(CNSNews.com) – Secretary of State John Kerry said Monday evening there was “zero evidence” that refugee applicants who go through the rigorous screening involved in the U.S. refugee admission program pose a greater security threat than members of any other group.
Speaking at the interfaith iftar (Ramadan fast-breaking meal) in Sterling, Va. coinciding with World Refugee Day, Kerry also warned that what he called “bigoted and hateful rhetoric” about Muslims helps those “who propagate the lie that America is at war with Islam.”
“There is absolutely no evidence, my friends, zero evidence, that refugees who make it through this arduous process, pose any greater threat to our society than the members of any other group,” he said. “And it is important for people to know that.”
Alluding to calls by some Republican politicians to bar Muslim refugee applicants, Kerry said blocking any group on the basis of religion, race or nationality went against Americans ideals.
“Preventing any group from entering the United States solely because of their race, or because of their nationality, or because of a religious affiliation is directly contrary to the very ideals on which our country is based,” he said.
“We believe in individual rights, not collective guilt. And we believe in judging people based on what they do, not the circumstances of their birth or their choice of sacred texts,” Kerry added.
“We need to remember,” he continued, “that bigoted and hateful rhetoric towards Muslims plays right into the hands of the terrorist recruiters who propagate the lie – it plays into the hands of people who propagate the lie that America is at war with Islam, when in fact there is no country on earth where Muslims enjoy more freedom than in the United States of America.”
After Kerry’s remarks at the All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS) center, a member the community and the U.S. Army National Guard, Ali Khwaja, offered the Islamic call to prayer before the day’s fast was broken.
In his comments Kerry did not address the issue, raised by some Republicans and the subject of proposed legislation, of prioritizing in refugee admissions minorities that have been specifically targeted by Islamic extremists in the Syria and Iraq conflicts – and which Kerry himself has determined are the victims of genocide.
As of Monday, the federal government had admitted 4,464 Syrian refugees so far this fiscal year, of whom just 17 (0.3 percent) are Christians, 10 (0.2 percent) are Yazidis, and one each are defined in State Department Refugee Processing Center data as “no religion” and “other religion.”
The vast majority of the 4,464 – 4,385, or 98.2 percent – are Sunni Muslims. Another 17 are Shi’ite Muslims and 33 are other Muslims.
With regard to Kerry’s comments about the relative threat posed by refugees, State Department spokesman John Kirby said last November that of 785,000 refugees from all countries admitted to the U.S. since 9/11, “only about a dozen have been arrested or removed from the United States due to terrorism concerns that existed prior to their resettlement in the United States.”
None of them were Syrian, he added.
A State Department factsheet last December said that Syrian refugees admitted to the U.S. since the beginning of FY2011 had been able to do so “only after the most extensive level of security screening of any category of traveler to the United States. None have been arrested or removed on terrorism charges.”
ABC News reported late last year that two Iraqi refugees resettled in Kentucky were later found to have al-Qaeda links.
In January, two Iraqi-born Palestinian refugees in the U.S. were indicted on terror-related charges.
Omar Faraj Saeed al-Hardan of Houston, Texas, was charged with attempting to provide material support to ISIS, procuring citizenship or naturalization unlawfully, and making false statements. He was admitted into the U.S. as a refugee in 2009.
Aws Mohammed Younis Al-Jayab, of Sacramento, Calif., was accused of traveling to Syria to fight alongside terrorist groups, and was also charged with lying to the government about his travels. He arrived in the U.S. as a refugee in 2012.