Allentown

Associated Press finds debates about Syrian refugee crisis -- among former refugees

Associated Press finds debates about Syrian refugee crisis -- among former refugees

The following is a public service announcement to mainstream journalists who are frantically trying to cover all of the different political angles of the current Syrian refugee debates: Please remember that the word "Syrian" does not equal "Muslim."

This is, of course, a variation on another equation that causes trouble for some journalists who are not used to covering religion: "Arab" does not equal "Muslim."

Thus, if and when you seek the viewpoints of Arab refugees who are already settled in America, including those who came here during previous waves of bloodshed in Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East, please strive to interview a few Syrian Christians and members of other religious minorities.

This is especially important when covering tensions in the declining industrial cities of the Midwest and Northeast, where Arabs of all kinds have been settling for generations. You will often find that many of these tensions are, literally, ancient.

This is a rather personal issue for me, since my family was part of an Orthodox parish for four years in South Florida (including 9/11) in which most of the families had Syrian and Lebanese roots. It also helps to remember that many people who come to America from Lebanon were driven into Lebanon by persecution in Syria, much earlier in the 20th Century.

To see these factors at work, check out this recent Associated Press "Big Story" feature that took the time to talk to a variety of voices on both sides of some of these divides.

ALLENTOWN, Pa. (AP) -- A few days ago, a pastor asked Syrian-born restaurant owner Marie Jarrah to donate food to a welcoming event for recently arrived Syrian refugees. Jarrah, who said she regularly helps people in need, declined.

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Here's what's missing in that Associated Press story on America's Little Syria

Here's what's missing in that Associated Press story on America's Little Syria

Talk about false advertising.

In the title, I made it sound like I'd tell you what's missing in that recent Associated Press story on America's Little Syria.

But here's the deal: I'm not entirely sure I know what's missing. Or if something really is. How's that for wishy-washiness?

I've read the AP report three times — going on four — and each time at the end, I find myself going, "Hmmmmm."

Maybe you can help me figure this out? 

Let's start at the top:

ALLENTOWN, Pa. (AP) — A few days ago, a pastor asked Syrian-born restaurant owner Marie Jarrah to donate food to a welcoming event for recently arrived Syrian refugees. Jarrah, who said she regularly helps people in need, declined.
Like many of Allentown's establishment Syrians, she doesn't think it's a good idea to bring refugees to the city. She clung to that view even before last week's terrorist attacks in Paris. "Problems are going to happen," said Jarrah, co-owner of Damascus Restaurant in a heavily Syrian enclave.
As debate intensifies nationally over the federal government's plan to accept an additional 10,000 refugees from war-ravaged Syria, a similar argument is taking place in Allentown — one with a sectarian twist.
Pennsylvania's third-largest city is home to one of the nation's largest populations of Syrians. They are mostly Christian and, in no small number, support Syrian President Bashar al-Assad — a dynamic that's prompting some of them to oppose the resettlement of refugees, who are Muslim and say they fled violence perpetrated by the Assad regime.

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