest regularly outside of mosques in places such as Texas: Over the weekend, a group of armed men protested outside a Muslim house of worship in Irving, Texas.
The danger of white supremacy is rarely discussed by politicians who call for increased screening of Syrian refugees, however. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) is one of 31 governors asking the federal government to halt the settlement in their states, and recently ordered humanitarian and faith-based nonprofits such as Catholic Charities to stop working to resettle the refugees.
Rawlings, meanwhile, has said he is willing to welcome refugees to his city, telling the Dallas Morning News that helping them is part of the “the spirit of Dallas.”
Rawlings reiterated his support for refugees to MSNBC, explaining that accepting refugees is actually a way to combat ISIS.
“The safety of Dallasities is paramount in his mind and [the Governor’s] mind as well,” Rawlings said. “We want to get rid of ISIS. We all agree with that. ISIS wants us to be divided on this issue. ISIS wants us to demonize these refugees, wants us to alienate these children.”