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.